8-year-old not keeping up simple responsibilities, freaking out a lot - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 09:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is 8 1/2 and started 3rd grade on Monday.  We have been having a number of problems with discipline and keeping his stuff neat (most of which have been intermittent problems since he was 3 to 5 years old) so we started planning a few weeks before school started to get off on the right foot.  When I say "we" I mean that my son and I talked about what he can do now that he is a big 3rd grader and at what times of day he likes to do things, my partner (his father) and I talked about what we'd like to have him do on a daily basis and how best to approach it, the 3 of us talked together and agreed pretty easily on the general outline, and then my son and I worked out the specifics and made 3 neat, colorful lists: What to do in the morning, What to do in the afternoon, and Chore for each weekday.  I had told him how I followed lists like these each school year and each summer when I was a kid and I really liked them (true) and he seemed enthusiastic.  He took down some of his drawings from the dining room wall to hang the lists in a place of honor. 

 

Background: He is attending the same school as the previous 3 years.  Most weeks of the summer he went to day camp and was away from home 8:30-6:00 every weekday, so the 8:10-2:50 school day (plus about 20 minutes walking each way) actually gives him more time at home than before and more time with his dad, who works from home; I work in an office and get home at 6:00.  He does have to get going about 45 minutes earlier in the morning than he did in the summer; he's slept through his alarm some mornings, but once I wake him he gets up just fine.  His bedtime has been 8:30pm since first grade, and most nights we do get him to bed on time and he goes to sleep easily.  Everything he says about school so far is positive.  He's getting to see his friends more than he did in the summer and very happy about that.  His diet has not changed.  In some ways he's becoming very responsible and independent; for example, we recently expanded the small area of neighborhood in which he's allowed to take a walk alone, and he's been very diligent about learning the street names, telling us where he went, coming home promptly, etc.

 

Our big, persistent issues with him have been that he speaks disrespectfully to us, he sometimes refuses to do what we tell him, he leaves his stuff lying around all over the house, and he leaps at the slightest provocation into really lengthy arguments which will go on one-sided if he can't provoke us into arguing with him.

 

Another problem has been that he wants a lot of screen-time but often asks for it very rudely, resists turning it off when time's up, and behaves badly afterward especially if he watched a long time.  Occasionally he wants to play on my iPad or do something at the computer, and on weekdays he likes to watch PBS Kids shows, but much of the time what he wants to do is watch the same taped episodes of "The Simpsons" over and over again.  Since kindergarten we've had a limit of 90 minutes of screen-time per day and none before school, which he used to accept.  This summer he was constantly pushing it, nagging about wanting to watch, trying to bargain for more time.  His TV-related behavior has seemed increasingly irrational and desperate.  Often he's left the TV on while he follows a parent from room to room arguing for extra screen-time, actually missing his show while trying to get another!  And there was this incident last weekend that I described in the thread about time-outs:

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Friday evening, I had explained that because of the previous Saturday's misery when he chose to use all his screen-time for the day first thing in the morning and then refused to turn off the TV and threw an enormous screaming tantrum, on this Saturday we would not allow any screen-time until after lunch.  I made this very clear and confirmed that he understood.  Saturday morning early (10 minutes before my weekday alarm goes off) he bounded into my room without knocking or saying, "Good morning," and immediately launched into a long long explanation of why he wanted to watch "Good Morning America"; each time he paused for breath and I attempted to respond, he shrieked, "Quit interrupting!!!"  Meanwhile he was leaping on my exercise ball and rolling around the room repeatedly smashing into the corner of the bed and shaking it--a behavior he is very well aware upsets me, and I began making "stop" gestures the first time he did it, but he ignored me.  After a few minutes I got out of bed, grabbed him by the shoulders, made him stand up from the ball, looked into his eyes, and explained firmly, "I told you there would be no screen-time until after lunch today, and I meant it.  You know that I do not like being waked up early on Saturdays.  You know that I do not like you bouncing off the bed when I'm on it.  In ten minutes we will start again on this morning.  Go back to your room and stay there for ten minutes.  Don't even mention screen-time until lunch."  Ten minutes later, I got out of bed, he came out of his room, and we said, "Good morning," hugged, and moved on in a normal way. 

I was able to resolve that particular situation, but he does something like this several times a week.  It's often connected to asking for TV, but we're thinking it's not really about TV, but what is the real problem???  Several times in the past, his consequence for persistent really bad behavior has been a period of time with no screen-time at all, and every time we've found that his behavior improved somewhat.  We have considered getting rid of the TV altogether...but it is fun to watch sometimes, and we don't want to turn it into "forbidden fruit" that he'll be eager to get wherever he can.

 

Anyway, because of the recent TV-related problems and past experiences, this is what we all agreed: For the first week of school, he could have 30 minutes of screen-time per day and could choose which show he wanted to watch (between getting home and getting ready for bed), while also making sure to do all the other things he needs to do.  If he did all the things each day, the next week he could have 60 minutes per day.  If not, we'd need to stick with 30.

 

His morning list of responsibilities is just getting dressed, eating breakfast, and brushing teeth.  In the afternoons before dinner, he is supposed to:

  • take his lunchbox out of his backpack and put it in the kitchen.  This is a new thing.  I asked for it because I was sick of his dad (who packs his lunch) waiting until the next morning to look in the lunchbox and then complaining that it was difficult to clean because food had dried onto it or that there was leftover food that was no longer in edible condition.  Now I clean out the lunchbox in the evening.
  • do his homework.  This first week, of course, homework has been light, but there has been some every day.
  • do one chore.  There is one for each weekday, things like "pick up your things in the living room" and "sweep the floor in your room".  All of these are things he knows how to do and has done independently before; only the scheduling of a specific chore for each day is new.

As I said, he cheerfully agreed that these were reasonable expectations and that he would decide in which order to do things and make sure they all got done.  He also informed his dad that he would walk himself home Monday-Thursday (it's a short and familiar walk; he did it alone many days in the spring) and then minimize interruptions of his dad's work after he gets home, but on Fridays he wanted his dad to meet him at school and come with him (and friends and their parents) to the park; his dad agreed.

 

Well, here's how it's worked out: Monday, he did his homework and chore.  When his dad started making dinner, he asked about the lunchbox, and our son got it then.  That was fine.  But the next 3 days, I came home from work at dinnertime to find that his lunchbox was still in his backpack and his chore was not done whatsoever.  His dad says that when he reminded our son to do these things, our son claimed he was "just about to" but didn't, and on subsequent reminders he yelled that his dad shouldn't nag him.

 

Tuesday, his homework was done but scattered across the dining table.  (We got him a desk last winter--and we put it in the dining room because he prefers to work near us instead of alone in his room--and he'd neatened it up before school started, so there's no reason not to do homework there.)  He argued that it's parents' responsibility to get "paperwork" back to school and tried to shift the focus to my not yet having filled out all the school forms (which aren't due back for 3 weeks) but when I showed him his teacher's letter saying students are responsible for their homework, he crammed it into his folder.

 

Wednesday, he was doing homework when I got home, and his dad told me he'd asked if the afternoon tasks were done, and the kid said, "Well, I did my homework...no, wait, I'm not done...." and it seemed he hadn't even started.  He demanded that I look over his homework, which was fine--I'm interested, and I had time then--but I didn't like his yelling about it as he shoved the pages between my face and my plate.  I said, "This part is still blank."  He claimed they could choose which side of the page to do.  That could be true, so I decided to leave it up to his teacher.  (I wonder, though, if he was making me look in hopes that I would make him actually complete his work?) 

 

Yesterday afternoon, he interrupted his dad's work about every 10 minutes with questions about a craft project--not homework, just something he'd decided to do.  When asked, he claimed he'd already done his other things, but he hadn't.  His dad got him to do homework while dinner was being cooked.  Some of the homework is not due until next week.  During dinner I explained that this long-term homework cannot be left on the dining table; he can keep it in his folder or on his desk.  He moved it off of the corner between his placemat and mine and said it was now out of my way and that was good enough.  Before I could respond to that, he started nagging for extra screen-time after dinner.  I said no because that wasn't our agreement, he hadn't done his chore, and also his teacher's letter said he should read at home 20 minutes a day so he needed to allow time for that.  He quickly spiraled into a gigantic screaming tantrum about how he has RIGHTS as a member of this family, both parents HATE him and scream at him EVERY DAY, and I'm LYING about the 20 minutes of reading needing to be at home because he reads for at least 20 minutes at school and that counts.  I said I would email his teacher right now for clarification.  I went upstairs to get my iPad (yes, in the middle of dinner--I wanted to escape the screaming!) and he followed me, yelling in my face, blaming me and his dad for all kinds of unrelated almost incoherent things.  I told him to get out of my room until I was done with the email, and then we would talk.  He got louder, angrier, and more panicked-sounding, and kept trying to grab the iPad.  I said, "Since you won't give me privacy in here, I'm going into the bathroom."  He grabbed the bathroom door and literally would not let me close it--he's getting strong!--and I was afraid I or the iPad would get smashed.  His dad intervened, and between the two of us (with some yelling, I'll admit) we got him into his room for a ten-minute time-out.  I sent the email.  He came out calmer but still glowering.  We spent the rest of the evening trying to get him to do his chore or read (he wouldn't) while we did some other tasks. 

 

He demanded (nasty voice; "You have to" instead of asking) that I read him a story on the porch; this is something we often do in the evening, but I told him I would not read until he was in bed with teeth brushed.  This was partly because I just didn't want to, partly because he needed time to do his chore and read (which, as I said, he didn't), partly to invite him to go to bed early in case more sleep might be what he needed, and partly because I felt it was important not to cave to his demands but to state conditions and stick to them.  He followed me around whining that a story on the porch would help him relax.  This might have been true--I felt guilty and wondered if he was just asking for some love--but he has sometimes dragged out a pre-bedtime story into resisting bedtime, refusing to go inside, etc. and I didn't want to get into that.

 

:blah If you're still reading, here's what I'd like help with:

 

Our inclination is to stick with the daily lists of responsibilities.  If the teacher confirms that 20 minutes of daily reading is to be done at home, we'll add it to the list.  (Otherwise we'll let it go for now, although we do want him to read more--we both enjoyed reading so much at his age!)  We've told him that responsible behavior today will allow him to keep 30 minutes of screen-time next week, but we're not going to increase it, and if today goes badly we'll have no screen-time next week.  Does that make sense?  Are we being too easy on him for this week's behavior, or should we consider this normal rebellion as he adjusts to new expectations?

 

Do you think he needs some type of reminder other than the lists to get him to do the things?  Is he truly forgetting, or is he testing us to see if we really mean it?

 

Do you have any sense of what is REALLY going on here?  Is something wrong with my kid?  Are his dad and I making some kind of huge mistake in the way we handle him?

 

Should there be any additional consequence for his refusal to leave me alone in my room or the bathroom and his struggling with the door in a way that could have hurt me (but didn't)? 

 

What do you do in the moment, when a child who is big enough to physically interfere with your actions is doing so?  His dad and I were genuinely afraid he was going to hurt me.  I wanted to let go of the door suddenly and let him fall, but because this is what I always did to my little brother when we used to get into door struggles, I know a person can be seriously injured by that, and as an adult I don't feel I can justify purposely letting it happen.  I don't like that my partner had to "rescue" me from this situation or that we ganged up on our kid and physically dragged him into his room; I don't want this kind of thing going on in our family!  And I want to feel safe when I'm alone with the kid.  help.gif

 

Do we need to get rid of TV?  Is there a better way we might manage it?


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#2 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 09:42 AM
 
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Well, I don't really have much advice, but the 20 minute reading thing, we do as part of the bedtime routine, so it is not really looked at as homework. Once teeth are done, the kids lay in bed and read for aobut 20 minutes on their own, then I come back for lights out.  It is just a normal part of going to bed and is not viewed as school work in any way. Once they could read independantly ,  bedtime story changed to reading by your self in bed time.  I think I would make any TV at all that day dependant on whether the chores that day got done. No reminders. If he asks for TV, ask if chores/homework are done, and check, and if not a reminder that no tv until done, and not get into an argument or discussion about it. I'm not sure about the temper tantrums, it seems a bit extreme to me.

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#3 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 09:46 AM
 
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Is his behavior at school the same as his behavior at home? If not I think he may need a much more structured approach with less choice and clearer consequences and quicker follow through. Some children really do thrive on structure and consistency whereas others need a more laid back approach with a lot of options. If the behavior is the same in both settings I would suggest talking to his pediatrician about having him evaluated.

I think getting rid of the TV for a while or limiting the shows to specific ones may be very helpful. My DD had a lot of behavior problems after watching Wizards of Waverly Place on weekends at that age and when I stopped letting her watch it her attitude and behavior improved within a week. She is able to handle it now that she is older without letting it affect her but she doesn't enjoy the snotty attitudes on it now so it isn't one she chooses often.
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#4 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the ideas!

 

I don't think he would give up his storytime with me--and I think it's an important time for us to be together, since I'm at work all day; it was sweet even after last night's chaos--but maybe we could shift it earlier in the evening and then he could read to himself in bed.  It sounds nice to me.  I'll see what he thinks. 

 

His dad was hoping to avoid having to come out of his office and check on whether the homework and chore are done.  It seems like that may be necessary, though.  That will prevent watching of TV shows that are on really soon after school, so maybe the kid will be motivated by the idea that increasing his responsibility will earn him more flexibility in the schedule.

 

His behavior at school is very different from his behavior at home.  He had no disciplinary issues at all in 2nd grade and only a few minor ones in prior years.  In general, since he was a month old, he's behaved much much better in public than at home.

 

So, a more structured approach... I guess "quicker follow through" means that failing to do his things today would bring a consequence tonight or tomorrow, rather than (just) affecting how much TV is allowed next week?  Any suggestions of a natural quick consequence for not doing homework before dinner or not doing his chore?  At this point I feel like the consequence is, "Mom and Dad are annoyed with you, and then you use that as an excuse to throw a fit," which comes out as a worse consequence for us than him, so I want to change it!


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#5 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 11:41 AM
 
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My third grader still needs me to be around when he does his homework and would never think to do a "chore" if I didn't remind him. He's just not ready for that. And for a long time, we had a password on our tv and still do on my phone and tablet. He needs that external support and takes me out of the middle.
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#6 of 37 Old 08-30-2013, 11:53 AM
 
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I find that restructuring the day works better than consequences with my dd. Chores are our area of complaining so they come before computer time and I phrase it as a when/then. My DD doesn't do anything except eat a snack until homework is done so I haven't had to deal with homework not being done. It sounds like your ds needs more supervision to get organized enough to do work without a specific timetable and parent support. I have just started reading Smart but Scattered and recommend looking into it.
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#7 of 37 Old 09-01-2013, 06:22 PM
 
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I think the natural consequence of not doing homework and chore is no TV, because there is no time. If you finish it up quickly, then you have time to watch TV, if you take 4-5 hours to do it, it will be  bed time and TV time is gone for the day. I'd make the consequence be for that day, not the following week.

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#8 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 03:36 AM
 
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Sounds like a typical 8 yo to me... isn't this age fun?
We tackled some of these behaviors with my own 8 yo, although not all at the same time. Here are some of the solutions we reached:

FIrst of all, I've read somewhere that you should never argue with someone over the age of two, because you are going to lose. So I'm sticking to that rule. If I see that ds really needs an explanation for something I decided, I will gladly explain... but if he's haggling with me just for the sake of arguing, I don't engage. I just tell him: this discussion is over, and walk away.

When ds was younger we had this issue of screen time and what worked for us was setting one hour of screen time a day (two on weekends) and allow him control over it. He was able to set up a kitchen timer for half an hour or an hour at a time. The result was that, as he was in control of his own screen time, he had no one to argue with when the time was over.

As for chores and homework, I find that at 8 yo, they still need a lot of guidance and supervision to get them done.
I tried to give ds a chore or two to do every day, but it didn't work. He ended up hating his chore, me nagging him and being frustrated that I couldn't do my own work because he didn't finish his chore (which was emptying the dishwasher). What worked for us was having ds "help out", for example, when I'm finishing dinner, he sets the table. When I'm cleaning the living room, he cleans his own room etc.
As for the homework, he's doing it at the kitchen table while I work in the kitchen. I also limit his homework to 3 days a week - I find that he already spends a lot of his day in school, no need to spend all of his evenings on school stuff as well.

Hth

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#9 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 09:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the further input!

This week he will have no TV on school days. His dad is going to check on the status of homework and chore every so often and remind him about using his list. We have been trying to talk about working reading into the day, but the kid is very resistant still, although his teacher confirmed he needs to read outside school. At least he seems pretty accepting of the idea that he will be having no TV on school days until he gets the other stuff down, and that when TV is allowed again he will have to do the other stuff first.

His school give homework starting in kindergarten. The change this year is that instead of a weekly packet to be done when you have time, there are assignments due the next day and others due a few days or a week later. (This means we can't limit homework to 3 nights a week like Nightwish unless we are willing to have him skip some of the due-next-day stuff and bring his grades down--seems like a bad idea!) With the packets, by the middle of first grade he was able to work alone for a while and do the easy parts, then ask a parent for help with spelling practice and anything he did not understand. We found that if I am nearby, he will ask me about every single question and try to get me to feed him the answers, although he can do it himself. The new schedule is something of an adjustment, of course. I can understand that he might like having a parent nearby while he is working just so he isn't lonely, but past experience implies he does not need to be hovered over the whole time--once he gets into the habit of doing homework again.

We can't put a password on our TV, but we can take away the power strip such that it can't be used, if necessary. He has rarely been sneaky like that--he can use a timer like Nightwish suggested and be trusted to stop on time pretty much; occasionally the "just until I finish this game" has gotten out of control--it is very unusual for him to turn on TV or computer when he knows he is not supposed to, and he does not use my iPad without permission.

When we tell him a discussion is over and walk away, he follows us from room to room shrieking his arguments, whether we engage or not. greensad.gif

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#10 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 09:31 AM
 
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I frequently delay any school-day tv time until after dinner (this is so I can have time to check that there aren't extra messes or regular tasks that haven't been done).  IF people are really on the ball, not needing my reminders for homework/school-day chores I MAY allow tv while I happen to be cooking dinner (1 show, I do step in and just turn it off if they push this limit - we've been having a lot of the same kind of tv battles you describe actually . . . no brilliant insights on those yet, just mom stepping in and turning off the tv :eyesroll). 

 

This year I am making dd's new requirement to clean out her own lunchbox AND wash her containers herself right after school.  This is partially because she has these special lunch containers that match her best friend and I don't want to get flack if they're not clean by whenever we need to make her lunch (I do help with this on the one school night we have a 3 hour afterschool activity, that would be tough to fit everything in otherwise).  She slacks a little, but I try to realize it takes 2-3 weeks to develop a new habit and we didn't used to do this daily.  Plus, I feel like she's more motivated to remember because of her special matching containers.  

 

I don't push for too many weekday chores, but everyone helps with clearing dishes, etc. and keeping things like shoes/socks/bags picked up at certain parts of our day.  I know we'd have a tough time with this, even having lists (we've tried it before).  I find the kids need me there to be accountable, and to feel like we're doing things together (so they're supported - oldest dd1 is 7, so a bit younger than your ds).  I usually do more of a clean up time just before bedtime (where we make sure beds were tidied and pick up stuff in their room, or a messy room downstairs instead of anything right after school).  

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#11 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 11:55 AM
 
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I'm not sure I understand the whole 'screen-time limit' thing. Why can't he watch tv whenever he wants? Won't that allow him to develop his own self-control instead of always having to look for external cues from parents? When will he be given unlimited screen-time? Age 12? 18...or when he moves out? I assume at some point in time, he will be left home alone, and then he will make his own 'rules' about tv. There may also be some peer pressure in this area. DD's friends in the 2nd and 3rd grades don't seem to have any rules about tv time limits. I believe they are generally expected to complete homework though.

My DD (8 in Dec) has decided that homework in the car on the way home from school works best for her. Sometimes we will wait in the car until she is finished. It is always her choice, though. In fact, she always has the choice of whether or not to do her homework. A 'no' choice will be followed up with a long conversation about the repurcussions of this choice (i.e., lost recess at school, poor grades, minimal college choices, and few job opportunities). She always chooses to do it, but it is up to her to decide when and where. This give her control over her own actions and develops decision making/executive management skills that she will need later in life. This works really well for us. She 'owns' all of her excellent grades and behavior, because they are decisions she made, rather than behaviors we imposed.


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#12 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 01:15 PM
 
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I have a couple ideas. Sorry if any of it repeats above posts.

I think this would be the structure I would set up if this were our situation.

1. Upon getting home from school- have a healthy snack ready and use the first 30 minutes as snack and silent (or aloud by him) reading time. Reading is a great way to unwind after school, and he'll likely be ready for a little downtime since he walks home. (Otherwise I would suggest some active play first thing for letting out pent up energy from sitting at school). He could nibble while reading or have 10 minutes to snack before beginning the 20 minute reading session. I would let him choose reading location (and material, if applicable) so he could sit under a tree or on a porch swing. Or sprawl out on floor/bed/couch. Wherever he'll be comfortable with little distraction. Maybe he could read in dad's office.

2. After reading, he may need some more active energy use, so this could be a good time to do a chore, followed by a walk or playing outside a bit.

3. Once he's had a bit of activity and completed his chore, he could settle in at the desk with some soft music (no words, steady rhythm, like new age spa type stuff) to complete homework. He will likely need to get assignments from backpack, so he can take lunchbox to the kitchen at this time. If you are still at work, maybe he could have desk in office with dad while he works? It sounds like he doesn't like to be alone (without watching TV), so I would try to make structure conducive to being productive while others are quietly and I interestingly occupied. I'm sure he'd much rather be engaging with you and dad than trying to focus on homework while you guys are bustling about getting dinner ready or what have you. Hopefully that would serve to give him optimum focus, accomplishment, and quality time without being too disruptive to dad's work.

4. After homework, his responsibilities are accomplished, so he can go chill in front of the TV until dinner. If his TV time is interrupted by dinner, he could watch the rest after (especially if it can be paused until later). Or he can help with dinner prep or go get his things in order for the next day (lay out clothes, prepare book bag), then watch all of his TV after dinner.

I struggle with how to handle violent outbursts, so I don't have advice there. Perhaps a PP was right that your son will be better with a structure, such as mine, and would have far less tantrums as a result.

Good luck! I hope this helps!
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#13 of 37 Old 09-02-2013, 07:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KSLaura View Post

I'm not sure I understand the whole 'screen-time limit' thing. Why can't he watch tv whenever he wants? Won't that allow him to develop his own self-control instead of always having to look for external cues from parents? When will he be given unlimited screen-time? Age 12? 18...or when he moves out? I assume at some point in time, he will be left home alone, and then he will make his own 'rules' about tv. There may also be some peer pressure in this area. DD's friends in the 2nd and 3rd grades don't seem to have any rules about tv time limits. I believe they are generally expected to complete homework though.

My DD (8 in Dec) has decided that homework in the car on the way home from school works best for her. Sometimes we will wait in the car until she is finished. It is always her choice, though. In fact, she always has the choice of whether or not to do her homework. A 'no' choice will be followed up with a long conversation about the repurcussions of this choice (i.e., lost recess at school, poor grades, minimal college choices, and few job opportunities). She always chooses to do it, but it is up to her to decide when and where. This give her control over her own actions and develops decision making/executive management skills that she will need later in life. This works really well for us. She 'owns' all of her excellent grades and behavior, because they are decisions she made, rather than behaviors we imposed.

 

This seems more controlling in an emotionally manipulative way than actually clearly setting an expectation.  It isn't a real choice if what happens when you decide not to do something is a long conversation where the possible negative consequences are brought up, that is just a situation where the illusion of choice is created.  This is really classic passive-aggressive behavior that makes life very miserable for the person on the receiving end because they have to constantly guess which choice the passive-aggressive person wants them to make and are never really free to choose for themselves.

 

If there was real choice involved a parent would may lay out the choices and their possible consequences when first presenting it as a choice but then their child would be free to learn about the consequences at school when they happen and would then learn from, she wouldn't need a conversation after making the wrong choice from the parent (especially not before she has had a chance to really make the choice) though she may want to talk about what she discovers the consequence after making a choice that leads to a consequence she doesn't like.  There is no natural learning from choices when we tell the child what the consequence will be or when we point out what the consequence was.  I think that there are many situations where kids should have total choice and homework can be one of them, but to give real choice you need to truly be fine with whatever choice happens without judgement.

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#14 of 37 Old 09-04-2013, 07:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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KSLaura, we have screen-time limits for these reasons:

  • Our son has often shown addict-like behavior related to screen-time (TV more than computer).  Given the option of watching as much TV as he wants, he will watch constantly.  He will not turn it off for a meal or bedtime but eat in front of TV and continue watching until he cannot stay awake.  He responds to any encouragement to turn it off by shrieking as if we're trying to kill him.  The more he has watched recently, the worse this is; sometimes when the TV is finally off he can't walk past it without stopping to look longingly at the blank screen.  We find this frightening and have often considered getting rid of TV entirely because of it.
  • After watching TV, especially for long periods, he is often irritable, defiant, bossy, and irrational.  It doesn't seem linked to any particular show--he's not imitating behavior he's seen--but seems to be the way he feels after an hour or two of staring at a glowing screen.
  • His dad and I don't like to have the TV on all the time.  Because of the layout of our house, we cannot escape its sound and light when we are at the dining table or in any part of the living room.  I am prone to migraines that can be exacerbated by moving light.  Even when I'm feeling fine, I believe I have a right to say that I want to be downstairs and do not want the TV on.
  • We know several adults who grew up with unlimited TV and now seem like they cannot function without TV and cannot have conversations in which they don't constantly mention things they saw on TV.  It's pathetic and scary.

 

It would be great if he could "develop his own self-control instead of always having to look for external cues from parents," but it seems that in this area, he can't, yet.  Also, because TV affects other people who are in the space with you, we think it is totally appropriate to look for cues indicating whether or not those people want to watch TV or would mind having it on in the background.

 

Mama Amie, I really like your suggestions!  They sound so mellow. 

 

I've been strongly encouraging him to read while snacking or even during meals--his dad and I often read while eating (the only rules are, listen if someone wants to talk to you, and don't leave your reading material on the table) and expected him to pick up this habit by preschool, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him do it.

 

He might like being in his dad's office for reading or homework, but we doubt that he'd actually focus--because dad's office doubles as his "den" where he keeps all his Legos and fun stuff, so the main time the kid has been in there is when they are playing together, and it seems likely that he'd be distracted by wanting to play or that he'd just chatter at his dad and keep him from working.  More feasible is for his dad to bring his laptop downstairs and work near the kid--he has done this sometimes.

 

Yesterday went well.  Lunchbox, chore, and homework were completed within 90 minutes of coming home, and then his dad got out a modular castle paper thing and let him set it up in the living room, where he played with it for hours.  He did claim he hadn't been told that there would be no TV this week, but we reminded him and held firm.


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#15 of 37 Old 09-05-2013, 06:08 AM
 
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Others have suggested it, but I really think having to get lunch box, homework, chore & reading done before any TV is the way to go, at least for awhile. Once he gets in the habit of doing everything, he could be allowed to switch it up. I know having to get work done, then play as a kid, made it easier to get things done, though I agree that snack after school is totally fine, I know I wouldn't have made it without one as a kid either, as are occasional exceptions to work then play.

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#16 of 37 Old 09-05-2013, 11:25 PM
 
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Personally I would completely drop TV from the weekdays. It sounds to me like it is causing a fair amount of stress. We don't do TV at all during the week, started doing that when DD was in kindy, and it has just been a good policy. She comes home at 3 as well, but often has sports or other activities that make it hard to fit in TV. I don't think kids need TV or get much out of it, so it is kind of a relief to just have it off the table. She will watch a movie or some cartoons on the weekend, but it is pretty uninteresting to her by now.

Is part of the issue that he needs to entertain himself which his dad works in the afternoon? That would be sort of tough for my DD to handle.
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#17 of 37 Old 09-06-2013, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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His dad would like him to entertain himself so that his workday can be longer.  However, we don't see TV as crucial to that--there are plenty of other things he could do.  He likes to watch PBS Kids shows that are on TV only on weekdays, but we could tape them (still have a VCR!) or he could watch them online on the weekend.  I have explained to his dad that we have an extroverted kid who dislikes being alone and that it may not be developmentally appropriate to expect him to hang out alone for 2 hours; he understands that but is tired of the disruption at the time of day when he gets his best work done if not interrupted.  (I've told him that if his work ever earns enough money to pay for after-school care, we can do that, but as long as my salary is virtually our only income I will not be paying for it.)

 

We are leaning toward allowing TV but not until chore and homework are completed, as many people have been recommending here.  One of his dad's big complaints last year was that the kid would want to watch TV for 90 minutes straight while snacking the entire time--and while his snack choices were healthy, he was not able to get all of them himself, so he would bother dad for that AND to ask about each new program he wanted to watch, not seeming to get his head around the idea that he could watch any 3 of the half-hour shows--so this resulted in his interrupting his dad's work every 10-30 minutes and sometimes not eating dinner because he was full of fruit and cheese and such.  I had recommended a structured schedule, but I was trying to leave it up to them to work it out; when that never happened, I decided to get involved in structuring it for this school year even though I'm not home in the afternoons.

 

Yesterday was a day off school for Rosh Hashanah.  Kid wanted to come to work with me and bring his homework and reading.  I had a dentist appointment in the morning, so dad brought him over later.  He "forgot" to bring anything to read but did bring the homework.  Then he spent the first hour trying to get me to hold his hand through every bit of his math worksheet; it was very frustrating because he didn't seem to be listening to anything I said about how to work the problems, only wanting me to tell him the answers, and he was using a harsh whining voice!  Then he had one excuse after another about why he could not do the other parts of homework.  I finally gave up in order to get my work done, and he did crafts.

 

When we got home, he made progress on the homework during and right after dinner, but suddenly he had a headache.  We don't think he was faking this at all; it really seemed to hurt and not just as convenient.  At the worst he was shaking and thought he might vomit.  We took care of him with ibuprofen, ice pack, lying down in the dark.  He was "about half better" when it was time to go to sleep, but he was upset about the unfinished homework.  I reassured him that I could write notes to his teachers explaining that he'd had a headache and would turn it in Monday.  This morning, he was feeling fine, got up early, and finished the homework during breakfast.  I'm impressed that he was that diligent and taking it as a good sign!


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#18 of 37 Old 09-07-2013, 11:55 AM
 
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His dad would like him to entertain himself so that his workday can be longer.  However, we don't see TV as crucial to that--there are plenty of other things he could do.  He likes to watch PBS Kids shows that are on TV only on weekdays, but we could tape them (still have a VCR!) or he could watch them online on the weekend.  I have explained to his dad that we have an extroverted kid who dislikes being alone and that it may not be developmentally appropriate to expect him to hang out alone for 2 hours; he understands that but is tired of the disruption at the time of day when he gets his best work done if not interrupted.  (I've told him that if his work ever earns enough money to pay for after-school care, we can do that, but as long as my salary is virtually our only income I will not be paying for it.)


Sounds like my DD is very similar to your son.  She's an extrovert and loves legos and PBS kids too.  I cannot imagine her spending the afternoon on her own with me working, on a regular basis.  I can relate to all you said about the homework - it goes a lot like that at my house when she needs my help.  Good for him for getting up early to work on it!  

 

Maybe the school year is settling in he will start getting used to the routine.  We also had a lot of fun camps all summer that were longer than school and so school is an adjustment.  

 

I wonder if you could hire a neighborhood kid to come hang out with him and build legos for an hour or so while dad works?  It would be tough for me to work while DD is here.  It sounds like timers were tough, but I wonder if he could watch one cyberchase episode or whatever, then start on his homework or reading.  My DD is really happy with structure, we would make a little sign showing her schedule so she could keep track.  

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#19 of 37 Old 09-09-2013, 10:17 AM
 
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When we got home, he made progress on the homework during and right after dinner, but suddenly he had a headache.  We don't think he was faking this at all; it really seemed to hurt and not just as convenient.  At the worst he was shaking and thought he might vomit.  We took care of him with ibuprofen, ice pack, lying down in the dark.  He was "about half better" when it was time to go to sleep, but he was upset about the unfinished homework.  I reassured him that I could write notes to his teachers explaining that he'd had a headache and would turn it in Monday.  This morning, he was feeling fine, got up early, and finished the homework during breakfast.  I'm impressed that he was that diligent and taking it as a good sign!


 



That's great he finished it up in the morning! smile.gif

I understand afterschool care costs quite a bit, but it must be hard for him to to entertain himself all afternoon (especially as an extrovert!). I wonder if there are any low-cost after school activities or sports he could participate in. I know a lot of the local schools have after school music lessons, basketball, running club, etc... After I thought about it, my kids don't have any tv restrictions because they aren't home very often.


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#20 of 37 Old 09-09-2013, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Most days he stays in the schoolyard for up to 45 minutes after dismissal playing with his friends.  I'm really glad that he and his dad have been able to agree to this, the crossing guard's on duty until 4:30 (because a nearby private school gets out later), and he's been diligent about getting home by 4:00, because the social time and physical activity are important to him but his dad was getting tired of hanging around waiting for him every day and trying to make conversation with the other parents.  There aren't many formal after-school activities at the school, but a lot of kids hang around to play.  Fridays, some of them go to the park together with their parents; his dad has been quitting work early on Fridays for that.

 

His friend across the street also has a work-at-home dad and work-outside-home mom.  She is responsible for keeping her little brother busy so their dad can work.  My son has been going over to their house some days.  We confirmed with her dad that it's okay as long as everyone is behaving.  He encouraged my son to bring his homework over and they can do homework side-by-side (they're in different grades) which I think is a great idea.

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#21 of 37 Old 09-10-2013, 12:02 PM
 
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I'd like to suggest something that is a common cause of a lot of this behavior, that I know most people don't think about--what is he eating?  When my friends have eliminated refined sugar, processed foods, and dairy from their diets and their children's diets, they have seen huge transformations in their children's behavior.  Would you be willing to do that for him?

 

The other thing I can think of that might really help is, we totally eliminated our TV by putting it in storage, so we live in a TV-less house.  What a difference in our quality of life--it is so much better.  We adults watch our TV on the computer screen or iPhone after he's gone to bed...he doesn't miss it one bit.  I know he'll get plenty of TV at other people's homes, so not having it in ours is a tremendous help--to us adults as well.

 

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#22 of 37 Old 09-10-2013, 12:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have considered trying a very restrictive diet to see if it improves his behavior, but I'm skeptical because he's never shown any sign of being sensitive to dairy, and although we do see a connection between HUGE amounts of refined sugar and bad behavior, he doesn't seem sensitive enough for the small amounts of it in his normal diet to be causing the problem.  Right now is a terrible time to try to make inconvenient dietary changes because I'm newly pregnant and having trouble doing any food preparation!

 

I think that the main cause of his misbehavior is a tendency toward power struggles.  Partly this is his personality (he just seems to think he should be in charge, and has a hard time accepting that parents have authority) and partly it's years of conflict with his dad, who needs to read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen more seriously.  It's not like I never argue with the kid or have problems with him, but he and his dad really get into it frequently, and I think the main reason is that his dad wants to engage with him as little as possible until there's a problem, then blame the problem on the kid and order him around.  This is the reason I tried to be proactive about setting up a structure for afternoon behavior--to avoid coming home to my partner saying, basically, "I didn't tell him what I expected of him, but I'm angry that he didn't do it, and now--" and being interrupted by the kid shrieking, "Daddy yelled at me!!"  Sigh.

 

Anyway, yesterday went smoothly, and I think both of them are making progress.


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#23 of 37 Old 09-11-2013, 06:54 PM
 
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I just wanted to comment on the homework issue. I too have an 8 year old. Both my husband and I are junior high teachers (science and math respectively), and I frankly hate the elementary school homework. My daughter struggles with us over homework, and when we went to open house for the new school year we asked her 3rd grade teacher about her homework policy. We were so happy to hear that she has given up on the homework idea. Educational research shows that homework is not that effective and can be detrimental. As a parent I hate her homework, and I gave up on assigning homework of any type 7 years ago.

 

Last year the homework routine at our house went like this... From her there was approximately 30 min. of whining, arguing, and trying to manipulate us into giving her the answers. For us it was having to listen to the whining, arguing, and then trying to cajole her into doing the homework. Frankly your posts about HW could have been mine. Usually she would try to would fight the doing of the homework for 30 minutes and then it would take less than 5 to complete. She also had to read for 15 minutes and complete reading logs. I got several calls from her teacher about her not turning in her reading logs. I told her if she wasn't going to turn in the reading logs she had to face the consequences at school. That meant she had to stay in for her recess on Fridays to read. If I thought her not turning in the reading logs was really going to cause her long term damage as far as her education goes I would have pushed it, but it won't. She likes to read and will just pick up a book and read unless it is required and then she fights reading. She is so able to do her homework on her own, but I wouldn't expect that from her at this age.

 

I think it would be a great idea for your son to work with the neighbor. Even if they are not doing the same homework it allows for the social outlet that may make homework more tolerable. In my class almost all of the practice/ classwork that doesn't get graded is cooperatively structured because the social piece really does help people learn. Humans are social creatures and need that social outlet. Where homework doesn't have great effects on learning cooperative learning has been shown to have very positive effects on learning.

 

Finally, on a side note. We too are having to eliminate TV until later in the evening. I was home with my infant and my daughter all summer. When she would watch TV earlier in the day she would turn into a whiny argumentative monster.When we visit my parents my mom lets her use her iPad and the same behavior changes occur as with TV. I banned TV after I noticed the behavior pattern for the summer, and now she only gets to watch TV when we are watching (usually for 15-20 minutes in the evening.) The next time we visit my mom I am making a no iPad rule. I don't know what it is about the screen time, but it changes my child and not for the better. From my perspective many of your son's behaviors seem on par with other 8 yo as annoying as these behaviors are, and it makes me feel better to hear that it is not just mine who does these things. :)

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#24 of 37 Old 09-11-2013, 09:26 PM
 
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another thought -- even though he is at the same school, he may be using a different curriculum. Many, many schools throughout the US changed math and reading curriculum this year to align with common core standards. For some kids, even though they are at the same school, it's like they were skipped a year. I work at a school and we are having a very high rate of 2nd and 3rd graders not complete homework and therefore be required to complete it during recess times. 


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#25 of 37 Old 09-12-2013, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It's interesting about the curriculum changes in many schools, but my son's school has not changed--they already had a fairly challenging curriculum, as it was an Accelerated Learning Academy until funding cuts but kept a lot of the curriculum anyway since they were used to it.  Everything I've seen in his homework so far has been very similar to what he was doing at the end of 2nd grade, so while he may be a bit out of practice, I think it's totally within his abilities when he's willing to focus and try.

 

I do feel like the sheer volume of homework (especially now that it's daily) is excessive.  When I was in 3rd grade, all "homework" could be completed during the school day if you were diligent; I had some left to do at home maybe once a month, aside from reading book report books.

 

I like the idea of withdrawing from conflict over the reading time (he's supposed to do a "log", too; has no trouble keeping track of it and turning it in, but it's usually very sparse) and just letting him take the consequences at school.


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#26 of 37 Old 09-15-2013, 11:11 AM
 
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okay, i haven't made it all the way through the discussion yet, but i got to #9 and wanted to share the impression it left on me...

you wrote:
"This week he will have no TV on school days. His dad is going to check on the status of homework and chore every so often and remind him about using his list. We have been trying to talk about working reading into the day, but the kid is very resistant still, although his teacher confirmed he needs to read outside school."
and my immediate reaction was to recoil... no TV at all? okay, if you insisted that he spend time with his friends playing, or his dad could spend uninterrupted time giving son lots of personal engagement until you got home (at which point he could resume his work), those seem fair things to trade for TV (i have very mixed feelings about TV & the quality of it as a source of fun/entertainment, the bad messages it might be sending our kids, etc.), but it sounds on first glance that you are making the consequence for him being eight, still learning self control, etc., that he gets to have no fun, dooming him to fail & weakening his morale. at 8, shouldn't his priorities be to develop intrinsic motivation, a sense of wonder, healthy interpersonal relationships? it sounds very isolating what you're asking a very young child to do: come home, and no fun (and limited parental engagement) until he does something that just isn't natural for him. if we can step back & not judge him, and just accept that it is not natural for him yet, and not make him the bad guy for the distance he still has to cover between childhood and responsible adult behavior, and try to be on HIS side in these struggles, maybe that negative dynamic would lessen.

his constant attempts to engage his dad seem (to me) the very last thing in the world that deserve punishment. if he is "bugging" dad that much, i think he genuinely needs to. i don't understand how we as attachment parents can practice "belief in baby's cries" for the infant version of our darlings, then begin sorting them into worthy and unworthy affection pleas in their childhoods. it is obviously very inconvenient, but that doesn't make it wrong.

i may be totally misreading this situation, of course. but if i had to guess, at the end of a long day of structure and discipline (and not a lot of personal attention, since teachers have to pay attention to 20+ kids at a time), your little guy needs some personal attention, affection, etc., and he can't be made to feel like it's a reward that he earns. he needs to know and feel unwaveringly secure in the belief that by simply existing (and even in the midst of every single mistake) he is entitled to a limitless supply of family love, affection, attention, and being able to call on the collective pool of mental/emotional resources for problem-solving & encouragement.

i bet he feels really terrible a lot of the time, or he would not be acting up. that is not the way a happy child behaves. perhaps it would help if you could focus on being his allies in his struggles, making him feel that you'll break his fall with love and tenderness, instead of with rigid boundaries he is constantly bumping up against, which are clearly exacerbating his discomfort, he would relax a bit more? maybe not. but if the methods you've been trying aren't working, you could at least attempt a more tender response, b/c you might be surprised. and that might involve a great deal of discomfort, so i'm not implying it'll be easy, but things like kids hyperly bouncing around on a yoga ball, i think we've got to expect these behaviors, and instead of teaching them to stop being boundlessly energetic, teach ourselves not to get so annoyed, no matter how difficult that might be.

i was a child who had some serious behavior problems in 3rd & 4th grade, and everyone around me practiced discipline & rigidity, rules & structure, and nothing at all was working (they sent me to psychiatrists, repeatedly, in their exasperation–the private school was threatening to kick me out, and there were serious gang problems in the public schools). my parents & teachers were truly flummoxed, b/c i was an exceptionally good communicator, and in certain aspects, very mature, but in others, so impulsive & disruptive. my mom struggled against the threats that they'd kick me out & the firm conviction she held that it was inappropriate to place me on stimulant medication to basically "tame" me, b/c she appreciated my creativity & enthusiasm. somehow they let me stay in school, i think in part b/c my mom cooperated w/ requests for psychiatric evaluation, and in part b/c she could have yanked all 4 of us out, and they didn't want to lose tuition for all 4 of us (my 3 siblings were angels by comparison).

then, a teacher came along in 5th grade who changed my life forever. she was always on my side. i stopped being punished, and started being shown boundless affection by this teacher. my behavior improved steadily, and by 6th grade, i was no longer a child with behavior problems. beginning in 7th grade, where i attended a different school, and they had no knowledge of my history, there was no trace of the former me, and i was, shockingly, the kid that my teachers always loved, all through high school. my math teacher wrote me the recommendation that got me into college straight out of 11th grade. i give all the credit to that 5th grade teacher, for intervening at such a crucial point in my life.

i was a challenging, high needs child, but when dealt with like the precocious, interested, high-needs, affectionate kid i was, i thrived. as a kid, my perspective was, why was my 4th grade teacher always picking on me, always mean? i was making very deliberate, BAD decisions every few minutes, apparently of my own rotten, selfish volition, and i was made aware of this as frequently as i made these bad choices, and i truly couldn't stop. it still makes me choke up a bit to explain how incredibly desperately i wanted to be chosen student of the month, yet how this strong, ongoing desire could never overpower the impulses that surged in me when my emotions grabbed hold of me b/c i felt like everything was stacked against me getting it right. sounds a bit dramatic, perhaps, but that was how i felt. when my 5th grade teacher became my ally instead of an enforcer, i relaxed a bit, and my calmer state of being allowed me to do the growing that i so desperately wanted. she also seemed to really care about helping me with the things i explained i found difficult. she didn't ever make me feel punished for the ways that i found adults' expectations of me challenging. and it took a lot of one-on-one, personal attention. i needed a lot of attention. it was just how i was, and this teacher didn't blame me for it, overtly or otherwise. i felt loved & accepted, even (and perhaps especially) when i became the most challenging.

i didn't fully mentally sort out what all that meant or how it worked until much later. but i saw it all articulated by experts in childhood development when i discovered AP. then when i discovered alfie kohn–whose ideas at first seem like a big departure from what common sense would tell us about child rearing–i realized that although he doesn't describe his system as a type of AP, he is basically describing AP for the years beyond infancy. and that's when all these ideas really gelled for me as a coherent system. i really recommend the books "unconditional parenting" and "the homework myth". and if at first they feel too far out in left field, stick with them for a while, b/c it takes a little while to warm up to the ideas if they are initially very different from what you know.

sorry if this got a bit lengthy! ok, now to continue reading the rest of this very interesting thread, and hopefully i don't have a face-palm moment in a bit when i discover that i wrote the same post as someone else and if i'd only kept reading before commenting...!

but i felt such a strong emotional reaction to the bit i quoted, in the "but-where's-the-childhood-fun?" department that i wanted to comment on that before it was lost in the continuation of the thread ("where was that bit i wanted to comment on?")... you know what i mean! =)
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#27 of 37 Old 09-15-2013, 04:20 PM
 
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i think the following statement is quite revealing : "his dad wants to engage with him as little as possible until there's a problem, then blame the problem on the kid and order him around".

your husband has little or no interest in being a parent, basically?? i think the one who is the problem in your house is your negligent husband, and you owe it to your son to take him to task. it could easily be one of your biggest and most painful regrets if you don't.

you cannot change the fact that, as a child, he needs to be paid attention to, and listened to, sincerely, for a large portion of every single day. your husband pretending otherwise is not going to change that, except perhaps to make your son needier & more insecure (and, thus, a bigger challenge).

i think that you know the problem you have on your hands. you stated it so clearly. your husband's attentiveness (or lack thereof) is likely directly correlated with your son's behavior. it's even worse than being home alone in some ways b/c he has to confront rejection repeatedly, on top of his obvious loneliness.

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#28 of 37 Old 09-15-2013, 05:23 PM
 
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Wow, filamentary! I really appreciate your response, as it hits home regarding my 5 year old boy. It really helps put a perspective that I haven't been able to wrap my mind around. My son is exactly like you were, I think, and I know I could stand to be better with him most of the time. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
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#29 of 37 Old 09-16-2013, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Filamentary, you have an overall good point, but regarding TV specifically: It's not the only form of fun in his life.  It does nothing to help him "develop intrinsic motivation, a sense of wonder, healthy interpersonal relationships"; if anything, it has the opposite effect.  It provides a pale substitute for the interpersonal interaction that (as you recognized) he's craving, and I think it's because it FEELS like interaction but is ultimately unsatisfying that it makes him so agitated.  As you probably picked up when you read the rest of the thread, the week with no TV on school days helped him to get on track.  We then reintroduced 30 minutes of TV per school day after homework and chore were completed, and that went pretty well.  Starting today we are trying 60 minutes.

 

Interestingly, this morning his dad asked me privately if I thought it would be okay to offer 30 minutes of TV when he first gets home and is eating his snack, then hold the other 30 minutes until after homework and chore.  He feels that the kid appreciates a passive decompression time right after getting home.  I suggested that he greet him this afternoon and explain in a friendly, compassionate way that he's considering this possibility but it's important to make sure homework and chore get done, so can they work it out?  So that's the plan.  (This morning would have been a bad time to negotiate anything, since everyone had trouble getting up today.)

 

Quote:
 his constant attempts to engage his dad seem (to me) the very last thing in the world that deserve punishment. if he is "bugging" dad that much, i think he genuinely needs to.

I agree: He is expressing a need for more time with his dad.  That need doesn't have to be met by instantly dropping everything to do exactly what he wants and letting him direct the entire course of the afternoon, but it needs to be met somehow.  I have encouraged his dad to connect with him when he comes home, to spend some time talking with him and being positive, to make an effort to hear what he's saying and show that he's heard it before any criticism of HOW it was said (or of anything else), etc.  He's working on it.  I feel he's made some improvement in the past few weeks, although I'm not home to see it.

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 i don't understand how we as attachment parents can practice "belief in baby's cries" for the infant version of our darlings, then begin sorting them into worthy and unworthy affection pleas in their childhood.

Around the time children begin to talk, they become more able to conceive of and express desires that are not needs.  That's when we begin teaching them about balancing their needs and desires with those of other people.

 

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 at the end of a long day of structure and discipline (and not a lot of personal attention, since teachers have to pay attention to 20+ kids at a time), your little guy needs some personal attention, affection, etc., and he can't be made to feel like it's a reward that he earns.

I agree.  I don't think we are treating personal attention or affection like rewards that he earns.  I think he could use more attention and affection from his dad, but his dad has been withholding it because he's a self-centered introvert who doesn't always recognize other people's needs when they are obliquely expressed--not because he is purposely making the kid earn it.

 

The reward we are making him earn is watching TV.  You seem to have confused watching TV with getting personal attention and affection, which is strange.

 

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 things like kids hyperly bouncing around on a yoga ball, i think we've got to expect these behaviors, and instead of teaching them to stop being boundlessly energetic, teach ourselves not to get so annoyed, no matter how difficult that might be.

I'm not trying to teach him not to be energetic.  I'm trying to teach him to stop kicking my bed when I am trying to sleep and I have asked him--repeatedly, kindly, offering positive alternatives--to stop doing it.  I wasn't so annoyed when he initially "forgot" that he had agreed to let me sleep until a certain (very reasonable) time; I became annoyed when his response to being reminded of that was to stick around persistently doing things I was begging him not to do.

 

Anyway, regarding the after-school situation, I think you are correct that the primary problem is my partner's attitude.  He does not have a good understanding of child development and expects the kid to be more self-directed more suddenly than he is really ready to be.  Also, my partner has issues with his own motivation and sense of responsibility that are getting all tangled up with this--not only is he inclined to be stricter with our kid than his parents were with him in hopes of making the kid turn out better than he did, but he has trouble sticking with his own role in even the most reasonable and agreed-upon plan because he seems to think his actions don't really matter and it's always someone else's responsibility somehow.  It's extremely frustrating to me!!  It's not so bad that I feel I can't trust him to be alone with the kid, but as I've said I felt I had to intervene in their afternoon routine or it was just going to keep getting worse for both of them.

 

I'm glad that I did intervene, and that we've made adjustments based on suggestions in this thread, because it IS going a lot more smoothly now.

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#30 of 37 Old 09-16-2013, 02:32 PM
 
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you know, after posting that reply, i was thinking to myself, gee, i almost made it sound like i think TV is *the* activity a kid ought to fill their evenings with. which is actually not how i feel at all! my thought process was a little more along the lines of: if he's left to entertain himself more or less, and he is understandably suffering from boredom or frustration in his attempts, and dad isn't willing to give him attention to help him out, then TV, while a poor substitute for developmentally positive activities, is at least fun. trying to neither turn on the TV nor disturb dad sounds just impossibly hard for an 8-yr-old.

that said, i do agree with some of your sentiments about TV being like a drug. a really great analogy, in fact! it provides a level of stimulation that is not created in the natural world, casting a possible dull shadow on calmer, more ordinary, day-to-day activities. and it is more about tuning out and disengaging than being actively creative, imaginative, etc., or any of the things we want for our kids. and, in the case of your son, it sounds like he's almost using it to soothe, or self-medicate in the face of confusing emotions, and we know TV cannot deliver on that count. it's really just a distraction, so the feelings he is escaping during TV time are still just waiting to surface. so i'd be foolish if i suggested just letting him veg out on TV, and that really wasn't what i meant to say.

i grew up without restrictions on TV, and my siblings and i were devastated if we missed our favorite shows, but usually watched TV as a family. and right after school there was never anything on the TV that was anywhere near as interesting as all the other things we did. but i think it helped that after-school time never felt stressful, b/c we had neither chores nor homework to complete (well, not until dinnertime). so admittedly i have a different perspective from my own experience. and still that doesn't mean that i don't think we were getting terrible messages from the seemingly benign shows we watched... b/c i think we probably were, actually! but the kids on TV were nowhere near as mean-spirited as the kids i went to school with, so it probably didn't injure us, since my parents weren't even aware of or attempting to shield us from what i as an adult consider to be the harmful attitudes pervasive in mainstream culture.

if my kid was to attend schools that introduced them to a competitive atmosphere, utilized rewards & punishment, where they witnessed bullying & mob mentality, were assigned homework & grades, i would probably let them watch TV (certain things, not just anything at all, of course). but as my wife and i continue learning all we can in preparation for this very major decision (and we already know we cannot afford to pay for school, so it's pretty much between public school & homeschool), we are almost entirely convinced that we will only feel right homeschooling & therefore we see no reason to introduce TV as a part of life. we were actually discussing just yesterday how, if the kid was in school, they'd feel punished and isolated if we didn't let them watch the shows/films that most of their peers watch & talk about constantly, and "how would we deal with that?!", adding it to the growing list of reasons i need to prepare myself for the task that lies ahead: i need to learn how to become a worthy homeschool teacher, an actually favorable alternative to school. and i need to be prepared to spend what will seem like inordinate quantities of time arranging & transporting the kid to peer-environment activities. whoa. sorry, tangent! but i guess what i'm saying is that i realize for us that our kid is going to do a lot of things so very differently from not only how other people are doing them, but also from older versions of our own thinking as each day passes and we learn & think about all this more. but i don't think TV is inherently bad, either, so that's how on the one hand i might think "why no TV on school days?" for one kid, but simultaneously be thinking my kid will watch little or no TV. we are still discussing how we feel about video games, and computer time.

it's a lot to think about, especially when it never seems clear that there are definitive or universal effects rendered by consumption of these forms of entertainment! but then i wonder, what about books? do they carry any of the same potential pitfalls? and then i roll my eyes at myself and tell myself to relax! ha!

but, regarding books, reading about how your son doesn't want to read gave me and my wife more to talk about (we spent no less than 2 hrs chasing topics of discussion spurred by the initial discussion of your post & ensuing thread). what if the kid isn't absolutely in love with books like both of us were? and if that's a devastating thought, is it for the right reasons – because books are indeed so important, objectively? or because we want the kid to share a passion with us (like how parents often want their kids to play the same sports they did)?

ok, i think i've rambled on quite enough for one post! i think it's pretty clear we're actually very much on the same page, just with different circumstances at hand. and i really do hope that, despite his introversion, your husband can "get" it intuitively, so it comes naturally out of his love for his son, not like a reluctant obligation, b/c it'll be more enjoyable for both of them that way.

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