Question for you?

What do you do when your child allegedly assaults a teacher?

When you first get the phone call asking you to come to school because “Stig is not having a good day”, you feel a little sick, your heart starts to jump like a jumping bean and the furrows across your forehead deepen. Met by his slightly shaken teacher you try to take in what’s happened and reassure her whilst sympathising with the horrors of the situation. Then ushered into an office you listen to the details of the enormous meltdown your child has experienced. Started by what seems to have been an immaterial comment the situation quickly escalated to a rage where his aggressive actions involve throwing, damaging, and kicking two teachers. Your child then takes flight with a number of staff in pursuit. Once caught he is restrained, feeling trapped he wriggles to free himself and head butts a teacher in the process. He draws blood. At this news, this is when the sickening deepens, the penetration of shock and sadness sends waves of nausea through your being and you blink hoping it will all wash away like a bad dream.

Your broken son is in brought forward, sobbing, frayed and rolling inwards to a shell that doesn’t exist. As his mum you have to restrain every fibre of your being to not reach forward and draw him to you. Instead you adopt the expected straight back stern face position showing the school that you stand beside them. The seriousness of the situation is spelt out to your son and he anxiously apologises to all there and expresses his hurt over the situation. Kindly the school allow him to stay for the rest of the day all be it excluded from his class and in the deputy’s office. You return home and cry.

When collected from school you take him home and explain again the seriousness of his actions and the therefore consequences which need to be adhered to at home. Grounded, he can no longer go to climbing club, enjoy the cinema treat, a reward for a good parents evening, no computers, limited television instead there are apology letters to write, chores to do and reflection to be had. You also explain that you yourself have had to cancel plans to go to the theatre that evening as it is not ok to leave him with anyone other than his parents after such a frightening day. This news upsets him more and he offers to give you the money for the theatre ticket you’ve paid for.

Together you sit at the kitchen table one nursing a cup of tea the other a Capri sun. You probe delicately trying to fathom out how this could have happened. What fears does your child have and who or what created such feelings of vulnerability? Such a fear which required such drastic actions. He doesn’t know. He expresses his own fear in not knowing. You feel helpless but you stay with him, together at that kitchen table, talking, him drawing, you tapping at your laptop. Not wanting him to be alone and retreat into a space where he will start to believe his own hype, the voices telling him how bad he is.

After dinner he has a bath and goes to bed, he makes a small error of judgment at this point and is caught “messing about”. This is the point where you lose it, pushed over the edge by this one clownish move. You shout, and ball about his lack of respect for those trying there hardest for him. You then go downstairs and cry again, mortified and angry that at that final hurdle of the day, the full stop was such a negative one.

The weekend passes as you explained it would and he is calm and helpful, resigned but not too sad, reassured by the support and understanding his parents are trying to show. He is obviously anxious and wary as Monday morning and a meeting with the Headmaster approach.

And there it is that nausea again as you sit waiting to go in with the Head, whilst trying to help your scared son to not worry and reassure him things will be ok. Sat in that office, the Head, the SENCO, the husband and you, there is a false sense of possible hope as smiles are shared.

When asked if your son has thrown any light onto why the situation occurred, you open your heart about the troubles he faces and the remorse he feels. The effort he makes daily to make the right choices over riding his natural instincts time and time again, leaving him shattered by the end of the day. You hope that you are fighting his cause and the cause for children misunderstood everywhere. You hope that the school will support your hopes as you have supported them. Your hopes are shattered.

Two day exclusion. Not for the good of your son, because the headmaster recognises that this action will not benefit him in anyway. No this decision is “the right thing to do” decision. The one that stops parents gossiping at the school gate and keeps the governors happy. The one that reveals the lack of commitment the school has in supporting these misunderstood children. The one that reveals the fear that a lack of tangible label for children who have suffered early life trauma places in the hearts of those who educate them and the one that screams out the misunderstanding of the misunderstood.

Of course the true fault does not lie with this school or any other school that has to open its doors to vulnerable children who move through the care system, countless homes and carers, post a grim and unacceptable start to life. No the true fault lies with the government’s lack of support for these children, their families and those that educate them. Once again I am left feel overwrought with loneliness having for the time being lost one of my only allies in supporting my children. Lost because the supposed allies don’t fully understand how best to support the complex requirements of these children, because no resources and support is offered to them. Lonely because as a parent there is little post adoption support provided. We form our families with these hurt children, we are warned it may be difficult and then come legal adoption day we are near enough left to get on with it. They may make the odd visit but I can assure you this does not mend the gaping wounds this trauma is bringing to our family, my relationship with my husband and some of our friendships.

So you write a letter because you need to have your say and you have some concerns with the way things were handled. You reassure your son that in your opinion the school has on this occasion made an unfair decision and that he is not a bad person and he is much, much loved. And you hope that tomorrow will ease the pain and dull the heightened senses and that your hope will be restored. That is what you do when your child has allegedly assaults a teacher. Or at least that is what I do.

What I also do is let you know that these are obviously all my opinions of this event.

38 Comments

  1. Sally November 27, 2012 / 8:45 am

    You have captured in one post the essence of what it is to parent traumatised children. Really moving. What really stand out for me is those who should know better, expecting the child the explain why he has behaved this way. He doesn’t know, it’s wired deep into his brain.
    I know exactly how you are feeling but there is light at the end of the tunnel (not that I’m out of it yet!). Huge hugs.

  2. June November 27, 2012 / 9:06 am

    How many of us have had this experience, how many more will have the very same experience in times to come ? Too many. Our traumatised children deserve so much more and we, the parents who love and live with them, so much more real, tangible support. SO well written, any chance of copying this to AUK message boards. Maybe this could be the basis of a letter to Governors of each and every school and a copy to LA’s when our children are excluded.

    • thepuffindiaries November 27, 2012 / 9:48 am

      Yes of course you can have a copy. I was only saying to my husband last night I want to do something more about this. I would like to let the Care Inquiry to see this as well. Do you want me to e-mail you. DM me @puffindiaries.

  3. katiedz November 27, 2012 / 9:12 am

    Sarah, what a heartbreaking situation, your post has moved me to tears. Stay strong and virtual hugs to you all. xx

  4. Stix November 27, 2012 / 1:13 pm

    What would I do? Exactly what you have done and what I know you are doing. Keep going, stay strong xx

  5. 5kidswdisabilities November 27, 2012 / 1:21 pm

    Oh, that is so sad for you and your son. After my son assaulted his teacher at age 9, and the police were called, and then a rescue because he flipped out and became violent, he was finally hospitalized and got the help he needed. He was diagnosed with a disability, dispensed invaluable medication, and obtained and IEP (Individual Education Plan.) He was in regular classes, but had the option of being pulled out into the quiet room if he was feeling overwhelmed. The quiet room had a bean bag chair and pretty pictures on the wall. He spent a great deal of time in the quiet room by his own choice. And he made it through elementary school, junior high school and high school. He received a tremendous amount of support from very knowledgeable special educators.
    A note about medication: I know many families do not believe in it, but for me and my son it has been a lifesaver. It has made living with his demons possible, rather than being consumed by them all the time.
    God bless you, and here’s another hug ( )

    • thepuffindiaries November 27, 2012 / 1:26 pm

      Your words are so very kind thank you. He already has an IEP and behaviour procedure but it didn’t work this time. I will keep in mind your advice and thanks for the hug.

  6. Mummy Plum November 27, 2012 / 6:09 pm

    This is such a moving and insightful post, an honest window through which to look and see the challenges adoptive families face. I have no words of advice that I feel able to give, but my heart goes out to you and your son and I hope you get the support you need in dealing with this situation. x

  7. Jaime Oliver November 27, 2012 / 6:46 pm

    i am sat here on the verge of tears, although my parents never adopted a child they were long term foster parents to some very hurt children and many times we cried as a family at some of the things that happened and how we could all help them to stop hurting.

    Being there and being a parent is the biggest thing you can do. although its only my opinion and although i don’t know your full circumstances – could it be he wanted to test you?

    Sending all my love and i hope things improve for you all soon xx

  8. Paula November 27, 2012 / 11:48 pm

    Your post has brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written and your love for your son shines through. I hope you both get through this. Paula xxx

    (Huxleythecat on twitter)

  9. Lisa Guest November 28, 2012 / 2:37 pm

    I read this last night, but my hands were too full to type – and it brought me to tears – firstly because you and your lovely son have to deal with such circumstances, but also because you write about it so movingly. And because you have enough to do as a mum but also have to find time and energy to bring about education and change for the children who will follow into a system that is not yet ready for them. lots of love Lisa xx

    • thepuffindiaries November 28, 2012 / 4:36 pm

      Thank you Lisa, I’m sure you do have your hands full. Things have hopefully been learnt by all those involved in this incident. I will write an update in a couple of days but he is back in school, I’m exhausted by it all and I just need some rest. Sure you can relate to this! xx

  10. Older Mum (@Older_Mum) November 28, 2012 / 2:44 pm

    A really moving post – It’s hard to know what to say, other than my heart goes out to you and your son – and that you handled this situation really well, and don’t worry if you ‘lost it’ – you are only human – caught in the middle of a traumatised son and an education system that is not able to provide the right kind of support for these children. I am sure this has already crossed your mind but have you considered some therapy for Stig – a good child psychologist/psychotherapist via your GP? Just a thought ….

    • thepuffindiaries November 28, 2012 / 4:38 pm

      Yes we are going to try and access some therapy but we are prepared for the fact that this will probably have to be pursued privately. Thank you for reading and your kind words.

  11. Doonhamer Geordie November 28, 2012 / 4:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones struggling to help teachers understand the ‘why’ rather than just focussing on the ‘what’. Why is it so difficult for schools to comprehend that a one size fits all behaviour policy just isn’t any good?

    • thepuffindiaries November 28, 2012 / 4:41 pm

      Absolutely and that actions should be for the good of the child not the spectators. Thanks for reading and keep going with the educating. :-)

    • thepuffindiaries November 28, 2012 / 9:18 pm

      I know sometimes it feels lonely out there but if there is anything I’ve learnt from blogging and twitter, it is that so many people are going through the same difficulties as you and me. That’s one big pile of **** that we are all in together. Hope that makes you feel better!

  12. msmummyoftwo November 29, 2012 / 7:12 pm

    Great post, So moving. You are so amazing and in my opinion, you are doing the right thing. It is easy for me to say dont let it get you down, but really, dont let them get you down! I would be doing exactly what you are. Hugs xxxxx

  13. Ruth November 29, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    Nothing very helpful to add, just wanted to say that I think you handled the whole thing brilliantly, and I’m so sorry you and so many others are not getting adequate support. Huge hugs x

  14. Sarah Pellew (secret housewife) November 29, 2012 / 7:34 pm

    I am hesitating to write a comment here because I haven’t read your blog before and I don’t know your circumstances. I don’t know how old your son is. But I am torn in two different directions. I feel for you so much because I can hear the patience and frustration in your voice and the obvious love you feel for your child. But as someone who works in a school I also imagine the shock and awfulness your son’s teachers went through that day. To suffer physical violence, for any reason, is just horrible. To be head butted by a child, again I don’t know your son’s age, just isn’t acceptable. I am sorry if my words hurt you and I don’t want you misunderstand what I am saying. I try very hard to build relationships with the troubled children I work with and I try to understand how they are feeling, why they are feeling the way they do. But in the past I have been punched and other members of staff have been hurt too. Its a horrible situation to be in because you feel for the child, understand they have problems that you spend your time trying to help, but don’t want to be physically hurt, frightened.. I just think its not right for anyone to go into work and fear that they might be attacked. If they do suffer violence then something has to be done, hopefully with understanding and care, but it can’t be swept under the carpet. You are right that children with problems have to be supported and understood, but so do the teaching and support staff who work with them. I hope you don’t read this as criticism of you, your son or your situation. I hope both he and his teachers are ok and can move forward together in a positive way.

    • thepuffindiaries November 29, 2012 / 8:38 pm

      Thank you for reading and for your comment and a lot of what you write I don’t disagree with.My son is 9. There are circumstances here that I haven’t included in my blog because I’ve felt that they are between the school and us, and although I am terribly unhappy with this particular incident the school have at other times been very supportive. I don’t in anyway think that my son should not face some consequences for his actions however this action I am set against because it holds no benefit to his relationship with the school and when educating children who struggle with attachment the relationship is key. I could write at length about this here but I would probably end up with a blog post and I will actually be writing a follow up post. I do write a lot about parenting my children with developmental trauma and I have an adoption blog roll that includes some very insightful blogs, if you are interested in learning more. Thank you again for your views they are well presented and I do not feel criticised. My son is fine and the school are happy to put this behind them and move on.

      • Sarah Pellew (secret housewife) November 29, 2012 / 8:48 pm

        Thank you for being so understanding about my comment. I always hesitate to post something that might appear critical, especially when I know that I don’t have all the facts about a complex situation. I wish you and your son the best and I hope he is ok. I think having a mum like you will help him on his way to be a happy adult. I shall certainly read some of the blogs you link to. Take care. Sarah x

  15. Mum Reinvented November 30, 2012 / 8:50 am

    I just read your post through tears, you can literally feel your emotions coming off the page. Like Sarah I am torn between my heart and my head on this one, I worked with troubled children and their families from a police perspective and had it drilled into me that their backgrounds should not be allowed to be used as an excuse for their behaviour, yet I never quite got my head round that myself. Some of the children (and adults who had horrific experiences as children) I worked with had been through so much or had so many challenges to deal with that you couldn’t help but wonder if their behaviour was linked to their past and they certainly could have done with someone like you to fight their corner and love them the way you love your son because that is probably the one thing they all lacked, the love and support of their parents.

    One thing I did notice was the way in which the schools used exclusions just didn’t work. In cases such as yours it is done because it’s “the right thing” but for who and what good is it actually going to do.? To put the needs and opinions of the governors and other parents above those of the child and the staff in question is ridiculous and should have absolutely no bearing on the decision to exclude. And in cases where the child is actually “naughty” for want of a better word, they won’t care about being excluded anyway, the school just gives them a few days off, which of course they will relish especially if it isn’t reinforced at home that their behaviour isn’t acceptable. Schools really do need to look at the way in which they use exclusions and I completely agree that in your case it is a bad decision.

    I hope that you and your son are able to move on from this. I’m sure he will be fine though with you looking out for him, just make sure you have someone there for you x

    • thepuffindiaries November 30, 2012 / 9:57 am

      Thank you, I’m now nearly in tears reading your response a combination of a week of exhaustion and because of your depth of understanding. My son is so not a naughty boy, his behaviour has deeply saddened him and frightened him, he is ashamed. Endorsing this shame by excluding him hurts him more. As I said to SecretHouse wife I don’t believe that he should go without a consequence however, he had already endured a weekend of sanctions as we always try to support the school in this way. Often when we have a fallout at home and television and computers are off limits and I don’t want him left on his own to brood, I find jobs for him to do. He will come and empty the dishwasher and put things away help with dinner and do the recycling. This way he feels he is able to show how sorry he is, build bridges and feel good about himself for being so helpful, because you praise him lots. Again I could write so much, but you have hit the nail on the head, if this form of discipline has no real impact on children then why is it being used and why is it acceptable that one policy should fit all, no other aspect considered.
      Thank you for your wonderful words of support. x

  16. @3childrenandit November 30, 2012 / 4:35 pm

    This hurts to read Sarah, so beautifully and powerfully written, well done. I cannot imagine what you went through (and are still going through), it must be so difficult to know what to do for the best and I only sypathise and understand why you ‘lost it’ in the evening. Unfortunatley children don’t come with an Instruction Manual but it sounds like you’re doing a superb job. Children need love, above ALL else. The exact same thing happened in our school just a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, parents do whisper and so i understand why they did what they did. Doesn’t make it ‘right’ though :(

  17. Threebecomefour February 7, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    So sorry I missed this post when you wrote it. I’ve just come by way of your poem “Shame” that you have linked to this post. It is so heartbreaking to read a post like this. I also worked for many years in education with teens with similar difficulties (and their parents) and had to watch young people being excluded because that was the expected “punishment”. It rarely resolved the issue and usually exacerbated the negativity in the relationship. Obviously some behaviours are unacceptable and the school feels that they have to send out a message to staff, pupils, parents and governors that such behaviour is not to be tolerated at the school. But does it help the young person who is excluded? Does it solve the resulting relationship issues with the teachers effected? Does it resolve the reasons why the behaviour resulted in the first place? In my experience it does not. Part of the problem lies with understaffing. There aren’t the spare teachers to enable an exclusion room to be run effectively and supportively for children in school. There also aren’t sufficient professionals linked to the schools to be able to offer one-to-one work with pupils who are experiencing problems like your son.

    How are things in the school now, a few months on?

    • thepuffindiaries February 7, 2013 / 8:01 pm

      He is doing really well in school and in all other aspects of his life. Although I felt on the occasion of this incident they didn’t fully support him, the school are very good indeed and I feel very lucky compared to the stories many parents share of schooling their adopted children. I feel there is much to be done to raise the awareness of how best to support children dealing with early life trauma in school. Thank you for reading and your supportive comments.

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