I super respect teachers (I am one) and know you work really hard all the time. I also know you always want to do your best. I also know you want the best for, and from, my child. I respect you enough that I need to tell you straight up: You should rethink your use of taking away recess from my child who experienced much trauma. In short, he lived in 8 homes in 8 years. He has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of this and other things he went through. He has also been diagnosed as having ADHD (before he came to live with us at age 8), but I think there’s such an overlap of behaviors that it is really hard to say he has ADHD. (See this chart for specifics.)

He came home from school on Friday talking about how much he hates music. Now, I know he loves music; he plays the ukulele for fun around the house, making up songs, sometimes the blues, and sometimes pop. He also sings all. the. time. So I asked him what he meant. He said, “I was punished on Friday by Ms. F (name of teacher omitted) and I was kept in from recess.” Me: “What did you do wrong?” Him: I didn’t do my homework.” Me: “Didn’t you do it at homework club?” [the special support he gets because he has an IEP.] Him: “No, I lost the paper.” Me: “Well, I hope you do better next time.” Him: “I think she’s a poopie head because I need recess. If I don’t have breaks I might explode.” Me: “Yeah, I think kids need recess but maybe she thought it was a logical consequence for not doing homework.” Him: “No, I asked her if I could just do it later and she said that missing recess was my punishment. I don’t know why she is so mean.”

Anyway, who knows what you really said, but I have to say that I don’t know about typical kids, for whom I doubt punishment really works, but for my kid who has “come from hard places,” punishment fills him with fear and anger. It doesn’t help him get motivated to do better next time or do the homework to avoid the punishment. All it makes him feel is shamed, little, and vulnerable. It is reminder to him that he has no power in the world and he is all alone. The punishment doesn’t help him reflect on his behavior. The punishment, instead, causes him to distance from you, and to not trust you. Once my kid with complex trauma stops trusting you, then you have lost all hope of ever connecting with him. It is only through connection that he will learn from you. Disconnection will cast him into his loneliness and will have him fearing you. He will become much ruder, less agreeable, and may become openly hostile.

I am happy to send you articles written about this should that help.