Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It takes a village...

I have a son, and his name is Asher.  He is a very sweet, smart, energetic, fun, happy and curious little boy.  He loves people, birds, penguins, playing outside, imagining, playing with toys, reading books, his brothers, chocolate, pasta, bread, playing in the water, watching shows about volcanoes and other natural phenomenons, potty talk, laughing, moving and jumping {a lot}, and so much more. 

I love him so much!

But he is hard.  It is a constant battle trying to figure out what to do with him, depending on what his current behavior is.  To be fair, for every rough patch, there has been a period of calm where he is thriving, being considerate and rational, and just a complete joy.  He really is a sweet and happy kid, he also just happens to have an iron will and seems to be determined to prove to me and everyone else that he is going to do what he wants, when he wants, and apparently, there is not a thing that we can do about it.  The biggest problem right now is school.  He has been giving his teachers a run for their money for 2 or 3 weeks now- being defiant about the rules and not seeming to care about any consequences that he may receive, or even caring that he is being rude and disrespectful to his teachers, whom he loves very much, I might add.  He doesn't seem to have regard for anyone's feelings but his own.  He's being purely selfish.  He's gone through phases like this at home as well, where nothing we do or say gets through to him.  At this point, he definitely understands what he is doing wrong- he knows how to behave in school, he knows what's going to happen if he doesn't, yet he doesn't care- he does it anyway.  I feel like we have tried everything... ignoring bad behavior, giving major consequences consistently, positive consequences for good behavior,  a loving and positive approach where we are working with him calmly and giving him chances to fix bad choices, talking and reasoning with him, explaining rules and why we have them, etc etc.  I've got his teachers calling me pretty much everyday, telling me his bad behavior and having me talk to him, talking to me after school...  I talk to them, brainstorm ideas, tell them a little about my experiences with this, but ultimately I look at them and tell them honestly: "I'm so sorry, but I'm not really sure what to do about this."  Because I don't.  I don't have the answer.  Do we just shrug it off, tell him we love him and tell him to work harder tomorrow and give him positive encouragement?  Should we be completely hard core and throw everything we've got at him?  Part of me thinks we should... he has got to learn that his behavior is not ok and that he is not in charge, at school or at home, and maybe consequence after consequence is the way to do that {although, it hasn't been working so far}.  But on the other hand, he's 5.  He's a boy.  An active boy who loves to run around and be silly and have fun, and both his teacher and I agree that we don't want to squash that.  And lets be honest, a 30 minute lunch/recess is not exactly cutting it for an 8 hour day.  Even I got more breaks than that when I was working full time.  It actually breaks my heart at the thought of a 5 year old little boy not being able to go to recess, participate in fun events at school, and even at home, as that is part of his consequence for being on red at school.  Should life be so tough for such a little kid?  What keeps coming to my mind as I am typing this is "moderation in all things", and balance.

We thought we had a breakthrough yesterday.  His teachers gave him lots of positive reinforcement, no negative attention, and he worked really hard and had a great day.  But then today, both his science teacher and his classroom teachers called me because he is back to being defiant and not caring at all.  He has to stay after school today and then I have to go meet with his science teacher (who in my opinion is a little too hard core) and she is going to tell me everything that he is doing and then look at me and expect me to be able to whip him into shape.  Sorry lady, wish I could.  Believe me.

To be honest, I'm starting to think that the answer might be to switch schools.  I have really loved Harlem Success for so many reasons... their method of teaching seems to be top notch and Asher has genuinely seemed to love it there, and I love, love, love his teacher.  He has learned so, so much and has had fun doing it.   But I often feel like their behavioral expectations for these little kids borders on unreasonable.  Especially considering the fact that it is such a long day and they only get one 30 minute break, which gets taken away from them if they are on red.  He has had rough patches here and there throughout the year, but for the most part he has done really well, and it's just been these last few weeks that he has really gotten out of control.  It's a tough call.  Something to think about.

I'm definitely thinking about it and praying about it, talking to people about it, and I would love to hear about your experiences with this.  Have you had a child that struggles complying with rules in school?  What have you done to remedy the situation and encourage them to work hard and do their best and to respect rules and teachers?  Please, I could use all the help I can get!


Kristin said...

Oh, I feel your pain!!! I had a break down one week when I had to meet with Drake's teacher and the principal the same week that his primary teacher had to call me (and all the rest of the parents) because Drake mooned his primary class!
At that meeting with the teacher/principal I was in the same boat - that I'm sorry, but I just don't know what to do!!?? I was talking to him everyday, he missed recess just about everyday, but nothing seemed to work. (he's also in a very hard core academic no-nonsense school) And I'm serious, his teacher sounded almost like she was suggesting I take him out of school since "he's young for kindergarten" (he'll be six in July), and especially being a boy and all, maybe he needs more time. Argghh!!
But we did come up with a plan that has worked!!! He is on a modified behavior program. There's a paper taped to his desk everyday with 12 circles - the day is divided up into 4 time periods, and each has three categories - Be Quiet, Sit Correctly, Follow Directions, and he can earn a green, yellow or red for each. That way it's right in front of him and he can see that even if he blows it in the morning and gets all reds, there's still six empty circles that can be green and he can turn it around in the afternoon. Then he brings home the paper everyday for me to see and we have a sticker chart I made with random prizes scattered through out. So for every green, he gets a sticker, but for every red he loses a sticker. The last time he completed a whole chart he got a little aquarium, and on this sticker chart, he is earning fish.
Then at my last parent mtg, his teacher was saying how impressed she is, that she can't believe he's changed his behavior (for the most part, he still has bad days every now and then). I can't believe it either, but I love it!
Anyway, that is what worked for us, not saying it will work for everybody, but maybe it's worth a shot?

Oh, also the reds/yellows/greens are weighed everyday and he then gets either an O, S, or N for the day (outstanding, satisfactory, needs improvement). Days that he gets an N, he loses all privileges.

Allie and Spencer said...

ugh... that's the worst. I have a child who has need of a *little* extra patience and it's SO hard. Thanks for posting- it's nice to know that even awesome moms like you feel OK asking for help. Love Allie

Anonymous said...

He is in Kindergarten right? I think boys are just at a rough age. We have a little boy in Kindergarten this year, he just turned six. Half of last year and into this year he totally started being this big PAIN! He was throwing fits, being disrespectful, and just being a big brat when he didn't get what he wanted. We talked to family, friends, and prayed a ton! I really was getting to the point that I didn't like he sometimes...I know that sounds so bad! Well one of my husbands associates said that he had a son that acted identically to what our son was acting like when he was 5-6 years old. He said that they implemented things but that that age group was tough! We tried doing so many things different and I think the two things that helped the most was praying to love him and having him feel loved and spending a little more one-on-one time with me, his mom. It didn't happen over night, but now he is such a different kid. I look back to just a few months ago and I am so grateful that things are different now! He is the second of four, so I think he just needed to feel more love and help from on high. I am sure that you will feel inspired in the ways that will help him the most.

Schmath said...

Ah geez. This sounds horrible! I thought we wouldn't have to worry about this stuff till they were older. I think switching schools sounds like a good idea, especially if other schools have shorter days or more recess. I've been on the other end, as the teacher calling the parents, and the only reason I called was because I thought the parents had a right to know. It never made any difference since they weren't there in the classroom. Sometimes teachers just don't know how to motivate certain kids, and maybe he'll find his niche in the next class/school. But it sounds like there's something bothering him about school. Does he know what it is? If you help him recognize what specifically sets him off, maybe you can teach him an appropriate way to express it when it happens.

Angie said...

I wasn't going to post a comment because we haven't been in the same ward in forever, but I really felt for you reading your post. It's hard when your child is having trouble in school. All day school is rough and I hate that teachers take recess away from the kids who need it most. Unfortunately, it's so hard to find a school that doesn't use that rule. Hopefully you can find a teacher and a school that uses more positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. Sometimes it doesn't take a good teacher, it just takes the "right" teacher for a certain child. My daughter didn't have any major behavior problems last year but she was having a lot of emotional stress and anxiety in kindergarten. We moved over the summer and since she had a summer birthday we decided to do Kindergarten again at a new school with a new teacher. Her teacher this year has been just what she needed. It probably also helped that she isn't the youngest in the class anymore, but I think the biggest difference was the teacher. Maybe switching schools or teachers for next year is a good idea. I'm sure his school and teachers are good, they just might be wrong for his personality. Good luck.

Schmath said...

Also, have you or his teacher read any of the Love and Logic books? I wish I would have taken everyone's advice and read the teaching one when I first started teaching. I need to re-read the parenting one because I don't remember much of what was in it, but I remember feeling like it was the answer to every parenting problem I could possibly have.

Morgan said...

thank you all for your comments! they have been making me feel a lot better. kristin, i think drake and asher would get along just fine! ;) actually, it's probably better that they live across the country from each other because they would totally just feed off each other and it might not be good. :) but next time when we are in santa cruz at the same time, we will have to let them get together and be crazy boys together. i will have to talk to his teachers about what you guys did. it sounds similar to what they were talking about with me the other day... splitting the day up into different parts so it's not so overwhelming for him.

schmath, i have been wanting to read the love and logic books for a couple years, but just haven't made time for it. maybe now is finally the time! :)

Jill said...

Morgan, I can totally hear your voice saying all of this about Asher. He really is a good boy, and he has GOOD parents that love him & want the best for him. Now I know who to come to for advice (or just a shoulder) if my little guy pulls the same thing on me in years to come. I hope he does well & figures it out!

Or, there is always Hawaii. I think kids don't even have to wear shoes to school. ;)

Nielsen Family said...

Not having a child this age yet, but having taught kids, it could just be it's the end of the school year. Plenty of my students decided the year was over in April and there was nothing I or the parents could do. I know it's not the most encouraging solution, but it could be he's a little burned out after his first year and come fall (or in most cases mid-august) he'll be the perfect student.
Like I said, I'm definitely not an expert and i taught older kids, but he could just have a little kindergarten-itis from a long year. At least the end is in sight being May and all.