Friday, January 23rd 2015
So, do you know the politically correct term for “problem child” in school? Ya know, the kid taking up all the Assistant Teacher’s time in class due to lack of cooperation with the program? I don’t either. But imagine my alarm last week when Boy’s teachers called me to let me know it was HIM! We know he loves to READ above all else, and trust me I wouldn’t trade this so-called “problem” for anything. But his obstinance to do anything else in class (*Montessori* class where kids get an awfully lot of so-called “Choice”), and his unwillingness to FOCUS on an assigned task was interfering with both his own academic progress and the social well being of the whole class. Ack!
SO. What do do?
Everything of course. Mamma rolled up her dang sleeves, and jumped in feet first (yes, you mix metaphors when you are throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at a problem).
1) EXTRA-CURRICULAR HOMEWORK: journaling, math problems, book reports, flash cards (and we aim to add computer programming, whatever that is)…
2) DISCIPLINE: marble jar, stopwatch, timer, haircut, clear expectations, specific praise…
3) EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING: work space, the art of “Getting Started,” awareness of focus, freedom within choices, sticky note reminders, emphasis on “Building the FOCUS Muscle!”
4) PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND COMPOSURE: chin up bar (strengthening the core of his freakishly long torso so as to SIT UP in class with a respectful body), BOKS (a before school exercise program to “Warm up the body and wake up the brain”), Ya-Ya’s (getting them out in appropriate little bursts as needed)
5) SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Expectations of kindness and courtesy at school and home, eye contact, respectful body and response (“I expect you to acknowledge what I’m saying!”)
6) PARENTAL ADVICE AND PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE: Other parents, My Mom (thanks Mom), Pediatrician (going this afternoon), Parenting Books, co-parenting and who knows what next.
A word about the current parenting book in the hopper; the deceptively titled “Playful Parenting.” It’s point is “Solving Behavior Problems” and “Encouraging Confidence” through “Nurturing Close Connections.” The magic portal is “Playfulness.” Because PLAY is EXPLORATION, and that is a huge part of a child’s JOB. Cultivating access to that world can be a key to unhinging obstacles and power struggles, and to having a good ol’ (cooperative) fun time instead. Assuming you figure it out. (This is actually not instinctive for me as a parent, in spite of my career entertaining kids. YET.)
7) PARADIGMS: Growth Mindset (praise effort, not ability!), Intrinsic Motivation (cultivate self-esteem from *effort,* not emphasis on external rewards), Mindfulness (“Where is your focus right now?”)
And what do you know, this proverbial kitchen sink is having an effect so far. Within ONE WEEK we got a letter of positive feedback on marked improvement in class. Just a beginning of course. Naturally I expect bumps and setbacks throughout the journey, but it is very encouraging so far. And I share this not to brag but because I am exhausted and disheveled on the shores of this effort. This is simply what I’ve been UP to.
Thank you for sharing in this exhaustive yet so very gratifying parenting experience with me. Oh, didn’t I mention his fabulously improved attitude? His transforming resistance to the work into almost downright enthusiasm? His cooperation with more efficient bed times and earlier rise times to get to school early for physical play? His pride and confidence in himself and greater independence and improved social relations in class? And -gulp- deepened expression of affection for Mommy?
I can’t help but wish I could send this parenting back to MYSELF when *I* was in First Grade. Lucky damn kid!!! Shit, I hope I don’t jinx this all up by writing it down here. Well hell, it wouldn’t be the first time I paid a price for being fully expressed. Nor the last.
I leave you with this largely self-directed beautiful gem, in his own words:
And don’t worry, I KNOW: