I need some advice/guidance (this is VERY LONG!) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 05-10-2003, 04:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have 3 kids from my first marriage... they all live with dh & I, and they all love my dh alot.
My ex was very abusive, and the kids all witnessed that.. not to mention the trauma of divorce, a mom who had always been with them working, etc.

Dh and I have been together almost 3 years, and it has been 4 since their father and I split up.

OK, now that I set the backround, my problem:

My 10.5yr old son is making me crazy! Literally.
He is getting into this smart mouth, very disrespectful towards everyone.
He doesn't obey our rules, and he is constantly lying about his school work.
I held him back once (in 1st grade because of the problems at home/effecting him) and he is not flunking.
He got 3 F's on his report card.
To me, that is really bad.
My son has ADHD, but he is on medication for that, and I don't think it's a excuse for his grades.

He is a very smart boy, and the majority of his problem is him not doing his homework.... and to make it worse he lies to me about it. He says he doesn't have homework.. then a few days later he will get a detention for not turning it in.
Monday he had a poster due, my dh and him worked on it ALL weekend, and it looked awesome. He didn't turn it in, I got a note home Wednesday that he had yet another detention for not turning in a poster.
It is like he is intentionally trying to fail.

I am at a loss on what to do. I have SPECIFICALLY asked the teacher to please write a list of their assignments, or to check his after school, and initial it. (Now mind you, he goes to a Catholic school, and we pay 2500.00 a year for this!)
She doesn't do it!

Then to make matters worse, he is standing in our garage yesterday... he picks up a brand new pool stick, looks at my dh and tells him, 'I can break this'. Dh told him not to do it, and he did it anyway. : DS LOVES to play pool, so I don't understand this at all.

I love my son, I really do, but his attitude lately really is making me crazy. I can't stand him sometimes... and I HATE feeling that way.

Please help me, I really need some advice on how to deal with this whole situation.
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#2 of 10 Old 05-10-2003, 10:36 AM
 
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My ds is the same age. He lives w/ his dad and me, has never known anything but a stable loving home. He acts much the same way as your ds, but instead of "F's" on his report card, they were "D's". He also takes add/adhd meds. So, if your son is a big problem, by default mine is too!!!!! Smart mouth, does things right in front of me that I've just told him not to, ignores rules, blah blah blah. I'm trying to figure out what behaviors signal "problem area" and what ones are just regual old, 10 year old developmentally normal behaviors. When I talk to other moms, they say their sons act the same way. I try to look for the beautiful rose among his many thorns more than the other way around, kwim? I also do not react when he gives attitude and those "tones of voice" designed to give attitude as well. I play it straight with him which is so very against my nature and impulses, because if left unchecked, I can go right down to his level in a heartbeat. I won't let myself though, because he needs the example of a parent, not the example of a grown woman acting like a ten year old boy.
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#3 of 10 Old 05-10-2003, 10:41 AM
 
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PS (are you tired of me yet?) We are also in Catholic school. Fourth grade is the year when the kids are learning to take responsibility for writing down the assignments. I tell ds in the morning that I'm going to the class room in the afternoon and he is to have his assignment noteboook open, showing the written down assignments, show me in his backpack that he has the right books, THEN we will leave for home. He can throw a fit in front of his friends if he wants to, but I'm still going to just stand there, waiting. It cured the problem of not writing stuff down pretty quickly. He's doing a little better in school now. We'll see.
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#4 of 10 Old 05-10-2003, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks.. I think I was just going through my 'I have failed as a mother' stage last night.

I never realized how hard my mother's life was..
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#5 of 10 Old 05-12-2003, 01:15 PM
 
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My dh is a high school teacher and I know how he would handle the school aspect. I would request a meeting with the teacher and a guidance counselor and an administrator (these two because the teacher is blowing you off). The teacher must be involved in communicating to you what the assignments are and what your child is/isn't handing in, and since she's not doing it, the administration needs to know that.

DH uses a system where the child must get dh's signature every day saying they've turned in the assignment. He's had some children's performance improve quite a bit this way, but it also depends on the student and parents, of course. The parents who are serious usually ground the child for the weekend if the sheet isn't all up to date on Friday. It is inexcusable that the teacher won't work with you on this and the administration needs to know that this is unacceptable.
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#6 of 10 Old 05-12-2003, 11:14 PM
 
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I couldn't help putting my long nose in here!

While I agree with EFmom 100% in terms of locking down some performance from a child, you are in danger ultimately of getting just that. A performance.

There is another perspective that could be considered.

Quote:
My son has ADHD, but he is on medication for that, and I don't think it's a excuse for his grades.
I don't agree. First of all I think the symptoms that medications are applied to may well be syntamatic of the social/accademic environment he finds himself, in that the core of the problem lies in the fact that the school system (home life?) renders him powerless and his personal life meaningless.

Of course, I'm not suggesting for a moment that he comes off his medication because I don't know him from adam, but what I do recognise is a strong tendancy to move to drugs when the square peg does not fit in the round hole.

I'd urge you to take a look at www.sudval.org/ and read Free at Last for starters. There are some other books written by Mimsy Sadofsky and Dr Daniel Greenberg that deal with exactly the kind of situation that you describe.

Good luck.

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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#7 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 03:14 AM
 
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Can an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) be done in a private school? We have an IEP for our 15-year-old because of his special needs, and it really helps that he has this personalized plan to make sure his needs get met in school. I just requested an IEP meeting, and I am going to push to add that I get copies of all his assignments so I can go over them with him. Most of his work is done during school time, and I am always a step behind him in helping him, especially if he lies about what he is/isn't doing. Anyway, the plan helps guide us all-- teachers, parents, administration-- in addressing my son's educational needs. Of course, he's in public school (because he is in foster care), so the school is now required by law to fulfill the plan in his IEP. That helps tremendously, especially as I push the teachers to follow through with what needs to happen in order for him to succeed.

Your son might or might not qualify for an IEP (there are certain qualification requirements to show that the need is justified-- but it sounds like he does meet the behavioral qualification of having behavior that disrupts his education). But if he could have it, it would probably help him a lot. If it is in his IEP that he works better on purple paper or that his homework needs to relate to his interest in dinosaurs, then that has to be provided for him. It helps to minimize some of the "round peg in a square hole" issues. In fact, I'd venture to guess that certain children might be served better in a public school where they can have an IEP than in a private school where certain needs are addressed at whim. I'd say give it some thought if after meeting with the teacher and a couple administrators your son was still not getting his needs met.

As for the acting out, I relate. There are days when I can't stand my son and would do anything to ship him out of the house for a week. Of course, when he wants to he can be an angel. On Mother's day, he made us breakfast in bed, he cleaned my entire kitchen (fridge included) on his own volition, and was so well-mannered I was in shock. But then that night, he decided to resist bedtime (he is developmentally delayed, so at times he behaves much like a toddler or preschooler), and within minutes I had a kid with a toddler's mind working a teenager's mouth, and ooooh it made me furious! We had to resort to a reward system (something I'm not fond of, especially because I want him to develop intrinsic motivation, though at least we've come up with a reward that didn't involve buying him something), and he still acts like he doesn't care when he just can't resist the temptation to be a jerk about things!

There is no cure, but things I've found help are: consistency (no matter how hard it is), giving him really limited choices that give him a sense of power (like you would with a preschooler), giving him lots of creative outlets for his energy (he does a "show" for us with singing, acting, and dancing in the living room every night before bed, , and he is going to be in a play this summer), using a sense of humor along with all discipline, and working as a team with the school and all others involved in his life (my son knows that he can't lie because we talk with his teachers every night, though sometimes he still attempts to distort the truth). Therapy is good for all folks but especially for kids who have been through abuse (including witnessing abuse). It sounds like maybe your son is desperately seeking a sense of power and control in his life to some extent. My son does that no matter what kind of control we give him, and I think part of it is a side-effect of not having control over horrible things that happened earlier in life.

Oh, and I totally agree with and relate to all of what was said about:

Quote:
I'm trying to figure out what behaviors signal "problem area" and what ones are just regual old, 10 year old developmentally normal behaviors. When I talk to other moms, they say their sons act the same way. I try to look for the beautiful rose among his many thorns more than the other way around, kwim? I also do not react when he gives attitude and those "tones of voice" designed to give attitude as well. I play it straight with him which is so very against my nature and impulses, because if left unchecked, I can go right down to his level in a heartbeat. I won't let myself though, because he needs the example of a parent, not the example of a grown woman acting like a ten year old boy.
Of course there are always moments when I just fall apart and act like a ten year old anyway, but I try hard not to.

All my best to you because I am so there right now.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#8 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 03:54 AM
 
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P.S. As I mentioned, it sounds like some of your problem has to do with the unresponsiveness of school staff. Some tips for meeting with schools and advocating when needs aren't getting met:

1. Project an image that will help the members of the school team feel like you are a qualified professional (you are considered a qualified professional by the law as a parent of a child in an educational system) and a part of the team:
A. Go prepared. Come with information about your child's needs and strengths and challenges, etc. Get an expandable file folder and bring evaluations, samples of your child's work, work he has done with professionals and professional recommendations, notes you've taken, copies of disciplinary documentation you've been getting, copies of correspondence and logs of conversations with school staff, etc.
B. Behave professionally. Be on time, shake hands, and sit amongst staff so that you are situated as a part of the team (rather than sitting across from them, etc.)
C. Speak objectively and professionally. Have objectives.

2. Take notes. Some people recommend also tape recording meetings or bringing along a third-party to be a note-taker, but I have never been comfortable enough to do that myself.

3. Stay friendly, but make clear, active, confident statements, such as “I expect," and "My child needs.” When people respond in a way that is unclear to you, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. Ask lots of questions.

4. Have a good idea about issues which need to be discussed early on in the meeting so that focus can be maintained. When things get sidetracked into issues having to do with past experiences, etc., request that the team returns to the objectives of the meeting.

5. Know when to end the meeting. If important team members need to leave before decisions can be made, that is an important time to stop and reschedule. If it seems like the team is not getting anywhere, it may be a good idea to stop and schedule another meeting after folks can look at things from a fresh perspective again.

6. Propose what needs to happen. Fexiblity is important for small issues, but stay strong when important issues are being discussed.

7. Always, always, always do a follow up with a letter. State any agreements made. If agreements weren't made on some issues, provide an explanation for your feelings and reflect an understanding of other positions that surfaced at the meeting, then suggest a "next step" and a timeline.

I get really fired up about school advocacy because if parents don't advocate for their kids, no one else will. We advocated for our son on some issues that would have led to disaster had we not put our foot down. It's not that I feel badly about schools (I am an administrator of a non-school but educational program and my wife is a teacher). It's just that I feel like kids can so easily end up with unmet needs. Anyway, though I've just quickly typed out what I remember, I got these tips from a parent's organization. They are getting us through some pretty critical times in our son's education. We are really working to make sure he graduates from high school on time.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#9 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 12:23 PM
 
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[I'm going to risk being run off these boards and say what I believe when I think it will be a very unpopular viewpoint; it's not meant to blame, or cause guilt, or start a fight, please know that I offer this perspective only in the spirit of helping.]

I think any teacher will tell you that this is extremely common with that age group. The first three or four years of school are relatively fine, and then all hell breaks lose. I think part of this is about the fact that this is also the age/grade at which expectations from school change (to become much more academic) and social expectations change also. An eight year old is still a child; a nine year old is in between (and beginning to experience some of the new stresses on him); but a ten year old is expected to behave like an adult or exhibit adult attributes (by both adults and his peers) yet is allowed very little power over the direction of his life, as an adult would be. This contradiction has to be upsetting, and those children who are most sensitive to the external world and individualistic in nature will get hit hardest by it and have the most difficulty fitting into the mold. He may still need to be a child in some ways, in ways it's not really socially acceptable to be; and he may have a need to grow in other ways that are also not socially acceptable at this age.

I think the really important thing is to look at it from his perspective, in order to find the root causes of why this is happening. He's not doing it just to annoy you (although if you've taken him to task for his behavior, he may well be angry at you for not understanding, and this would also logically manifest in further bad behavior.) He's also not doing it because he is bad, lazy, stupid, etc. It is, I would bet, an entirely honest, natural, and possibly even involuntary reaction to a situation that is unharmonious with his interior development.

You can probably eventually get him into line with threats, shows of disappointment, and a tighter watch. But you know, angry young men aren't angry for no reason at all, and for that reason this approach would make me very nervous.

Have you tried just talking with him? Explaining that you are on his side and want to help make it better, but that you don't know where to start unless he talks to you and tells you what HE needs? (Keep in mind he may not know yet, if he has never had the time and space to explore it.) Naming the good things about him? Spending time just being with him without the talking about his performance/behavior? I would think all of these things would be crucial to a resolution.
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#10 of 10 Old 05-14-2003, 01:18 AM
 
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Agreed.

I think it was A. O'Neal who said that "education" was wasted on children 11 to 14. They are about finding their place in the world and developing important social tools and ethics.

I have noticed that kids that have their time quite closely controlled from a young age tend to become aimless earlier. There are some good pasages in John Holt's book "How Children Fail", which of course is not about how children themselves fail, but about how we fail our children.

There are some sample chapters on-line of "Free at Last" at www.sudval.org/ too. I really encourage you to go there, or blueviolet's sig for education.

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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