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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Something we go through every month or so.

A month or so ago, DD told me that she wanted to learn cursive, but couldn't stand practicing. I suggested various way she could make practice more fun, all of which were rejected. She got emotional, upset, and got stuck on the idea that cursive was very important to her, and she NEEDED to learn it, and yet practicing was just too awful. At that time I came here and got advice about a 'fairy' game I could create for her. She didn't like the idea at the time, and was tormented by the dilemma-wanting to gain a skill, and not wanting to practice. She wasn't accepting any of my suggestions, which included to give it a break, to work through not liking it, or to find a fun way to practice, and she wasn't coming up with her own ideas either. Then suddenly she said that she'd love a similar game, if it were about horses.

For about two weeks we both had fun. I learned so much about horse breeds, refreshed a lot of geography, as we were looking up on the globe where each horse breed originated, and with each "mission" she'd write 2-3 words in cursive. She was engaged, interested, asked for more "missions"…It was fun. She kept asking for more.

Today she told me she lost interest. Which is fine with me, and I told her this. I told her that interests come and go, that a new interest will appear, and gave her examples from her life, and my life. Her handwriting improved a lot, we had fun, and if she lost interest, it wasn't an issue for me in any way. But SHE was upset. She said that she wanted 20 missions, not 9. She said that those missions are important to her, really important.

I asked her whether she lost interest in horses. An emphatic NO. In geography? No. In handwriting? She says that she still has a goal of writing nicely, but she can't stand to practice it. I am fine with her not practicing. I'm also fine with helping her find another way to practice. She won't agree with anything. She's upset, to reconcile her 3 goals-1. wanting to write well AND 2. have 20 missions completed, and 3. To have fun while practicing. We did have a discussion about this not NEEDING to be fun. That part of the fun was achieving the goal...But she doesn't look at it the same way.

I really can't understand this. If something is important to me, I just do it. Sometimes it is fun, sometimes it is not, but important things get done, because they are important. Especially if they are intrinsically important. I find satisfaction in doing what's important to me, even if the intermediate steps are boring or difficult.

So I'm stuck in my own kind of thinking, which is not helping the situation.

ETA: I've been analysing her freak outs lately, and I'm pretty sure they are related to her perfectionism. I think I'm learning to support her while partially disengaging, and she is accepting of this. This episode toremented her much less than the previous ones.
 

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When my son was 3 we had lots of problems with his being aggressive to our infant daughter. It was horrible. To the point that I asked the pediatrician if he could cause shaken baby syndrome. This went on for almost a year.

We tried lots of stuff including in home therapy. The first thing that helped notch it down was to not get emotional. When he started attacking the baby, I'd pick her up, calmly tell him, "When you can be gentle you can play with her," and I'd walk away as if nothing awful had just happened. He wasn't so aggressive, but it was still always there.

The thing that got rid of it was I stopped using gentle discipline. If he started getting aggressive I led him into the bathroom and told him he had to stay there until he could be gentle with the baby. He would headbutt me, hit me, scream, whatever. I calmly blocked the bathroom door until he said he would be gentle. Sometimes I took quite a beating and I ignored him. Within a day or two he stopped being aggressive and life went from awful to peaceful. He never slid back to that state. I also stopped being beside myself if he was rough. If he was rough he got taken to the bathroom (and rough is not the same as aggressive) and he had to stay there until he would agree to be gentle.

My point is maybe you are being too "gentle discipline" (not that you're disciplining her, it's just an example.) Maybe you are being too nice and too supportive. Maybe she digs all the attention she gets from you. There comes a time when our kids need to figure it out and stop whining. And she certainly cannot make the family miserable. "If you don't want to practice, fine, but stop complaining about it." And, "If you can't get along with everyone, you have to go somewhere else until you can be nice." Even if that somewhere else is the other end of the couch.

We went through a phase when our son was 4 when he whined all the time. It was so bad I didn't want to be around him. I got the advice that I should ignore him. (And to expect it to get worse for a couple days.) So I sat down with him and told him if he whined my ears would turn off and the only way I could hear him again was if he used his regular voice. So, for a couple days he did get worse. Whining, "Mommy, I need you. Please listen to me." It was really hard, but I stayed the course. I really didn't see I had any choice because his whining was hurting my nervous system and making me beyond crazy. I didn't want to be his mom when he whined like that. I had to do something and this was the least nasty. So, after a couple days he figured it and stopped whining. He sometimes does whine now, but nothing like then. And all I have to do is say, "I'm going to turn off my ears," and he generally stops whining.

Not unschooly, but sometimes our kids need to figure it out on their own and we need to stop reinforcing their behavior by giving them so much attention over the issue.
 

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Have you thought of trying to have her write a different number of words each time, such as 1, 2, 4, 3, etc.? Have you thought of having someone else teach her? My ds still doesn't write even printing so I am interested in hearing how she learned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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Originally Posted by Pookietooth View Post

Have you thought of trying to have her write a different number of words each time, such as 1, 2, 4, 3, etc.? Have you thought of having someone else teach her? My ds still doesn't write even printing so I am interested in hearing how she learned.
No, haven't thought of that specifically, but each time it was a different number, just because of the content. Do you meant teach her in general? I am open to it, as a possibility. But her handwriting is actually okay--her letters are formed correctly, and it is legible. DD could print since she was 6 or so, but she never learned formally, it was all over the place, and never cared about "making it nice". When she started caring about her handwriting being nice, she didn't even consider improving her printing, she just wanted 'joined' hand writing. She tried several workbooks, and none of the styles clicked with her. Then I stumbled on At home with Handwriting, and showed it to her in the store. She immediately liked the style, and started practicing on her own. She is a perfectionist, so she wanted to be better, which I interpreted as more fluency--writing, rather than copying. Hence our long process towards creating a game that would incorporate a handwriting element.

The crisis has passed, and she is taking a break from it, which was the first thing I suggested, and she then had rejected. But now she is fine with taking a break, and my freak out is over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for reading my post and sharing your thoughts.

Though I sometimes wish that time out / cool off period was a simple solution, it simply is not for our family and DD's personality. I think for it to work for my DD she has to see the positive value of it, and not the punitive aspect.

FTIW, when DD was almost 3 and started to be aggressive with her newborn brother, I used 'time ins' very successfully. She was aggressive with him for 3 or 4 days (also trying to shake him on his swing), during which I kept correcting her and telling her to be gentle blah blah. Right then "Hold on to your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld arrived, and I was very impressed with his approach. I immeditely started grabbing her for a cuddle time on my lap when she was aggressive to her brother, and her aggression was over within days.

I'm sure what you are describing can work well with some children, and I think it could have "worked" with DS well, as in correcting undesirable behaviour, if I chose that route. I chose a different route, and DS responds very well to it. I believe that DD1 responds to the GD methods better than she would have responded to punitive discipline, even if the outcome is not 'perfect'. I see her making efforts all the time, and correcting herself half way through the sentence to express herself in an acceptable way. But those things are just difficult for her.

Even if I don't agree, I read your response with interest and appreciation, because discussions like this do help me to sort things out in my head, and calm down from my freak outs.
orngbiggrin.gif


Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post

When my son was 3 we had lots of problems with his being aggressive to our infant daughter. It was horrible. To the point that I asked the pediatrician if he could cause shaken baby syndrome. This went on for almost a year.

We tried lots of stuff including in home therapy. The first thing that helped notch it down was to not get emotional. When he started attacking the baby, I'd pick her up, calmly tell him, "When you can be gentle you can play with her," and I'd walk away as if nothing awful had just happened. He wasn't so aggressive, but it was still always there.

The thing that got rid of it was I stopped using gentle discipline. If he started getting aggressive I led him into the bathroom and told him he had to stay there until he could be gentle with the baby. He would headbutt me, hit me, scream, whatever. I calmly blocked the bathroom door until he said he would be gentle. Sometimes I took quite a beating and I ignored him. Within a day or two he stopped being aggressive and life went from awful to peaceful. He never slid back to that state. I also stopped being beside myself if he was rough. If he was rough he got taken to the bathroom (and rough is not the same as aggressive) and he had to stay there until he would agree to be gentle.

My point is maybe you are being too "gentle discipline" (not that you're disciplining her, it's just an example.) Maybe you are being too nice and too supportive. Maybe she digs all the attention she gets from you. There comes a time when our kids need to figure it out and stop whining. And she certainly cannot make the family miserable. "If you don't want to practice, fine, but stop complaining about it." And, "If you can't get along with everyone, you have to go somewhere else until you can be nice." Even if that somewhere else is the other end of the couch.

We went through a phase when our son was 4 when he whined all the time. It was so bad I didn't want to be around him. I got the advice that I should ignore him. (And to expect it to get worse for a couple days.) So I sat down with him and told him if he whined my ears would turn off and the only way I could hear him again was if he used his regular voice. So, for a couple days he did get worse. Whining, "Mommy, I need you. Please listen to me." It was really hard, but I stayed the course. I really didn't see I had any choice because his whining was hurting my nervous system and making me beyond crazy. I didn't want to be his mom when he whined like that. I had to do something and this was the least nasty. So, after a couple days he figured it and stopped whining. He sometimes does whine now, but nothing like then. And all I have to do is say, "I'm going to turn off my ears," and he generally stops whining.

Not unschooly, but sometimes our kids need to figure it out on their own and we need to stop reinforcing their behavior by giving them so much attention over the issue.
 

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I'm glad the freak out is over. I wondered when reading this if she is simply struggling with the reality that practice = perfect? I can remember being about 8 and finding it really hard to accept that the only way i was going to get good at horseback riding was to keep on practising and going through being, not terrible, but not good at it. It's kind of a stark fact, maybe she is hoping you/someone will find her a solution to it? I can remember feeling positive that there WAS a way to "download" being good at it - i was a lucid dreamer and even dreamed about it all the time, only to feel shocked and disappointed to find that i could jump with a horse in a dream and barely sit a canter in real life.

So maybe what she needs is you to reaffirm that practice will make her writing better, that practice will not always be fun, that if it's important to her she can absolutely bear the un-fun-ness of it to get better if she chooses to. There really isn't a "solution" to hard work. Sometimes it's just a fact, you know? And if it were me i think i'd set the 20 missions in one go (i know, worksheety, but it's what i'd do!) and let her choose when she did them, rather than not setting them when she balks (but maybe you did that).

In the interest of honesty i must declare that though DD didn't attend any sort of school yet, she will from Autumn and i am NOT experienced at all with unschooling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for sharing! And honestly, you might be onto something. It is quite possible that she wants a different way to achieve mastery, something other than practice. Great perspective.
 

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My DS(8) is a perfectionist and hates formal "lessons" or practicing, most of the time. I may have written about this before, that his lack of perfection at writing (i.e. spelling) keeps him from doing it, and yet doing is the only way he's going to get any better! So the other day I had that talk with him, that it's holding him back and the only way to get comfortable with it is to start trying it. There were tears, the whole bit. But at one point he just said FINE! and stormed into his room.

After a long time he came out, crying. He told me he was trying to write something but he couldn't figure out how to write the word "one" -- did it have a W in it, or what, and he was really upset. I said, "do you know of any way you could look up that word?" (thinking of various books, counting books, etc in our house). He cried out emphatically, in tears "But that would be CHEATING!!!!!" Poor thing! He thought that to get help or look up a word would be cheating! This, from a child who has never been tested, who never plays competitive sports. Somehow he knows about cheating and thinks that is what looking up the troublesome word would be! Very enlightening to me, to hear this from him.

So I explained that he wasn't being tested, and the way we practice writing is we just do the very best we can with words we don't know, and after we finish the writing we go and look them up. I told him that it's not cheating because it's not a test. It's learning, and that's how we learn. And the next time we go to write the word, maybe we will remember it. So he went back into his room, armed with the correct spelling of the word "one", and later emerged with a simple handwritten note, which said "If the one thing I am going to do it is write." :) So he's determined!

Today, I said "I still want you to practice your writing, so go write me another sentence today. About anything you want." So he came out a short while later with a note that read:

"You are the best mom ever."

Awwww.

How does this relate to your situation? Well just that sometimes we have to say "You need to practice if you're going to get comfortable doing something." It doesn't have to be boring drills, but the only way to get better is to do it, and do it some more. I would probably tell your DD that right about now. "If you want to be good at writing, you need to do a whole bunch of it. Now go and figure out a way to get it done." After all the effort you've put into this thus far, I'd say that at this point you may want to tell her "this is your problem, honey. Not mine. I will give you suggestions if you're really stumped, but you need to be the one to reach your goal. It's on YOUR to-do list, not mine." I'm not trying to be rotten. It's just that sometimes we get sucked in by wanting to be so helpful and supportive (and i've been so guilty of this!) that we forget that it strengthens them to know we trust them to solve it, and that we are not going to "rescue" them.

My son was having a big hissy fit today because he didn't KNOW I was going to come in from the backyard so soon (just as I came in, he was putting on his shoes to come join me. He was so disappointed and furious he really pitched a fit). I said "Hey, when I went out there, I also thought I'd be out there longer, but when I got out there, I discovered the sun had dropped behind the trees so there was hardly any sun to lie in....and in the shade I'd get devoured by mosquitoes! I cannot prepare the world for you, or "cushion everything" for you, or make things always-easy-and-predictable for you, and protect you against disappointments. Sometimes things happen the way we don't like them, and we just have to roll with the punches."
 

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Ah, the trouble with perfectionism! My daughter is, too. She, too, gives up easily when she sees that her skill does not meet her expectations! She also has such grand ideas. She doesn't want to practice copying ONE page of her "Oceanarium" book (her idea for the task) she wanted to write THE WHOLE THING. And when she can't finish it, she broods. When we sit down, say to sew a clothespin doll she wants to make TWELVE! TODAY! She just refuses to try breaking down large projects into smaller parts.

But when she really loves something, I'm seeing her really practice. She loves gymnastics, and is so close to doing a back handspring. She is starting to read. She gets tired easily, but I also see her spending a lot of time trying it out. (the graphic novel "Perseus and Medusa" got her fire burning. She loves monsters!) I am hoping this gives her a little experience in the time it takes to perfect something. Even if practice is hard it can still be fun, especially when a little progress can be seen.

I'm personally really not a good example, because I taught myself cursive at 6 and taught myself some easy calligraphy at 11, and i adored runes and elvish lettering like I saw in the Lord of the Rings. But if she really still wants to improve her penmanship, these might inspire her.
 

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Just a quick though, what is she writing with? Could you get her a fountain pen or a dip and ink well (VERY MESSY) to make handwriting more fun? Even as an adult when I bought a dip pen and ink well I couldn't stop writing, it was such a novelty. You can buy some gorgeous coloured inks. You could make up another game about living in centuries past writing letters (because there was no internet!) or tie it in to a historical novel, I know one of the sequels to Little House has an awful lot about letter writing. Or how about getting her a children's calligraphy book, with some simple fonts to copy?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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Originally Posted by nursingmommaof2 View Post

Just a quick though, what is she writing with? Could you get her a fountain pen or a dip and ink well (VERY MESSY) to make handwriting more fun? Even as an adult when I bought a dip pen and ink well I couldn't stop writing, it was such a novelty. You can buy some gorgeous coloured inks. You could make up another game about living in centuries past writing letters (because there was no internet!) or tie it in to a historical novel, I know one of the sequels to Little House has an awful lot about letter writing. Or how about getting her a children's calligraphy book, with some simple fonts to copy?
Thanks for the thoughts! This seems like such an old thread to me now, as we've moved past that point
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. FWIW, she didn't like the idea of calligraphy (around that time I stumbled on some nice book in the library and showed them to her), and we did try different fun pens, but not a fountain pen or ink.

With her the process of getting to any challenging task is usually intense anxiety and ambivalence, and then she goes thrhough a stage when she rejects any idea and is just miserable. But after a few days she comes up with her own idea, and gets to task. She's been writing me notes almost daily for the last couple of weeks, and is proud of herself. She is doing well and feels good about it.

I love mdc for being my safe freak out media!
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Now, if someone digs up my math anxiety post of 6 months ago, DD has been doing math daily for the last 6 weeks, enjoys it, and I think (after looking at some workbooks in stores) she is on grade level. She still refuses to write things down, but is exposed to mathematical notation and can read it well. She does it all in her head, which is great, I think. At her age I knew my times tables by heart, but she says memorising them is boring, but figuring them out every time she does a problem is fun--more power to her. She might not be as fast, but I think it is an asset to be able to figure things out in her head.
 
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