Q: My son got a detention for talking in class. He didn’t serve the detention. I know that was totally wrong. He should have served it, but he said he forgot. The teacher sent him to the principal for not serving the detention and the principal gave him a day of in-school suspension (ISS). When my son went back to class, the teacher still made him serve the detention. This doesn’t make sense to me. Why is he being punished twice for the same offense? Isn’t that double-dipping?

With all due respect: huh?

He isn’t being punished twice for one offense. He’s being punished twice for two offenses. And if he fails to serve the detention again, he will probably be punished three times for three offenses.

Count with me: He got one detention for talking. He got one ISS for not serving the detention. Add it all up and it comes to two consequences (detention and ISS) for two different infractions (talking and cutting detention). Surely you didn’t need me to help you figure that out.

Now, if, under your numerical theory, he never served that detention, it would make one consequence (ISS) for two infractions. If the teacher wiped away that detention and let the ISS count for both infractions, it would be very nice but certainly not expected. The rest of us would call it “mercy.” It sounds like you want to call it “justice,” which it most assuredly is not.

What you are really saying here, I think, is, “Why are they persecuting my baby? Hasn’t he endured enough already?”

Well, no. It’s the school’s job to ensure that all students obey the rules and that all students are taught that their bad actions have bad consequences. Your son flouted the rules. He behaved with either arrogance or indifference to the teacher’s directives. Though he served ISS for the detention, in his adolescent mind he still won because he never gave the teacher what she demanded of him. If she just lets that go, she is setting a dangerous precedent that could make it easier for other students to disregard her instructions.

Your son has to know that his job is not to follow what rules and consequences he prefers, but the rules and consequences that are given to him.

You would do the same thing, I suspect. Let’s say your child throws his toys around the room. You issue him a consequence: clean up all those toys. He refuses. You send him to timeout for half an hour.

Question: At the end of that half hour, who picks up the toys? The correct answer, of course, is that he still has to pick them up himself. And not just because they’re his toys, but because you want him to learn that he must obey you.

I once directed a student to wash the cafeteria tables because he left his garbage for someone else to pick up. He said he wouldn’t do it. I told him he would, and that he could either do it the easy way (just do it and get it over with) or the hard way (get sent to the principal, get ISS, and then come back and wash the tables tomorrow). He walked away laughing without so much as picking up a napkin.

I wrote him up for refusing to obey. The next day he was in ISS. The following day I handed him a rag and said, “Get to it.” He was incensed. “I already served ISS for that!” he cried. “Nope,” I said. “You served ISS for refusing to do what you were told, but you still need to do it.”

He must have been a Burger King fan because he insisted on having it his way. He refused again (in language that included a surprising number of letter F’s), and I wrote him up again. This time he was suspended. When he came back, I handed him the rag. “Get to it,” I said calmly. “I told you on day one you could either do this the easy way or the hard way.” He was red-faced, but without another word he grabbed the rag and cleaned the tables.

That student was very different around me from that point on. I don’t think he ever got near the idea of “liking” me, but he respected what I said and knew that I meant it. For the rest of that year whenever I said he needed to do something, he did it without hesitation.

If we treat kids fairly, consistently and with predictable and reasonable consequences when they step out of line, it will help transform them into reasonable, well-balanced people who have a healthy respect for authority. That’s called “teaching.”

Add a heavy dose of blood, sweat, tears, and unconditional love and it’s called “parenting.”

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992 and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. He is the recipient of the 2018 first place award in column writing from the South Carolina Press Association. To submit a question or receive notification of new columns, email him at JodyLStallings@gmail.com. Follow Teacher to Parent on Facebook at facebook.com/teachertoparent and on Twitter @stallings_jody.