Need help dealign with emotionally instense 6 yo outbursts - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OK so DS was recently identified as gifted although we had long suspected.  He is 6 yo and in first grade.  I've been reading up on stuff and realize that what we have considered his being a drama queen or emotionally immature is actually emotional overexcitability.

 

I'm at a loss as to how to deal with the outbursts that often result from this.  Last night we had an epic battle about homework which featured 4 simple questions - there was a green rectangle and a green square and 2 questions - how are these shapes the same, how are they different.  Then a purple pentagon and purple hexagon and the same 2 questions.

 

Well after convincing him to sit down and do the homework - he did the first question in less than a minute then answered "they are not the same" to the 2nd question.  I tried to explain that that was not what they were looking for but to explain how they are not the same - he wigged out and told me he was right i didnt understand of course they are different one is a square and the other is a rectangles - lots of yelling, storming off, me having to threaten no video games to get him back.  This went on for about 40 mins total before we finally finished the 4 questions - 2 went well the first and the4th (how the pentagon and hexagon were different - he wrote different number of sides) but the other 2 were a disaster - he exclaimed pentagons and hexagons are not the same - when i pointed out they were both purple he freaked out saying they didnt have to be - i tried to explain yes but these 2 are.  he finally agreed to write that but still insisted it was wrong.

 

In the meantime - DH is mad at me for not punishing him for yelling and storming off - he wanted me to send him up to his room for the night.  He accused me of babying him and letting him get away with things. 

 

Has anyone else dealt with this and figured out a better approach?  is there any material i can read or have DH read to try and understand

 

thanks

 

PS sorry about the novel

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#2 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 03:00 PM
 
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  he wigged out and told me he was right i didnt understand of course they are different one is a square and the other is a rectangles - lots of yelling, storming off, me having to threaten no video games to get him back.  This went on for about 40 mins total before we finally finished the 4 questions - 

 

In the meantime - DH is mad at me for not punishing him for yelling and storming off - he wanted me to send him up to his room for the night.  He accused me of babying him and letting him get away with things. 

 

Has anyone else dealt with this and figured out a better approach?  is there any material i can read or have DH read to try and understand

 

 

Bad behavior and giftedness are two separate issues.   I don't see why he didn't face a consequence for yelling, storming off and carrying on for 40 minutes.  I agree with your husband.  I would have sent him to his room until he was ready to do the assignment (not for the whole night), but I certainly wouldn't have let him yell and fuss at me.  I also would have let him get the assignment wrong if he felt so strongly about knowing the correct answer.  You told him what you thought was correct, he disagreed-- let the teacher prove you right and have him deal with the consequence  (a red mark?)  and learn a lesson.

 

My dd (6 in 1st grade also) has been known to wig out if she's not perfect the first time when she's practicing piano, so your scenario is somewhat familiar. It's so frustrating because she has the unrealistic expectation that she'll be perfect the first time she plays something-- and she's only 6! For her, I have sent her to her room until she was ready to practice, if she freaks out during practice. We talk about expectations before she starts, we talk about how to deal with frustrations and what's not OK, and what the consequences will be. She also tells me she doesn't want my input.  (OK fine!) In addition to consequences, we also have a marble reward jar-- one marble for each time she practices without a fuss and for the full length of time (15 minutes).  Once the jar is full, she gets a prize. (Takes about 45 marbles.)   So, for us, the solution is consequence and reward. The goal with both is to create good habits.  And she is much better than she used to be.

 

How about talking to your son about when he wants to do homework, what the expectations are for his behavior, ask him how he wants to handle it if you see a wrong answer.  My dd hates corrections, too, and she has asked me to point to something that's wrong rather than talk about it. (She wants to figure it out on her own.)  Maybe there's something like that going on that you need to figure out from him. Regardless, I don't think he should be allowed to be rude.

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#3 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 05:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by natlav View Post

 

I tried to explain that that was not what they were looking for but to explain how they are not the same - he wigged out and told me he was right i didnt understand of course they are different one is a square and the other is a rectangles - lots of yelling, storming off, me having to threaten no video games to get him back.  This went on for about 40 mins total before we finally finished the 4 questions - 2 went well the first and the4th (how the pentagon and hexagon were different - he wrote different number of sides) but the other 2 were a disaster - he exclaimed pentagons and hexagons are not the same - when i pointed out they were both purple he freaked out saying they didnt have to be - i tried to explain yes but these 2 are.  he finally agreed to write that but still insisted it was wrong.

 

In the meantime - DH is mad at me for not punishing him for yelling and storming off - he wanted me to send him up to his room for the night.  He accused me of babying him and letting him get away with things. 

 

 

I would have explained the problem to my child ONE TIME and then let my child write the wrong answer and return the paper to school if that was their choice. This is his homework, not yours. It's one thing to help, and its quite another to have a power struggle with your child over his answer vs. yours. The 40 minute power struggle was pointless.

 

I agree with your husband that you are babying him and letting him get away with things. Your son behaved badly, and you think that's OK because he's gifted. It was bad behavior, and a high IQ isn't a free pass. Just because something is more difficult for your child, it doesn't meant that you get to skip working on it with him. Quite the opposite -- instead you can expect to work at it more. He needs clear guidelines and consistency for what behavior is OK and what behavior isn't.

 

BTW, there is a fun little card game called Set that your family might enjoy.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#4 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 07:46 PM
 
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I have to agree with the others, I would have let him get the question wrong or not finish the homework. I had a similar situation with my son (same age) this week because he was having trouble with his homework. I was upset about it and it was difficult for me because I knew my son could do the work and could understand but he chose not to do it/wasn't able to do it on an emotional level. I did explain that if his work was incomplete he would need to explain to the teacher and that I would still expect him to complete his homework the next night. We sent the partially completed homework with a note to please return for us to complete it. My son reported that the teacher spoke to him about the work and she sent home a post it note explaining a bit more detail. He was able to hear from her what he could not hear from me.  He was able to complete the work on his own the next night. My son is extremely self critical and anything he takes as a hint of criticism from someone else. Perhaps something to consider with your ds?

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#5 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 09:54 PM
 
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It sounds like your son could use some practice in calming down while he is upset.  We have a few ways we do that in our house, depending on the kid and situation. He needs to work on self-control.  

 

I can understand how it happened, but that battle wasn't really something you needed to engage in.  When my kids act like that (I'm picturing it being about getting a jacket zipped, or some such thing that is frustrating them), I will remind them that I am available to help if they will speak to me kindly and have calmed down and tried it calmly.  I don't put up with that sort of fighting with me.  I go do something else.  I don't deserve to be treated that way.  Neither do you.

 

In the end, it doesn't matter if your son gets the problems wrong.  It doesn't even matter if he finishes the work.  It is his problem in class the next day.  Be kind and willing to help him, but let him deal with the work.  It DOES matter how he learns to control himself when he is frustrated.

 

Also, I'd venture to guess he's tired or hungry or something while this is going on?  It doesn't excuse it.  It does mean that you can try to look out for times when you know it will be harder for him to have self control, point out to him (how or why it might be harder for him) before things start, do what you can to help alleviate it, and then press on and do what you need to do.

 

So, sorry to say, but I agree with your DH too.  Just because he is gifted (and finds the questions ludicrous) doesn't mean he gets a pass at being mean.  The questions are mind-numbingly awful, but there has to be a friendly way around that.

 

Also, FWIW, it sounds like you were telling him he was wrong.  Some kids do not take well to that.  My kids have heard me say a million times "we'll have to agree to disagree".  Then I leave it at that.  I will let them know when I see something they don't, and I'll often explain things like that as "tricks" the question maker is trying to do to "trick you" (so they feel sneaky at having figured it out/me having pointed it out to them).  But if my child needs to insist that trees are made of rock (or some such nonsense), my agreeing to disagree seems to work quite nicely.  We both save face.

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#6 of 18 Old 01-08-2013, 11:50 PM
 
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Your son reminds me of my son. Sugar makes him prone to bad behavior, so you may want to take a look at that in your son's case. My son also has little patience with anything that is not relevant to his goals. And the homework paper you described would have been irrelevant to him. Therefore, he would have given one sentence for the whole thing. Something like "they're different", and been done.

Other than the heads up on the sugar issue, and possible insight as to *why* your son wasn't very focused, I don't have much advice. We homeschooled, one reason was that I feel there should not be homework given below 4th grade. Young children need more time to relax and play. Not possible for everyone, I understand. Good luck.
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#7 of 18 Old 01-09-2013, 03:11 AM
 
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I can only second and third and so on.

We have exactly the same situation: a (presumably) gifted 6yo with lots of self-regulation issues. A few years ago, I would have disagreed with the posters who say "giftedness is not an excuse for bad behaviour" by pointing out that yes, there is evidence they do have a harder time with emotional self-regulation - check out the Eides blog here http://eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.de/2010/01/cognition-without-control-adhd-gifted.html and here http://eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.de/2006/06/blessings-and-burdens-of-high-iq.html. And when our son was 4, he did need a lot of help still with calming down.

 

However, he's 6 and probably, like our kid, able to do much more of this work by himself if you only let him! And you have to let him, because there will be a point when he has to draw on his own resources simply because you are not there and freaking out will carry heavy penalties, for instance in the classroom...

 

With homework, things are actually super easy. Point out what you think is wrong or sloppy, say something like "I do not think this is your best work" or "It does not appear to me you have properly thought this through" or "In your case, i would want to do that over", point out that the teacher will be very disappointed (or mad, if you think that works better, but our kid still loves his teacher) if he hands in his worksheet looking like that and WALK AWAY. Hard to do, I know.

 

For us, intricate reward schemes do not work because then DS1 gets bogged down in endless if-then negotiations over everything ("if you don't let me go to the loo first, I will never go to the loo again" and similarly reasonable and adaptive ways of digging his heels in, but just saying in the morning "the yelling makes life so unfun for us, we won't let you have any screen time on days you yell" has actually helped.


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#8 of 18 Old 01-09-2013, 08:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback.  In the future i'll let him write down his answer and let the teacher correct him - he will hopefully take it better from her than me.  He really struggles with calming down once he gets going so i should have known right then that no good was going to come of it.  We also had the fact that his brother and his sister were watching tv in another room playing against us. 

 

I think we will have to look at having a set homework time right after school so he can manage his expectations appropriately.

 

Thanks for the help

 

PS - if any of you have techniques i can try with him to get him to calm down i'd appreciate it - once he gets spooled up its a long time to get him back down

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#9 of 18 Old 01-09-2013, 12:11 PM
 
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We had this with writing in first and second grade, and part way into third grade. Math is his thing, so he never freaked out about it, but the content of the freakouts was similar: a frustration with the terms of the question, with the form rather than the content of the homework. I assume your child isn't color blind and I understand from your story that he has mastery of first-grade geometry, so the problem here is really how to respond within the rules of a game. 

 

For my kid, the intensity comes from having strong negative feelings about being wrong. I feel for him, but he still has to do his homework. 

 

One of the things that I did that was effective at that age was to ask him whether he'd like to take five minutes in his bedroom to freak out about it. I offered to set a timer, but he wound up coming out early. I'm not sure why that works, or whether it would work for another kid. It is a way of managing the upset, acknowledging the feelings, and insisting that he has to complete the task anyway. You can also ask him calmly whether he needs you to sit with him while he does the task, or whether it would be better for you to be in the next room, on an as-needed basis. 

 

It's also good, if you don't have him in an afterschool program, to get him to do his homework right after he gets home from school, in the early afternoon, after a snack with protein in it. Six-year-olds are still little and they can't always hold it together in that after-dinner-before-bed time slot. I know that a lot of us work outside the home so this isn't practical. Even though he's a gifted, intense kid, his physical needs make a difference to his self-control. 


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#10 of 18 Old 01-09-2013, 05:19 PM
 
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For calming down in our household, we have a chair for sitting and calming down.  We don't always use it, but if things are nuts we do.  If that won't work, bed works.

 

We discuss it in times of non-conflict.  You can't solve a problem when you are upset.  You can't think as clearly or discuss things.  So if there is a problem, everyone has to calm down before we tackle it.  

 

I think the hardest thing about expecting kids to calm down is the patience it requires of you, the adult.  There can be no hurry.  You need to have all the time in the world to wait out the feelings and wait for them to be ready.  Once they realize that calming down MUST happen before anything else does, then it goes faster, but those first few times can take forever.  I have used this with my own children and others' children (when I have been minding them), and it works marvelously, but requires TIME and then consistency.

 

Also, depending on the child, some need space to calm down, and some need snuggles.  You probably know what your son needs, but if what you are doing isn't working, you can try the other way (or talk about it when he is calm and see if he is interested in trying the other way).  

 

HTH

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#11 of 18 Old 01-09-2013, 09:28 PM
 
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One of the things that I did that was effective at that age was to ask him whether he'd like to take five minutes in his bedroom to freak out about it. 

 

This is superficially similar to a time-out, but is so very different in substance and intent. I really love the way you presented this to your child. Offering him the option of a freak-out in a private place, not insisting, not enforcing a punishment (which tends to be counter-productive with strong-willed kids), acknowledging the feelings, giving permission for their expression, yet presenting clear boundaries and giving him a choice. 

 

Wish I'd come across this approach fifteen years ago. I'll bet it would have been really helpful with my eldest.

 

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#12 of 18 Old 01-10-2013, 05:09 AM
 
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I wouldn't want to do anything punitive when the child's feelings are punishing him anyway. Everything should be in the interest of restoring the child's self-control--so hugs and cuddling, sympathy, snacks, space, more time to finish, whatever. After all, you still have to make him do the homework, isn't that bad enough? 

 

One weird thing about gifted kids not understanding the point of easy homework: did you ever feel when you were growing up like they were trying to trick you because this couldn't possibly be all the teacher was trying to get you to learn? In the case of the OP, the child is supposed to show that he knows when the shapes are different and isn't confused by the colors changing instead. The child makes an additional leap to "but the colors changing is irrelevant to math, only shapes matter in math, so I'm going to put down that when they're different colors but the same shape, they're the same." Then you point out that that the author of the worksheet is not, in fact, an evil mastermind (muahahaha) but a first-grade math textbook writer, and not that devious, and he melts down. 

 

Our big argument about writing in first and second grade was whether my son had to put the title of the book he was reading into his weekly writing about his reading. "Noooooo!" he would insist. After awhile I would say, "OK, let's have the argument about whether you need to put the book title in your book report now." The idea that an adult doesn't know what you know, especially that your teacher doesn't understand your thinking, was really hard for him. His teacher complained that he got annoyed with her for not knowing what Pascal's Triangle was. 


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#13 of 18 Old 01-10-2013, 09:14 AM
 
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It's also good, if you don't have him in an afterschool program, to get him to do his homework right after he gets home from school, in the early afternoon, after a snack with protein in it.

nod.gif Low blood sugar turns our kid into a demon.


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#14 of 18 Old 01-17-2013, 05:43 PM
 
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are his reactions - angry and storming off - typical reactions or have you recently seen it get worse?

 

is he a super independent child?

 

there could be two things going on. 

 

one he could have hit the stage if he isnt usually this bad. consciousness develops around 7 or so. before that from about 5 to 7 is the prepuberty stage. some kids hit is early. some kids hit it later. but at some point you will see his behaviour escalating and getting worse. THAT is a good thing. this means he goes through a really hard stage where he needs support and understanding and v. strong boundaries. in my home the boundaries were v. strong towards visitors. but she could do whatever she wanted to me. which she did. i heard it all. the thing is i feel this is beginning hormonal so they are not really in control of their emotions. i would not escalate things but let dd be. sometimes seh wanted me rigth there. sometimes she wanted me in the next room. i complied. when she calmed down she'd come and apologize or she'd cry in frustration and go to sleep. this was also a v. dark stage - where she'd  be down and depressed at times. all part of growing up.

 

if this is his usual - then prevention is better. i kept an eye on dd or i taught dd to watch for emotions that trigger a response. and yes yes yes - sugar turns my even now 10 year old into a demon. and it doesnt even have to be sugar. a bunch of fruit or lots of wheat turns dd into the same demon. at these moments the golden rules are even more important. rest, exercise and a full stomach helps HUGELY in not even letting these tantrums happen. 

 

also know sometimes the method they are taught are different than your method. they really wig out if you dont follow teachers ways - esp. if they like following rules. 

 

also at that age what really helped dd was to not sit in a chair. instead of a chair i had her sit on an exercise ball so she was moving.

 

also at that age with the teachers permission i did an experiment with teh consequences of not doing hw. result - things worked out smoothly since after that. since first grade i have only helped dd when she needed it. otherwise i have nothing to do with her hw. 

 

i have also discovered a great calming tool for dd is water. if i'd see her frown i'd request her to take a shower and or drink an ice cold glass of water. 

 

but also find out when is the best time to do his hw. for dd she needed a break after school. school structure is hard for her so i needed to give her time to run around and shake all the willies out and THEN sit down to do hw. in time seh learnt to do her hw at school while waiting for the parents to come pick them up. 


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#15 of 18 Old 01-17-2013, 06:05 PM
 
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Sometimes when my son freaks out about homework, I think it is because the teacher is telling them something different at school or teaching it a different way or something. Can you get in touch with his teacher and let her know where the confusion is for your son? Can you find out if he is having frustration or outbursts like this at school as well?

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#16 of 18 Old 01-18-2013, 11:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Cant say for sure if its getting worse - he seldom gets homework and didnt really get any at all last year (they told us he was already too far ahead so we shouldnt do any work with him in the evening - dont even get me started on how mad that made me).  So homework is kind of new to us.  It was after dinner and i know its late for a little kid but unfortunately DH and i both work and we usually dont pick up the kids from aftercare until almost 6 - then its rush to make and eat dinner so its usually 7 or later by the time we even get to homework.  They have a homework club in aftercare but they arent allowed in it until grade 3.

 

His pedi says he's a good candidate for ritalin - i'm not convinced since he based it completely on a report the school psychologist made saying he was on task 48% of the time in the times (all 4 of them in 8 day period) he observed him -this is what he said "He may frequently be observed working on things other than the assigned task.  It is noteworthy that on on occaision when the teacher called on him while he was engaged in a non productive task, he lied to the teacher stating he was paying attention and gave the teacher the answer she was looking for even though he did not do the work for the answer."

 

I think we might try eliminating or restricting processed foods and maybe gluten?  anyone had any success with that?

 

I asked him why he doesnt like to do homework and of course he started with "its stupid" but eventually came down to why do i have to do this i already know all this stuff.  Gotta say i sympathize with him - they are still making him cut out words with the short i sound and gluing it on a page (one of his pet peeves is the cut and glue projects) - this is what they do in literacy - this is a kid that his teacher admits has almost mastered all the 2nd grade spelling words and that she had to have slow down so she could keep up with him at his reading assessment in the fall.  I asked him what he'd rather do in literacy and he said write his own book that he could publish and put in the school library - sounds like a good project to me.  He also said he asked the teacher if he could practice multiplication in math instead of the math facts to ten which he is beyond and she told him no - you cant do that until 3rd grade.  I have a meeting with her next week to talk to her about why she wouldnt consider his requests.

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#17 of 18 Old 01-18-2013, 03:30 PM
 
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Maybe he could be excused from those homework assignments and do something more challenging instead. It's a shame about homework time being so late. Six year olds are rarely their most cooperative just before bed. If he's not having problems in school, I'd back off the homework battles at home. Homework is meant to reinforce a concept. If he already has mastered it, it's brain numbing instead of building.
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#18 of 18 Old 01-19-2013, 04:43 PM
 
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It is a not a bad thing for a child this age when he's not allowed to have homework. I'm not persuaded that there is any good reason for such a little kid to have homework, anyway. (Perhaps they could give him something more interesting to DO?)

 

I would not give a child Ritalin unless he has had a proper evaluation and nothing else will work. Here, you have a doctor reading the report of a psychologist about his daily behavior, not a neuropsych eval. That's not enough to put a little kid on uppers. Here, you're talking about behavior that could also be accounted for with the words "he's bored." If you think they're right and he might have ADHD, you need a real eval to make sure that's the problem. (I'm up against this right now, and worrying about whether to have the eval. It just feels so tricky and difficult.) 

 

This is the reason that it's worrisome to have a gifted kid. I encountered the problem you describe with a teachers refusing to provide math at an appropriate level. What am I saying, "encountered"--I should have that in present tense. At least my son's current teacher allows him to do enrichment problems after he's done the class work (but then complains that he rushes through his class work like he doesn't care about it!) 

 

 

But with my kid it was just math. I thought that was a problem with math, and that schools were over this stupidity of holding back the children who are ahead of the curve in reading and writing. It's just so easy to enrich a reading and writing curriculum. 

 

Not that it's so hard to ALLOW a little kid to do multiplication. 

 

 

Before you throw out all the bread in your house, what are your alternatives for other schools? Are there more flexible public schools in the district, private schools you can afford, other options? 

 

 

 

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Originally Posted by natlav View Post

Cant say for sure if its getting worse - he seldom gets homework and didnt really get any at all last year (they told us he was already too far ahead so we shouldnt do any work with him in the evening - dont even get me started on how mad that made me).  So homework is kind of new to us.  It was after dinner and i know its late for a little kid but unfortunately DH and i both work and we usually dont pick up the kids from aftercare until almost 6 - then its rush to make and eat dinner so its usually 7 or later by the time we even get to homework.  They have a homework club in aftercare but they arent allowed in it until grade 3.

 

His pedi says he's a good candidate for ritalin - i'm not convinced since he based it completely on a report the school psychologist made saying he was on task 48% of the time in the times (all 4 of them in 8 day period) he observed him -this is what he said "He may frequently be observed working on things other than the assigned task.  It is noteworthy that on on occaision when the teacher called on him while he was engaged in a non productive task, he lied to the teacher stating he was paying attention and gave the teacher the answer she was looking for even though he did not do the work for the answer."


Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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