Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mommy Guilt, part CCXXXVI

Paul is struggling at school. My smart, sweet, good-hearted boy is refusing to finish work in class and his teacher has described him as occasionally "defiant." I can't deny that I'm seeing some of this at home, too. We've been trying daily behavior contracts, tied rewards to the results - and yet last week was the worst yet. Paul was promising me his end-of-week report would have an "O" on it, but instead it was the dreaded "U." The biggest problem is that Paul can't seem to work independently. He daydreams and fidgets, and then when the time is up he whines that he wasn't given enough time. He tells me his teacher is mean to him and doesn't listen to him. His teacher seems firm, but frankly I think a firm hand is good for Paul. There's usually another mother in the class, too, so I think I'd hear about it if she really was "mean." We're just going to keep trying until another idea presents itself.

And then there's Eli. His behaviour is just getting worse and worse. He's belligerent, argumentative, brazenly defiant, transparently manipulative. I hope against all hope that this is a phase. I've tried time outs, toy confiscation, rewarding good behaviour, and corporal punishment. Nothing makes a dent, and I suspect corporal punishment makes him feel like he has a license to hit everybody, which he does with abandon (although never at school, thank heavens). he likes to kick and choke, too. He's really wearing me out and I don't know what to do next.

His school teacher has recommended a parenting class offered through the district. There's a waiting list, but I'm going to sign up for it tonight before I go to my guitar class.


Julia Harps said...

These types of days make me feel terrible. I cannot advise since I have no idea what you should do. You are a good mom though so keep your chin up.

Jessica said...

Have you looked into attention deficit treatments? I don't necessarily mean meds, although they were useful for my middle kid for a few years (he's off them now and happier, but spacy). But there are pretty good books about parenting tactics targeted for that flavor of child. I'd loan you mine, but they never came back from the last parent I loaned to!
I'm glad you are looking into positive actions you can take rather than just focusing on the "Mommy guilt." God knows that's real, but not productive. And although I did use corporal punnishment when my kids were young, I agree with you that when a child is prone to physical outbursts, it is no longer a good idea. Hang in there, don't blame yourself, keep trying!

colleeeen said...

"Spacy" pretty much sums Paul up. Do you recall any titles of your long-lost books? I would LOVE some new ideas.

Stephanie said...

Don't take it personally. Any of it. You're doing a good job with your boys and you are a fantastic mother.

Have you tried exercising with Eli? It's what they recommended to a friend of mine's defiant kid and it really turned their life around. They would walk (several miles) or do a yoga video every night. He slept better, ate better and was just more peaceful. I don't think it could hurt, even if it didn't "work."

Good luck.

Fox Family said...

I read a good book, not sure if it applies, but it is called: Raising your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It might help with Eli. Good luck Colleen!

Kathryn said...

I second the book just mentionned. It really helped with Katelyn (our oldest) and also helps with Laura (the little one). Katelyn definitely fit into the spirited category after I read the book, Laura spunky. Interesting enough I learned alot about myself as a child and now through the book and it really has helped in how I handle the girls. Not that I'm perfect, but the book has done wonders.

Also, how is Paul at home? My first thought about school is wondering about ADD. I know I was concerned enough for Katelyn because she started showing alot of ADD signs including not finishing all of her classwork. However since she already has an IEP and receives services for speech theray and sees the resource teacher a couple days a week, it's not a huge concern for her teachers, she just catches up in resource on those days. But it prompted me to get her eval'd for that and we are currently going through that with her. They are also evaling her for autism but that's a whole other thing right there. It could be just a phase with Paul. I have had other friends have kids go through this right around 2nd or 3rd grade. But I've also had friends who first noticed the classwork thing and then started noticing other little things for ADD and it was right about this age too.

As for Eli....no idea. Laura has a short fuse and lately she can be playing with big sis fine once second and the next has her pinned against the wall, kicking her and slamming her head for no reason at all it seems and laughing demonically when we cart her away. Spanking just gives her the idea it's okay to do it, a time out chair doesn't work, toys taken away don't do a darn thing. Time out in her room just yields screaming and toys being tossed all over the place. She's not like this outside of the home either. We are at a loss on this too. Esp since it's not an every day, not even multiple times in a week thing. We've had a few weeks of calm and today she was beating on her sister because it was homework time. Ugh.

I was never a patient person...I'm learning tons being a mommy to these two.

colleeeen said...

If anybody revisits this: I'm going to try Stephanie's advice with Eli, plus a tactic that should be my first but I have allowed to lapse some: love. I think I show too much exasperation to both boys and not enough love. I'm going to make a conscious effort to love and cuddle and kiss and praise them both more. I have been trying this for the past few days with Eli and while there are still tantrums and fits, we are having an easier time getting through them. Thanks to you all.

thefoxkids said...

All I have to offer is "this too shall pass"... weather it's ADD or Not, I have come to learn it's hardest on the MOM when your kids are struggling, (rest assured it's no cake walk for the kiddo's either!).. it's not only the guilt but we instenctly want to FIX it all and most times their aren't REAL fix's I think you are on the right track.. I have found MANY MANY times with my boys days lead into weeks where I havn't been able to remember a day with MORE praises than reprimands.. i STILL go through this and I have a teenager and one quickly aproaching teenage EEEK! I wish I could tell you it gets easier and in a since it DOES, but in another it doesn't.. my strait A 8th grader came home with an F in Social studies this week (yes everything else was A's weird I know!) with no good explination, so I guess what all this rambling is saying is.. take a deep breath and remember what us old fogies tell you, you'll look back on this time and wonder how you ever did it and where did the time go!
big hugs
p.s. let us know how the exercise goes i'm curious!

Kimberly said...

I think you are wise to add love and encouragement to your discipline equation. Too often, I know that my exasperation and I'll be honest- my anger, is what flames the fire when I'm struggling with Sabrina. It does nothing for her, and ends up making me regret what I got all blown up over so that I end up having to apologize later.

That said, I'm curious about Paul. I know that you've always mentioned that Eli has been challenging to you, but these behaviors in Paul sound new. Are they?

Often it is a red flag for teachers and parents alike when a student begins to act in a way that is uncharacteristic. Have you noticed any big adjustments besides being in a new class at school?

Some of my red flag moments have brought our attention to bullying situations, eyesight issues, medical issues, obviously not in your case- but cases of neglect/abuse, phobias, and even in one case it brought light to a situation where a student had been harrassed/humiliated by a teacher on campus.

I'm not putting this on the teacher, but do want to put it out there that teachers tend to be savy enough to be on their best behavior when adult eyes are watching, so that can account for not hearing anything from other parents or seeing anything that you'd immediately connect with Paul's behavior.

All that said, some students that have a hard time with a weekly report do better with a shorter reporting period like a daily report. If his struggles are happening in a pattern, it may help you pinpoint that pattern if you shorten the reporting period even more- like morning until recess, after recess until lunch, after lunch until going home... that sort of thing. I'd be happy to share some I have on my computer at school if you find that this is something you'd be interested in.

I'd be leary of a teacher that is unwilling to shorten the reporting period for you, by the way. If they reject the idea because it is too much "work" or too difficult to manage, don't believe it. If it is more difficult to manage reporting than complaining about the behavior- then you know the problem is likely to, at least in part, stem from something to do with them.

And keep your head up. No mom is perfect, but a mom that tries to hone the craft of nurturing and raising her kids is the kind of hero I wish was celebrated more often.

colleeeen said...

Kim, Kylene, thank you.

Kim, I hear you on the anger. It's a struggle here, too. We have switched from just a weekly report to a daily one. He has a daily behavior contract that Sra. Silva signs, Paul signs, and I sign, she gives a status grade (U, N, S, G, O) and a small note describing why the grade was given. I occasionally send a note back if Paul has another side to the story. So far I have not had any real red flags from her, other than Paul telling me she is lying. I do not want to automatically believe OR dismiss everything that he says, because like any child his age he is perfectly capable of telling a lie to keep himself out of trouble, but automatically assuming that everything he says is a lie is obviously not the way to go, either. I interview him quite a bit to try and get as clear a picture as I can. Sometimes his story is pretty transparent, but other times it's just immaturity and misunderstanding on his part. Ex: he was humming and kicking his desk, so his groupmates complained to the teacher that he was being annoying. Paul thought they meant that he was deliberately annoying them, so he accused them of lying. I had to explain that even though he didn't MEAN to be annoying, his classmates still found his behavior annoying. He sulked, but I think he understood the distinction. I hope.

colleeeen said...

Oh, and this is not exactly new behavior, but it's escalating a bit. I have asked him if anybody is mean to him at school, and he says "Only my teacher." But it's so hard to know if his idea of mean is that she is simply firm and doesn't give him any leeway, or if she really is meaner to him. How can I tell? I had a few mean teachers in my day, but my mom was overwhelmed with four small kids and a husband who worked 70 hours a week so she couldn't really interview me and i was to embarrassed to tell her. So that's a personal nightmare and I would never want that for Paul, so I really do try to get to the bottom of his complaints.