What to do, what to do…
My son. Where do I begin. He is a charming, loving, intelligent, ball of fire… who happens to be manipulative, disobedient and slick. Oh, what a combination! Now I love my son to death, but I’m not one of those parents who thinks they have a perfect child. No, I’m the kind of parent who looks at the other parents who are forming judgements to themselves and agrees with them (audibly)… “yeah, he’s bad.” And I don’t say this because I’ve given up or I think it’s acceptable, I say this because I feel good in my skin when I am authentic. And I truly believe that my kid can be a bad kid sometimes. And other times he is sweet and he listens and he melts my heart. But typically I’m only around to see those moments. So anyways, I set the stage to get to my current dilemma – school.
Shocker, but the kid who does not listen at home also does not listen at school. And the kid who talks back at home also talks back at school. I get fun little notes home from his teacher, like the one last week informing me that when he was being reprimanded, he told his teacher she got on his nerves. Yes, that’s right. A couple of things go through my mind on this one… 1) Well that’s embarrassing (I think parents get desensitized to the things their kids tell them, but when they then do it to someone else, it is a hard pill to swallow) 2) Thinking back… do I say this?!?! 3) A mixed emotion of pride, that he can articulate his feelings so well, and a lot of head shaking because his execution was so inappropriate.
So as I’ve shared in a previous post we’ve been going with the “on the couch all night” method of punishment lately. I’d like to say it works because he absolutely hates it, but on the other hand, it does not curb the behavior at school so I’m just not sure. But nevertheless, in the name of consistency, if Brogan does not get a smiley face on his behavior chart each day, he gets to sit on the couch (with nothing) the whole evening. But here’s the thing. Brogan has learned that the consequence to his misbehavior is the couch. He gets warned daily of the punishment. He gets asked each afternoon how he was at school, and when he responds that he wasn’t a good listener, he says, “I have to sit on the couch all night, right mommy?” So he gets it. But he gets it only so far… because when he’s in the moment and he gets into one of his manic states where he cannot listen to save his life, there’s no stopping him and he just will not behave. So while I know the mommy gene is partly to play here, I ask myself (what I feel is a legitimate concern), is it fair for a kid, who should be outside playing and interacting with the family and getting tons of positive interactions, be punished every night for something that he shouldn’t be doing, but that I don’t think he can help? And he’s also starting to get a negative opinion of school. He started saying that he doesn’t want to go to school. And when I ask him why, he says it’s because he doesn’t like getting bad notes home.
And tonight, in the car ride home from the sitter’s, fearing another bad report, I asked, “Brogan, how was school?” Brogan responded, “I don’t want to talk about that.” And that would be because he didn’t listen (again), was playing in the bathroom (again) and this all resulted in a frowny face assessment.
What to do, what to do, what to do??? Any veteran moms out there have suggestions?
And ironically, he appears so well-behaved in his school picture. Go figure.
Maybe try not punishing for the negative but rewarding for the positive — harder to do because it is against our human nature a bit, but sometimes works. Figure out what his “currency” is, i.e. something he really, really wants, and then have him earn points (or whatever – you can figure that out) towards that really special thing. Makes him feel more in control, you get to really celebrate the smiley sticker days, and take the focus off the negative behavior. When he gets a frown, don’t make a big deal of it. Treat it as a setback to his bigger goal. Then he might see school as a positive because it is getting him closer to something he is excited about. I would make the first thing he earns relatively easy (say only needs 50 points – something he could earn in a week or so), then make the goal a little bigger and longer. Let him decide what he is going for within reason. Hope that helps — it has worked for us in some occasions but it is difficult because you have to change your entire mode of thinking and resist the urge to punish for the negative. I would still use the couch at home for infractions because it is immediate and impactful.
Thanks, Lisa! I love the positive angle! I’ve made him a chart to track his good behavior with stickers. I also had a good talk with his teacher today. Once he meets his goal, he gets to pick out a new truck/tractor at Target. Thanks for the great idea!
Kristi Harrell Anderson
My comment was getting too long, so I sent you an e-mail. My basic idea was to talk about what he is doing right before addressing what he is having issues with. Also, consider restructuring the timeout.
Thanks for the email, Kristi! I really like picking out some positive things he does and discussing those with him (vs. just all the negative stuff). I did this tonight as we were cuddling and talking about the day and as I was telling him the things he did well, he kept saying, “and what else?” and so I’d add another positive, and he’d say “and what else?” again. I think he definitely feeds off the positive. Now if I can just get him to be motivated enough by the positive to deter behavior! One thing to clarify about the couch/time out… all night on the couch was not the punishment for all things, just getting a bad report from school. We do 3 minute time outs either on the couch/chair or in his room for normal at-home infractions. Thanks again for the great advice!
Kristi Harrell Anderson
Gotcha! So glad to hear that he is eating up the positive reinforcement! Best of luck!
I just stumbled onto your blog via Pinterest. I’m now a grandmother of a baby boy having raised a daughter. I don’t really know how boys tick but they seem to be very energetic, so I would think making him stay on the couch would be counter productive. He needs to let loose of his energy. Praise him for being able to articulate his feelings and correct him for inappropriate behavior. Then let it go and let him play. Look for a good book on raising boys.
Hi Katie! Welcome! That is so true! I think that’s why I was so conflicted – something about the punishment just didn’t seem right. Based on some feedback I received and a talk with his teacher, we’re starting a couple of tactics that reward good behavior. He eats up attention, so I hope this works. Thanks for the words of wisdom – he is only 3 after all, and he has a ton of energy! Thanks again!