I need help, PLEASE (spirited 7-year old homeschooler) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 11-06-2005, 09:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi mamas,

I have been hanging out on the parenting issues board, in particular the "My Challenge, My Love" thread started by Bearsmama, b/c her ds sounds so much like mine - except I have an older child: a 7-year old homeschooled "force of nature" as our therapist put it

But I have come to ask advice of you seasoned homeschoolers - unschoolers too, although I have to admit I am not an unschooler. We do approx 15 minutes of "school" (First Language Lessons or some Miquon math) and I do ask him to read to me a little bit every day.

So, back to the issue at hand. It is more than a homeschooling issue, because it goes hand in hand with living and parenting this intensely moody, sensitive, creative and intense little boy, but it does impact on how we move forward with homeschooling on a daily basis (or not, as the case may be).

It all started with my reading of several parenting books ("How to transform the difficult child - a nurtured heart approach" - I forget the author, "Hold onto your children" - by Gordon Neufeld and "Unconditional Parenting" by Alfie Kohn). I was reading (in "Hold onto your kids") about how children need to remain firmly attached to their parents and other loving adults in their lives, who share the same core values as the parents, rather than their peers b/c they can only receive the unconditional loving and support they need from adults and not children / peers.

I was mentally thinking "o.k. we have ds firmly attached, we do minimal time-outs (except for when he physically hurts us or his sister), we co-sleep all in one room with his bed butted up to my side, I nursed him until he was 4 1/2, he had his first and only sitter when he was 6, he knows through our words and actions that we love him, he has no peer-influence to speak of, b/c he is an introvert with only two real friends (one of whom lives 3 hrs away) and he claims vehemently to *not* want to go to school".

YET he acts in a manner consistent with those children the book describes as having unhealthy peer attachments: he is angry at us a lot, argues over little things ad nauseum, is getting physical with me (shoving) when he doesn't like what I ask him to do (brushing his teeth, picking up clothes, anything, even gentle reminders), explodes verbally (often!) at all of us (including his 3-year old sister) and generally behaves as if he simply despises us. That is, until bedtime. At bedtime and bathtime, he *needs* me so much: he needs me to have a bath with him, needs me (not dh) to read to him, sing to him, tuck him in, snuggle him on the sofa, etc., etc. He is loving and snuggly and sooooo remorseful over his behavior of the day. And the next day, the whole thing starts all over again.

The therapist thinks that homeschooling is a one-way trip to burn-out for me, but agrees that public school is not for this kid and that homeschooling is the best choice for now. He would much rather see him in one of two select private schools but it is not financially an option for us and I am not even sure that if it were, we would do it. He was loathe to label ds - something I am grateful for, but we wanted to meet with him and have him meet ds to make sure we're on the right parenting track and to make sure we were not missing anything. He feels that ds does this kind of thing for "sport", in particular when he is feeling bored. He also felt that we were handling things (discipline) correctly and felt that ds just needed time to mature along with some help on how to manage his feelings from us.

Now I have noticed that the "sport" thing is absolutely true, but it takes on the form of needling me and others (children and adults (!), but only as long as dh or I are present - he is too afraid to do it when he is away from our protection) and he is clearly having fun when he does it. And it does not usually cross over to the exposive rages and anger unless challenged by dh or I. Problem is, by the time this kid might be old enough to manage his feelings effectively (he absolutely rejects coaching from us), dh and I will probably not have a marriage left. We are mostly strong in our resolve, are able to deal with our own issues as they arise and be loving and unconditional with him, but it is depleting our energy on a daily basis and frankly, I don't know that I (or we) can keep it up for years. We certainly are not the kind of parents we thought we'd be (at least with him) and dd is getting little of our time or energy due to this tornado of a child sucking the life out of everything.

After much soul-searching and raking our brains, dh and I feel that perhaps his rages are a result of a seeking of independence - much like that of the 2's and 3's, except so much more intense because he is so much older, is so (maybe overly?) attached and feels this drive to seperate from us but is really too timid and scared to do so (make an effort to make new friends, be open to new activities, sleep in his own room, etc.). And he is clearly not able to intellectualize or verbalize it for himself or us. And I am the target of most of them because I am the parent he spends most of his time with - hence the violent rages aimed at me and the "remorse-fests" and intense need to reconnect with me at night.

What would you do if this were your child? I have begun to think that I need to employ or get other authority figures involved in his life to give him space from me. I think he needs it. Yet he is virtually paralyzed by his fear of having to make conversation with others, talk or interact with other kids, having to stand on his own and be responsible for himself in even the smallest of ways. As I said before, he rejects social and emotional coaching from us and clearly sees us as adversaries (not allies) in this regard. Whenever I read or hear of those "well-socialized" homeschooled children with so many friends and connections that take them out of the house because of their own desires to explore their interests, I think "oh, this is *so* not us!"

It is getting harder and harder to be unconditional with this child, but the only respite I get from him is when I am away or take time out from him. And he is smart: he knows that he is pushing me away and on some level probably fears my love for him is at stake, despite my daily affirmations to the contrary.

If you've read this far, thank you. If you have any words of advice, I'd be so grateful to hear them. I'd love to talk to this therapist again (we only saw him twice) but we can't ($$$ constraints) until at least January and I really don't know how I am going to survive until then.

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#2 of 10 Old 11-06-2005, 11:33 PM
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My 7 year old isn't my spirited child. (Ask me again in 5 years when my 2 year old gets there! )

However, in addition to the responses you get here, you may want to check out thePositiveParenting-Discipline list on Yahoo. There are lots of moms of spirited kids there who use positive techniques and homeschooling is quite popular there as well. The book club spin-off from that list is currently reading Hold on to Your Child.

Ulrike, mom to:
Roman (3/98), Evalina (3/00), Nadia (3/03), and Kira (11/07)
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#3 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 12:01 AM
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I didn't want to read and not post and, truthfully, don't have a lot of advice. Just hugs.

Have you looked at his diet? Many Feingold followers swear by the diet as a way to help spirited children who are dangerously close to being out of control. Doing a search here at MDC or on Google will give you tons and tons of info.

HTH. Peace, mama.
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#4 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 12:09 AM
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I am not in your situation but I had to respond to tell you that I read your whole post and think that you are really an incredible person. You obviously have a very deep love for your child and you are working so hard to get through this. Wow. It probably doesn't mean much coming from a stranger but I think you are truly inspiring. I hope your son will one day realize all that you have done. I really hope that you are able to give some time to your daughter too.

The only thing I can think of is that if you are in a church, maybe try sunday school as it's only an hour a week but a way that he can socialize with other kids but not in a demanding way that school every day might be. Or maybe soccer or some other organized thing that happens only once a week. Start slow and enlist the help of the coach/teacher in helping him to get along with other kids. That might be a lame suggestion but as I said, I am not in your shoes.

Hugs to you, and I hope that your are able to get through this as a family.
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#5 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 12:59 AM
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What would you do if this were your child?
Well, it's easy for me to say it when I'm not living it, you know? But, ideally...

I'd explore every nutritional avenue. Elimination diets, food allergy testing, Feingold diet, GFCF, etc.

I'd consult a naturopath, acupuncturist, chiropractor, you name it. Physical problems can have emotional manifestations.

I'd read parenting books by the truckload, hoping for a new gem that would work for us.

I'd start worrying that the therapist who said I was doing everything right, just might be wrong.

I'd plan more counseling, for all of us. Might get a psychological evaluation for ds, if needed.

If I felt that school would give him something he needed, and that it would be the best place for him, I would consider it on a trial basis. But not unless we'd already tried other classes, clubs, scouts, etc and especially martial arts or yoga.
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#6 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 04:07 AM
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well I have two spirited kids who are also gifted - and we did have some anger issues (they are few and far between right now)

I found that they get stressed some times and spin out of control -

here is what I did and what I found out...

my kids need to have a routine for bedtime and for eating (missing a meal or snack is worse than changing bedtime for mine)

my kids need to be able to pick what and when they learn things, for 3 out of 4 things each day, and have 1 day with no plans at all.

They needed to learn about emotions and how to express them in different ways.

They need to have more responsibility in some areas, and less expected of them in others. Just because they are capable doesn't mean they always feel like doing everything every time.

They needed to know that hurting anyone was not allowed - and hurting ears counts too.

They needed to know that they could make mistakes, be goofy, do things wrong, etc and we would all still love them.

When they have a tantrum I give them a hug, sing a lullabye, and then we talk it out together. (basically I do what worked for them when they were toddlers)

We also role play some things, and I always tell them what I expect them to do and repeat rules clearly.

So you see - there is a balance between giving more choice and responsibility, but still allowing them to be little kids - Giving them things to learn which give them confidence (a little easier) as well as things that interest them and challenge them.
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#7 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 10:41 AM
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I just read a book that I found REALLY helpful -- The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children.

I have always read the positive parenting threads and wondered what the heck I'm doing wrong, because those very sweet gentle techniques simply don't work for my child. (and I've cringed and cried many times at some of the undertones that if they're not working for your children, it's because of bad parenting). However, they DO work for my much "easier" younger daughter - so I'm pretty sure it doesn't come down to bad parenting as much as different wiring.

I found this book SO helpful, in not only validating my frustrations, explaining my son's behavior, but also offering some very tangible solutions to making life with this type of child more manageable.

How this applies to homeschooling - I'm not sure. I do think the book is a good start and might offer some workable solutions for your family. And if they do work, then you can make a decision from there.

I also believe that every child, and subsequently, every child's needs are different. While I really do believe that homeschooling is the best choice overall, there are some valid reasons to send children to school, too. You could always try it out for a year and see how it goes - you don't need to make a lifetime comittment to homeschooling.

As for us, we've had some luck with the book, and things do seem calmer around here, so we're probably going to give homeschooling a go, and see how it progresses from there.
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#8 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you UlrikeDG - I will check out that list on yahoogroups and also Whitefeather for the title of that book. I've actually read it before, but maybe it requires a second reading for any gems I may have missed.

Chalupamom, the diet thing... well ds has a *lot* of confirmed allergies: pet dander, dust, etc. but also food allergies (peas, peanuts, eggs, dairy - yes even raw dairy, he is allergic to the milk protein, not the lactose). As a result we went vegan shortly after he was born (were vegetarian before) and he is now very strongly ethically opposed to eating meat. I know that what we're facing is cutting out all the natural sylicates (sp?) at least as part of an elimination diet, but I am overwhelmed at the thought of limiting his diet even more, especially when it comes to fruit, which he loves.

Jules, thanks for the kind words. It means a lot to me, really. Some days the thought crosses my mind that I must be the world's worst mother, because this is how he relates to me and treats me. But then I look at my dd who is loving and gentle toward me and I realize I can't possibly be that horrid. To get back to your post, we have done classes (in both sport and academics before) but have found that it does not require the kids to really interact with each other to the extent that ds needs to step outside of himself. He gets by very easily by choosing to simply not interact much with the other kids. Soccer in particular was hard for him last year; in the beginning he would burst into tears <sigh> if another child got the ball away from him during practice sessions. Thank goodness, the coach was a gentle man who had a *lot* of patience. Ds is adamant that he will not play soccer (or baseball) again and pretty much has written off team sports. Dh and I are thinking that perhaps fencing might coax him out of his shell and be more in line with his personality, but he is quite timid physically, so we're not even sure that would be a good fit. Might be worth a whirl for a bit though...

M&m - how old are your children and how do you go about emotionally coaching your kids? I feel so at a loss to find ways to help ds temper his emotions. He really seems to feel that I am a threat to his self-expression, although we've actually always encouraged expressing of emotions and never shamed him in any way for feeling and displaying sadness, grief or fear. Perhaps the expression of his anger is more the issue at stake and I am not sure that we've been that unconditional about it, since his outbursts have always been so.... all-consuming, I guess for lack of a better word.

Thanks mawhit for your ideas too... I appreciate it so much that you took the time to write these all down for me. I have explored at least some of the suggestions you made, but I can see now that I hold reservations about trying some of them and that is usually a sign to me that more inner work needs to get done before I can say that I am completely honest with myself about my initial resistance to trying them.

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#9 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 03:53 PM
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Michelle, I have an 8 yr old Ds who is somewhat similar to your Ds.

Patience, Patience, Patience ~ that is my mantra.

Recently, I posted a thread in the Gentle Discipline Forum and was given some helpful links to information by another user, here is a link to the MDC thread -


Hope this helps in some way
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#10 of 10 Old 11-07-2005, 04:15 PM
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Hi Michelle;

You mentioned you were looking at fencing...have you considered martial arts--especially a program where the emphasis is on self-discipline and respect (vice just having the kids advance up the belt ranks)? I know several friends who swear that taekwondo/karate lessons made a huge difference in their children's behavior, self-confidence and ability to focus. A good karate instructor will ensure that a child knows that hitting is not right unless it's in self-defense. It might help your son think twice before he lashes out at you. Anyhow, just a thought...

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for you. It's tough parenting a difficult child. Hang in there and please feel free to come here and vent whenever you need to.

Here's a big ((hug)).
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