Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have an amazing wonderful DC1 who has been incredibly well-behaved for all 7 years of hir short life. (Except during brief times when ze has been under-challenged, and occasionally when hanging out with hir favorite extended family relatives.) Hypothetically this 7 year old is in 3rd grade at a private school.
And during the first half of third grade at this private school, the then-6 year old was a complete and total angel.
But something about age 7 changed things. DC1 tries really hard to be good, but is easily distracted. Ze doesn’t always listen to hir teachers. Ze tries to be silly in ways that are disruptive to the class. Ze doesn’t show hir teachers the quiet respect that ze used to just last semester. Ze starts forgetting to hand in hir homework. It isn’t an every day problem, but it is becoming an every week problem. DC1 also doesn’t always listen to hir parents and even occasionally talks back(!).
Third grade is a little difficult in this school– they start having more electives and different teachers early. It isn’t like K-2 where there was one teacher for all subjects except art, music, PE, French, and Spanish. There’s different teachers for the different subjects, with the maximum of two overlaps. DC1 is really only having problems with two of the teachers (or rather, two of the teachers are having problems with hir– the other teachers probably deal with the misbehavior better). Our first thought was that maybe ze was bored and has been acting out, but the class that gets the most notes home is the one that ze always talks about and is learning the most in (the teacher seems to be teaching the advanced students at middle or high school level, which is thrilling to DC1, and also mentos and coke are involved).
Our second thought is that this particular teacher punishes kids a lot because last semester DC1 was always talking about the other kids getting into trouble in class. At a Christmas function, the teacher had remarked to us how well behaved DC1 was compared to most of the other students. (Not anymore, apparently.) The next thing we heard about it, a quarter later, DC1 got a negative report card with a lengthy list of infractions. Another teacher also commented on the report card that DC1 had been disrupting hir class more than once. We asked DC1 about each of the items, but ze couldn’t remember any details, but did mention that ze had gotten into time out after school that day but couldn’t remember why, or even which class.
So, in theory, we sat down with DC1 and brainstormed ways to address every single one of hir infractions. For example, DC1 was to pretend that the teacher controlled an electro-magnet keeping hir rear end in the chair. No touching other students except at recess and in PE. Devoting a special folder to the problem class that ze took home and to class every single day. And so on. All of these got rewritten into an apology letter to the teacher. We also sent a parent note apologizing, explaining DC1′s list, and asking to be notified as soon as any future disruption occurred. Also we sent a book on classroom management that we’d both found helpful. A smaller apology about class disruptions went to the other teacher. In the mornings we went over the list on the drive to school every day for a week.
And things were fine for a little while. Then ze started forgetting homework assignments again. Specifically ze had cryptic assignments written in hir assignment notebook (ex. “mentos and baking soda”) and could not remember what ze was supposed to do (watch videos? bring mentos and baking soda to class?). So DH called the school to set up an appointment. Instead he got a phonecall back from the teacher. She explained that those cryptic assignments had been extra credit (since DC1 always finishes hir homework in the class), and that DC1 wasn’t so bad that a conference was necessary.
DH took DC1 in to the pedi to get hir hearing checked. Just in case. It was fine.
Then, a week later, a note requiring a parent signature came home. DC1 had caused another class disruption. After some memory prodding, ze recalled that there had been a fan on in the classroom and it was so cool talking into the fan that ze had ignored the teacher’s instructions, hadn’t gotten in hir seat, and hadn’t stopped when asked. The teacher wanted a p/t conference and left an email address. We signed the sheet and sent it back with DC1, but not in the special folder because ze has forgotten to bring it home. Several days later, I noticed that the signed sheet was still in DC1′s backpack and the special folder had still not been brought home.
We also noted that, despite REPEATED reminders and warnings from us, and multiple picking out special sesame sticks treats at the grocery store for the express purpose of being brought to snack, DC1 had stopped bringing/eating afternoon snack. The problem class in question turns out to be the last class of the day. So more brainstorming about how to remember to pack and bring a snack (this week: strawberries). Because DC1 really is a pill when ze has low blood sugar.
The last note home was a week ago. The teacher hasn’t emailed back with a time for a conference. DC1 did hand in the paper. Ze hasn’t gotten in trouble again, yet.
I ordered How to talk so kids will listen from the library, and it was not helpful, as apparently DH and I are already perfect parents. (We already do what it says to do except the parts where their codicil warnings note that some kids may be super irritated by those specific suggestions. Interestingly, I felt super irritated by their first chapter that was telling me that we did things that we do not do and felt things that I do not feel. Ironic!) In their illustrations of how to behave, we’re already the “Gallant” side. (There must be parents who are more the “Goofus” side, but just reading those depictions made me cringe.) So yay us, but completely and totally not useful for our current situation.
[Side-note: My mother says she's a bit relieved that DC1 is getting in trouble, as ze has been preternaturally good. She was a little worried there was something wrong.]
So, for the tl;dr set….
When your 7 year old starts acting like a 7 year old and is in a situation where the teacher can’t really handle 7 year olds acting like 7 year olds, and the 7 year old really wants to behave more like a 10 year old… How do you help that 7 year old listen more, respect hir teachers more, get distracted less, and remember to bring hir stuff places?
Any ideas? Because we’re out of them. Right now the best we’ve got is, “This too shall pass.” But it would be nice to be able to do more than just wait it out.