Am I Raising a Delinquent?

It’s been a stressful week. Aside from the usual whirlwind of day to day expectations and obligations I’ve grown relatively used to, a particular incident this past week has turned me into an emotional mess. It’s uncomfortable for me to talk about because it triggers a lot of shame and guilt and “What am I doing wrong?” in me. But I don’t want this blog to be like Facebook – displaying only the “highlights reels” of people’s lives. I want it to be realistic and include both happy, funny realities as well as difficult, disappointing realities. I think the world could benefit from a little more honesty and vulnerability. So, with that, I explain the situation:

My 3 year old son scratched his friend’s face at daycare. Hard enough for it to bleed. The teachers assured everyone involved (we met up altogether after school that day) that it wasn’t malicious and that T is simply a boy who is growing up and still learning how to control his physical body. They say it was totally out of the blue; that the boys had been playing together just fine and it was very sudden. For the record, I do not consider this to excuse the behavior in any way.

Needless to say, the boy’s mother was shocked, upset, and a little bit scared (Rightly so. T has shown that he can be unpredictable. Who’s to say he won’t do it again?). The mother and I text messaged briefly over the next couple of days. I feel like I’ve said all I can say (Mostly lots of I’m Sorrys and I’ll Keep Reminding/Training Hims) and that there’s not much I can do to make it better. She needs time and space and she mostly just wants to focus on her son and whatever emotional and physical healing he needs to do. I’m fairly certain this is the case because it reminds me of the incident when my son burned his hand at a campsite while in the care of another. I kind of just wanted to block this woman (or maybe almost everyone) out for a while and focus on my son. The burn incident, of course, involved a much more severe wound, but I drew some comparisons nonetheless.

The night after it all happened, I cried myself to sleep (Ok, I’m being dramatic. I cried for about a minute and then I remembered I didn’t want puffy eyes in the morning). I couldn’t help the flood of doubt and questions overwhelming me. Will he grow up to be a delinquent? A violent criminal? A menace to society? (I have often joked with myself that we should have named him Dennis…) I wanted to call my mom. I wanted to hear her calm, reassuring voice and feel her simple, unconditional love through the phone. I wanted the person who believed in me most to sweep in and save the day. To remind me that I wasn’t a failure, that I was doing the best I know how, and that everything was going to be all right.

The word Discipline makes me nervous. It sends an uneasy shiver up my spine. I have read some things, watched some things, heard some things, and I still don’t know exactly which direction I want to go in with our family. I worry about figuring out the “right” kind of discipline (nothing that will send my children into therapy later in life). I am a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement, so that’s been a constant from the start. For really out of hand behavior, I’ve done Time Outs and I’ve yelled and occasionally hit (I have since decided that in most cases, this will actually do more harm than good, so I have promised myself to find alternative methods).

I think the most important thing for me to do now is to create a well thought out, specific plan and know it by heart, so that in the heat of the moment, I have no doubt as to which actions call for which consequences, and, therefore, I will feel calmer and more in control. From there, I just have to be really, really consistent. Children thrive on consistency. I’ll have to explain my plan to my husband, too. Even though he doesn’t spend that many hours with the kids during the week, the time that he does spend with them and the way that he responds to their behaviors will make a difference. Of course, the “plan” will no doubt need to be tweaked here and there, every now and again, depending on the response (perhaps I should say “path” like I did with my Birth Path at the suggestion of my midwife? You know, for wiggle room).

I am going to figure this out. Everything is going to be ok. Will keep you posted.


2 thoughts on “Am I Raising a Delinquent?

  1. I’m not a parent, but I’ve thought about this sort of thing, and I’ve also spontaneously lashed out at someone when I was a toddler, and then later when I was 9 years old.

    I don’t think external discipline will help in this situation. My suggestion so that he learns from this mistake, is that you should appeal to his empathy and try to have him understand the pain he caused someone else, and how such an impulsive action doesn’t improve his and others’ overall well-being, even if it seems like it might resolve the issue at hand. That’s not a short lesson by any means, and we all learn from making mistakes so there will be more. Don’t sweat it, keep trying, and feel better.


    • Hi Alvin! Thanks for your comment 🙂 I don’t think I could have come up with a more appropriate and encouraging response. I am trying not to overreact, but my worst nightmare is that the behavior progresses and he becomes one of the types of students I always dreaded having (acting out in many ways, not just physically)… But I will most definitely “keep trying” 😉


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