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Archive for the ‘Fumbling through Parenthood’ Category

My son, Alex, started kindergarten this fall, and in October he informed me that there was a mean boy in his class.  Alex would come home with daily stories about how this boy (we’ll call him Tom) pushed him, hit him and, at one point, physically forced him to wipe up a spill with his sleeve.  I thought my heart might break as my husband and I coached him to use words, seek out the teacher and told him about other anti-bullying tips we’d heard.  Alex, bless his heart, tried them all, but nothing seemed to work.  So, at parent-teacher conferences I addressed it with the teacher. 

And my whole perspective got turned on its head.

Tom is a foster child.  He’s with a good family now, but his past is dark and he’s angry and he’s fighting to keep from losing his little self.  Upon hearing this, my heart did break.  I took this new information to my husband (who had previously, wisely commented to me, “I wonder what his home life is like?”).  We decided to take a new approach.  I told Alex that, though he didn’t have to tolerate bullying and should keep his teacher in the loop, he might consider trying to befriend Tom if he felt comfortable.  I also told him he should keep Tom in his prayers, to which he responded, “why would I do that?”  I told him that, more than anything else, Tom needed our prayers and our love.

Full disclosure:  I never thought Alex would actually try to befriend Tom, and I am ashamed to admit that until I learned about Tom’s past it had not occurred to me to suggest that Alex pray for him.   

A week later, Alex came home and stunned me by asking if Tom could come over to play.  After asking him, “are you sure?” seventeen times, their teacher put me in touch with Tom’s foster mom, and that week he came over for movie night.  It went quite well; Tom is bright and spunky, and we learned afterward that it had been his first play date.  Ever.   

Since then, Alex and Tom have become buddies, much to my amazement.  I had been so caught up with protecting Alex and coaching him to “stand up for himself” (and because I unfortunately have grown a little jaded and world-weary) that I completely missed an opportunity to help a child who needs helping.  Lucky for me, Alex was on the ball.  We took his lead and now we get to be a part of Tom’s life. 

By the way, Tom is now adopted 🙂

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We’ve never been a video game family (although my hubby and I did have a months-long adventure via World of Warcraft, but that’s ancient history).  But, given all the hype with the new Kinetic/Wii/Playstation Move systems, we bit the bullet and got the family a Wii for Christmas.  We made it clear to our five year-old son that game time would be limited because it can “make your brain weak.”  He agreed emphatically, but now that he’s getting good at one of the games, it’s all Wii – er, we – hear about.  Things boiled over today when I told him, after an hour of play time, that it was time to move on to something else.  He got uncharacteristically nasty with me, and even told me he wished I wasn’t his mom. 

Ouch.

My own mother told me many times that one should simply let these comments roll off one’s shoulders, given that they’re coming from the mouth of a young child who doesn’t understand the weight of the words.  And I tried.  But it stung more than I thought it would.  He is currently in his room until Dad gets home, and he’s grounded from all forms of electronic media until at least tomorrow.  By then my hubby and I will have hopefully figured out a plan.  We’ll work through this, of course, but admittedly I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have just continued to opt out of the video gaming world.  We were perfectly happy without it.

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I’ve had a strong-willed child on my hands for five years.  From birth (complications) through the first year (colic) to toddlerhood (authority schmauthority) to preschool (I don’t care for circle time.  Let’s play.) to kindergarten, where we are now fumbling our way through conversations like:

Me:  This work doesn’t look complete.
SW Boy:  It’s not.  I didn’t really feel like finishing it.
Me:  SW boy, you have to finish your class work in class.
SW boy:  Why?  Why can’t I just finish it at home?
Me:  Because…because…

So now, at the recommendation of his teacher, we’re doing “speed games” because he’s slow in class.  I give him two or three tasks and set a timer.   The funny thing is, he thinks the games are silly, and we both know he can beat the clock any time he wants to.  Methinks the well-intentioned teacher may have met her match. 

But I digress.  I’ve read at least five books on the topic of strong-willed children, and I have a solid base of textbook knowledge from which to draw when said will exerts itself (which is daily, thank the good Lord child No. 2 is compliant).  The problem is, in part…me.  I find myself debating with him when I shouldn’t (because he counters, questions, stalls relentlessly); I wind up snapping at him (when I should just gently but firmly implement a consequence); I find myself being stubborn and I almost never give in (when I know there’s nothing wrong with giving in every once in a while).

A while back we wrote a list…Eight Rules of Behavior that I found here and modified, and we’ve been largely holding him to these rules.  For each one he breaks, he gets a consequence of parental choosing.  But the implementation is rarely smooth on account of the aforementioned parental behavior.  So I sat down today and wrote a list of rules for myself:

1.  No yelling – let the consequence speak for itself.
2.  No repeating – implement the consequence as soon as I’m ignored.
3.  No dinner battles – if he doesn’t eat and he’s hungry later, he comes back to the same plate.
4.  Be consistent

I know I’ll add to this list over time, and I’m going to post it somewhere prominent so that I have a constant reminder. 

If you’re the parent of a strong-willed child, I would love to hear about your strategies.  I need all the help I can get.

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