Why detentions don’t work? Is a sea change required?

I was inspired by an article a friend shared on social media – the link to which I will post at the bottom.

I am a counsellor specialising in anxiety, a parent to 2 adopted children and a teacher of 10 years experience, a blogger on all things mental health.

I know that detentions don’t work, I have a feeling in my gut, a bodily sensation that tells me they are unkind, counter-productive and a waste of time for MANY children.

    How do I know they are a waste of time?

I do think that our actions have a consequence and that we need to know there is a consequence for our behaviour. However, there needs to be a seamless link between the action and the consequence. For example – “if you keep on with that behaviour, we won’t be able to go to the park” – natural, immediate and clear. There isn’t a time in the distant future or a disconnect between the action and the consequence – it’s an immediate learning point. Or “if you don’t complete that paragraph you will need to stay with me at break time to complete it” – natural, immediate, easy to understand. Instead of which a date is set in the future, the child is stuck in an unfamiliar classroom, with unfamiliar children and often unsupervised, they may be too scared to go and get their lunch, they may be scared of the older children and if they had a tricky start in life, they may feel deep, debilitating shame – not a good place for anyone to be.

So why do I want to write about this – I have started to find it really interesting, how we punish ‘so called’ poor behaviour. I have read a few articles recently that have got me thinking, (as well as my own family situation).

It feels as though our schools (in particular secondary schools) are set up only for the most robust and academic of children, only the most resilient will get through unscathed (I am talking mental health here). Schools could be a great place to nurture, encourage and educate children on feelings, self care, society and coping and not a pathway to prison for some young people (notice some of the same language is used: detention, isolation etc). If you have a robust child – great, they will probably survive – however, if your child has mental or psychological difficulties, attachment difficulties, had a poor start in life, ADHD, Autism etc this could be much more tricky.

Most secondary schools (and some primary) are set up as follows: verbal warning, name on board, note in planner, several notes in planner, lunch detention, after school detention, isolation, short term exclusion, permanent exclusion. Schools are institutions they need structure. A clear policy that everyone understands (hopefully). As we are all human beings they are usually applied inconsistently and are subject to our own prejudices and judgment.

    Do they work?

I did some research – I asked in a couple of parenting Facebook groups what parents thought about detentions – responses varied from – “my son had a detention for forgetting equipment, he never forgot again, so yes they do work” – to “my child was in and out of detentions through their entire school career – it’s not working”. I also posed the questions – what about children with additional needs?, should they be subject to the same discipline system as the wider school population? – most said NOT, that there should be further thought about the impact, what is appropriate, what can be understood, some creativity around methods used. Many thought restorative practice could work better. Many felt they were ‘banging their head against a brick wall’ to gain understanding around issues such as autism, ADHD and attachment. Schools are perhaps not the enlightened places we thought they were. It is very possible that some children are not functioning at a level where they can understand and control their behaviour so punishing that seems entirely inappropriate and even cruel.

    Is there an alternative?

Some schools are using or trialing new techniques, some schools are adopting restorative practice, some are using mindfulness, meditation, yoga etc. Maybe we need to get away from punishment and move towards understanding, get underneath the behaviour – “I wonder why that happened”, “I noticed you are not yourself today”, so we get to the root of the problem and together with the child come up with some alternatives for next time. I suppose these techniques may be seen by some as unworkable, but maybe if we replaced the time, admin and people associated with dishing out punishments with a different, yet workable system, it may well work a lot better for everyone, it does though, require a sea change.

I am proud of my teaching background and I have a great deal of respect for teachers and indeed would place them, up there as my some of my favourite kind of people – intelligent, kind, life changers but we do need change.
Link to article


Me too….

Two of the most powerful words when talking to other parents are “Me too” feeling like you are not the only one struggling with this, seeing things from a difficult angle, getting someone else’s perspective, seeing a humorous side to the situation, feeling like you can get back to family life and have resolve to carry on.

I’m always very careful to say that the Parent Social is not a workshop or a support group. The way they work very much depends on who comes along that day. I like to pose a few questions, get everyone thinking. The Parent Social is a chance to share some of the things going on, with other parents – friendships, bullying, social media, worries, relationships, school, siblings etc.

We often lose contact with other parents as our children grow up and especially during secondary school and college. What’s lovely about the socials is that it’s a diverse group that come from different areas of York and further afield.

We do have more of a permanent home at the Friends Meeting House, Acomb, York YO26 5LR. I hope that makes it easier for people to find us on a regular basis. (I am also continuing to work with York Nurturing Community and run sessions in Derwenthorpe.)

As a celebration there is a special offer, tickets are £4 (bring a friend for free) which includes hot drinks and a snack, just pay on the door.

If you are wondering who the heck I am (!) go to my website to read a bit more,link.

See you there
Juliet x

Adoption and the Olympics – inspiration from ignorance

It’s made the news – in a big way, this fantastic gymnast, Simone Biles, is adopted (I didn’t know that and nor do I need to, but I do now!) her grandparents adopted her, known as kinship adoption.

Controversially, NBC announcer Al Trautwig tweeted “they may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents” and what this highlighted for me is the complexities of adoptive families, who is and isn’t a ‘real’ parent, ‘real’ dad, ‘real’ sister etc etc

For me it brought up the most common question I get asked about my children – “are they related?” “are they proper brother and sister?” I’m not offended by it and I know many people are making conversation and trying to find out a bit more information etc.

While we were away on holiday this year, my son said to me “we are not related” (he and I) it didn’t upset me but it did give me useful insight as to what may be going on in his head and brought up an interesting conversation (and genetically he has a point!).

You won’t be surprised to hear that I think your parents and family are those that support you, spend time with you, take care of you, do all the day to day looking after – the meals, the washing, the taking to school, the medical appointments, the love that all children need as they grow up. But the complexities cannot be ignored, there is a complex structure to family for adopted and looked after children – the birth family, the adoptive family, the foster family (and often all three), relationships with social workers, support workers and therapists – all important adults.

Our society has more complex family structures than perhaps in years gone by with blended families, and step-parenting common place, perhaps families that are built in this way can relate to what I am saying (I am a step-parent too!).

So perhaps the next time someone asks me if my children are ‘related’, I will just say we are a family like any other and leave it at that.

What is fantastic is that now I know this brilliant woman is adopted I can say to my children “you can do it too” despite or in spite of your rough start you can be successful too and maybe it will drive you further.

Enjoy the rest of your summer holiday.

Juliet x

I run workshops to support parents of tweens and teens and work one to one with parents.

What Impact Does Stress Have on Teenagers?

You don’t need to read the papers to get an idea that our children are under greater pressure than at any other time (we can see it for ourselves), the stressors are ramped up from a variety of quarters. You only need to look at the greater number of exams they need to sit and that many are sitting them at a younger age and to a greater complexity, the SATS in year 6 are more complex than ever before, GCSE’s in many schools begin in year 9 with options made in year 8 and that’s before we get to AS & A levels (or equivalent).

Read More

Let’s get down to it

Anyone that follows me on Facebook or twitter (or gets my emails) will know I talk a lot about supporting parents, especially those who have a lot going on whether that be step/adoptive parenting, parents of those with children with additional needs, families where there is ill health or mental health issues, parents who want support with school issues, bullying etc. It’s a passion of mine, not so long ago when my adopted children arrived in our lives, it was the biggest bombshell. I met some great, supportive people on the way but for a time (and since) I felt isolated. I wasn’t sure where to turn or who to ask for help, I did start asking eventually but it took a while. I suppose what I am saying is that I am a person that parents can turn to for counselling or support.

I do still work with lots of other types of issues and people too.

How can I help?
I know many of you are already aware I offer short and long term counselling be that weekly, fortnightly or monthly to support you.

So what’s new?
I have just launched my teen series workshops for parents of teens and pre-teens to support you with your children but mainly to support you. There is a series of 3 workshops which you can attend, 1, 2 or 3 of them. There are more details on my website and FB page (links at the bottom of the email).
– Entering the Teen Years
– Teens & Learning
– Teens & Stress

What else?
Last November I launched my Parent Social at Pure Zest in Fulford, York which is going really well, this is an evening event usually on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, the next one is 9th Feb. After getting some feedback, a few people said they could not make evenings so I set up a daytime social as well, this is going to be the last Thursday of the month, at Love to Eat in Dringhouses, York. This launches on Thursday 25th February 9:30-11:30. Each of the meetings has a theme where we discuss family issues or hot topics affecting us.

At the evening social on 9th Feb we are looking at Social Media & Gaming and the impact on us and our children. The daytime social will be looking at building self confidence in our teens & tweens and also a special guest, Claire Davies the Greedy Wordsmith who will be chatting about recipes for us and our tweens & teens to cook.

So, quite a lot going on and lots of ways parents can get help. (Forward this email on if you know someone who would be interested, thanks)

Get in touch with any comments or questions.
Juliet x