Why the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” policy doesn’t work with the child of divorce



One popular discipline policy churches use is what is called the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” policy. In theory it sounds reasonable but for many hurting children it is not reasonable or even fair.

It goes something like this; the child doesn’t obey the rules, is unruly or is disrespectful in some manner and the count down starts.

Strike 1: The first time you disobey your name goes on the board.

Strike 2: The second time your parents are called.

Strike 3: The third time you are asked to leave the class. (Some churches stipulate the child can’t return to class for two weeks.)

Here is why this type of discipline isn’t going to work for the hurting child of divorce:

Strike 1

  • Some of these kids are so desperate for attention they will act out just for the attention it brings to them. Having their name up on the board gives them even more attention. Some will even smile when their name goes up on the board. To them it’s like having their name in “lights”.
  • For other children of divorce who are intimidated and not feeling safe, to have their name go up on the board will send them to the lower level of their brain – the fight, flight or flee part of the brain where they can’t think through the process.

Strike 2

  • If the child has just switched from time with one parent to the other right before class, he or she may be upset. They may need to see the parent they’ve been away from, tell their parent something– or just simply connect with their parent. Having you call the parent to come to class is what they might need for their emotionally well-being. Hence, they might act out so you will call their parent.
  • Other children will be excited at the prospect of you calling their parents because if you call their parents (plural) to them it means both parents have to come together and talk. In their minds they are using this as a bargaining chip to get their parents back together.
  • Other children know their single parent is distraught and overwhelmed. They know their parent is incapable of doing anything about their behavior.

Strike 3 and you’re out!

  • Many kids want to go home. They don’t feel like they fit in a church class so they act out so you will send them home.
  • Children who visit their other parent on the weekend, are aware they will only have to miss one week so it’s really no big deal to them.

The Kids and Divorce blog has many articles on discipline policies if you need tips on disciplining hurting children.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on Dec 3, 2014.

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