Q&A: When Discipline Is Too Strict

I have two children, one with my current boyfriend who is a 2-year-old girl and my 10-year-old from my previous marriage. We pretty much all get along, but I feel as though my boyfriend doesn't have the same love for my son as he does for our daughter. He is very strict with him, complains about any little thing that bothers him about my son--especially when my son forgets his homework in school, which is frequent he punishes him for a week at least and my son is not allowed to do anything entertaining but to sit in his bed all day reading a book. He can not color, can not read magazines, anything that he thinks maybe be entertaining for him. And if he were to catch Jeremy glaring at the TV he says that he will hit him if he finds out he was disobeying.

My son is a good kid, he doesn't misbehave, doesn't have fights in school, he doesn't talk back or yell. He's very shy and timid and an emotional kid who gets speech, occupational, and physical therapy in school. My son is just very forgetful, doesn't focus on the things that are important and can be very lazy. My question to you is: Am I overreacting? To me it seems the punishment at times is too harsh, and I feel we need to let my son breathe a little and not crucify him for forgetting his work in school.

-Jessica Diaz

I read your note and I am very concerned. Please heed my advice. The discipline your boyfriend is giving your son is far too harsh. It is also unfair, unreasonable, and unfounded. I also consider what he is doing to your child is severely damaging to his self-esteem... severely damaging.

Your boyfriend is threatening your child ("I will hit you."). The discipline is clearly way too strict and unfair (Not being allowed to do anything for over a week--and sit on a bed for hours at a time for not bringing his homework! Jessica, that's abusive!)

Discipline should always be administered only in a calm and loving way. After all, the only reason for discipline is to help your child learn from his mistakes. Discipline even comes from the word, "disciple"--it's a TEACHING tool. A child can only learn when the instruction (discipline) is presented in a non-threatening way. And as soon as the discipline is over, it's "forgive and forget." The parent and child relationship remains intact. The child knows he was wrong, but also understands that he is still loved unconditionally by the parent. What's more, while discipline does have a consequence (if you don't do your homework, you can't watch television for the afternoon) that's fair and reasonable.

PLEASE get help, Jessica. This situation cannot continue. It will do irreparable damage on your child's emotional health and well-being.

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