Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 22 May 2008

My daughter often gets after-school detentions, and then I have to drive to fetch her. Why not have lunchtime ones?

Hillary's Advice

I’m really interested in your focus here, which is not on why your 14-year-old daughter is getting so many detentions, but on the inconvenience to you, because detentions mean she cannot get the school bus, and you have to put your younger child in the car and go and fetch her.

But shouldn’t this be a conversation between you and your daughter, not you and the school? Why, exactly, is she getting so many detentions? Is there something wrong in her life that is making her unhappy and disaffected? And why is it that she doesn’t seem to understand or care that she is putting the family to such inconvenience?

Schools complain bitterly these days that many parents will automatically ring up to complain if their son or daughter has done poorly in a test, or been in any sort of trouble. “My child right or wrong,” is their battle cry and woe betide any teacher or head who gets in the way of that.

But this is so wrong-headed. Young people need boundaries, even if only to push against them. They need to be helped to develop self-discipline, and to understand how their behaviour affects others. These are crucial things that will give them the muscle, grit and empathy that they will need to get on in their education, and their adult life.

It could well be that, if you set out the issues calmly and reasonably, your daughter’s school would consider shifting her detentions to lunchtimes, but this really isn’t the major issue here. I feel you need to think hard about the messages you are giving her.