So… a hypothetical behavior problem

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.


53 Responses to “So… a hypothetical behavior problem”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    Also we sent a book on classroom management that we’d both found helpful.

    Sending your acting-up kidde’s professional teacher a book on classroom management is a totally assey condescending move.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      I have to second what CPP said. When I read about you sending the book in the post, I thought “Ouch!” I tried to imagine how it would feel if one of my student’s parents sent me a book called “How to teach college students” — I can’t imagine it would feel good and it would take a very big person (way bigger than me) to assume good intent behind it and not take it as them telling me that I don’t know how to do my job.

      Other than that, your kid sounds like my middle one, who will turn 7 soon. Acting silly, being disruptive. He’s way ahead of his class in every aspect. I think part of the problem with kids who are advanced is that they are often perfectionists, as you’ve often written about. They are bored and everything is easy, then you challenge them and if you challenge them enough some things may not be so easy any more; that’s where they can tune out or act out, especially if there is no adult around to help (and often at school there isn’t, as they are busy helping the struggling kids). So for my kid it’s a combination of bored plus challenged but acting out the perfectionism; it’s not easy finding the right level of challenge if there is no adult around for occasional assistance.

      And being hungry, as you notice, doesn’t help. My kid is pretty tall, looks like a 4th-grader, and even though he loves school lunches, it’s simply not enough food for him, and definitely not enough protein, so he gets hungry quickly. So we are back to me packing lunches, it has made a lot of difference in his behavior.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t think I’d have minded if a parent sent me a copy of how to teach college students (especially if I spent a lot of time complaining about it) though I think I already own most of them, and most of them are only useful if you’re a white guy. But I learned that after reading them and trying them out. I wish this one had been around when I hit that rough patch teaching my second year.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We thought hard about that aspect and decided that the potential benefits were worth the potential costs. It went with a note saying that we’d found it helpful for managing classroom disruptions in our classes, even though they weren’t K-12 (which is what the book is aimed at).

      Especially since the one interaction we had with the teacher (at a Christmas function) was her complaining about the behavior (and in some cases laziness and intellectual abilities) of all of the students except our kid who was apparently on a pedestal at Christmas.

      Update: Of course, it could have been that conversation since DC1 was RIGHT THERE when she was telling us about the other students in the class. Maybe ze doesn’t want to be different.

      As for, is she a professional teacher… she has a PhD and has only recently started teaching K-12. I believe this is her second year of teaching, but it may be her first. She also adjuncts college students.

      Jeez, I wasn’t thinking nasty thoughts about the teacher before, but I am now! Maybe I should have ignored that DC1 loves the class and is learning a ton and just brought our concerns to the headmaster. Because that would have been so much better than having a growth mindset about the issue.

      • Rosa Says:

        I have a 7 year old who is in 3rd grade, but who has always been the problem child so this doesn’t apply. But as a result of his problem-childness, I am in a classroom with 3rd graders twice a week and I’ve seen a lot of them change over time.

        “Maybe ze doesn’t want to be different” was my first thought. It sounds to me like ze didn’t like being the “good kid” all the time, especially if the teacher was using her as an example at other times. 8 seems to be the year a lot of formerly angelic kids are trying out lippiness, popped collars, deliberate fouls on the basketball court, mean-girl style friend manipulations, etc. Still with an endearing mix of little kid behaviors they always had but there definitely seems to be some trying on of big-kid behaviors.

        It’s totally intensified since winter break, too. I had attributed that to our kids knowing 4th grade changes everything (they’re in a 1-3 classroom, so they’re all getting new teachers, new classmates, & harder work next year)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That really may be it. DC1 was almost supernaturally good and probably does want to fit in more. A lot of the things on the list involved socializing when ze wasn’t supposed to be socializing and causing class disruptions. There’s definitely an increase in wanting attention at home too.

        I hadn’t really thought about that aspect until this morning, but pointing it out, it makes sense.

  2. OMDG Says:

    Perhaps DC1 is picking up on your relative lack of respect for this teacher and acting out in part because of that.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good grief. No, we don’t have lack of respect for the teacher. However, of all the teachers, kids get into trouble in her class the most in hir class and in many cases only in her class. Like we said, it’s one of hir favorite classes and has had zero problems for 3/4 of the year.

  3. Alyssa Says:

    I’ve heard that (along with 3.5 and 14) 7 is one of the hardest ages for kids. Moxie at AskMoxie has written a lot about this age. Here are a couple of posts:

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hm, reading that makes me feel blessed. We’re not really having problems with moodiness, just forgetfulness, not listening, distractibility, and the occasional trying to be funny in ways that are obnoxious (“Don’t be like Big Nate! Be like Francis!” I think silently). Perhaps the moodiness is still to come…

  4. MidA Says:

    Would it help to talk to DC1 about the true consequences of misbehavior? I.e. You may not be able to stay in the class that you love if you are distracting the other students.

  5. Leah Says:

    As a teacher who has taught a wide variety of ages and struggled with some . . .

    1. I completely admire and respect you for wanting to work with DC1 directly, because we can’t always have ideal situations.
    2. This teacher sounds engaging, interactive, and completely overwhelmed. The not checking with a student for a signed paper is a bit galling (especially when I teach young kids, but even with my high schoolers, I preemptively ask about things if I know I’m expecting a permission slip, pre-absence form, etc). Even if the teacher is good, perhaps the teacher has a lot on her plate what with adjuncting too.
    3. I’d email the teacher and suggest some conference times. Then, have a super open mind at the conference. You can’t change her nor your kid, per se, so at this point it’s managing expectations. Will DC1 have this teacher again? If not, I’d do the best you can to keep things manageable and not move mountains. If yes, I’d put in much more work.

    I will say, I’d find a book on professional development a bit galling. I see why you did it, but that’s a rough one. I’ve had some issues this year with a student and grading, and her mother is an administrator. Dad finally intervened in support of me during a conference when mom started to get a bit heated about my grading method (holistic, assessment-based, geared toward corrections, and VERY high expectations — her kid was receiving more challenging in my class than I think she ever had). Hard work and lots of communication back and forth has been successful in getting the kid to perform on the level she wants to be at, and I’ve seen good improvement. In contrast, last year, another admin parent had a daughter with a behavior issue. She basically blamed me and stopped returning phone calls, so the issues never got resolved.

    In short, I’d encourage good communication, a two-way street, and work from both ends (you and the teacher). If this doesn’t resolve with concerted effort, then I’d elevate the discussion to the headmaster (or department chair if applicable). It sounds like you’re working really well to solve this issue, and you just need to add the teacher component.

    Not all teachers are meant to teach all ages. The best advice I got when picking a grade level: some grades make you want to go home and drink, and some grades make you want to go home and make even better lessons. Pick wisely.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Why would you find a book galling? Especially if this is your first or second year teaching a specific group level (and you’ve complained about the problem)? Personally, I wouldn’t, nor would DH. If I’m having trouble with something, then I want to know how to fix it. I think the exact phrase we used was “helpful for moderating classroom disruptions.” Something like that.

      Anyway, she didn’t seem to be upset, thanked DH for it on the phone that one time and talked more about the troubles she was having teaching so many different age levels, since she does grades 3/4, high school, and college, all in the same week. They briefly commiserated about students and teaching in general.

      DH tried to set up an appointment to talk with her by email more recently when she requested one after DC1 talked into the fan, but she never responded. That was a week ago. He said he called yesterday in case she missed the email but she never called back. When he did talk to her on the phone previously, she’d completely forgotten that she’d written not turning in assignments was a problem for DC1, and she said DC1 was nowhere near as bad as the other students in that respect.

      • Leah Says:

        I think I’d feel challenged if a parent was telling me how to manage my classroom, because classroom management is a skill, but it’s also a really individual skill. It certainly does sound like the teacher needs help with classroom management, but I think my response to the book would really depend on my relationship with the parent. As in my example, if I had received that book from the admin mom who accused me of being a disrespectful teacher (and said her daughter was an angel), I would have been livid.

        I’d keep trying to contact the teacher if you’re truly worried about this. But this also sounds like it could be an isolated issue that DC just needs to get through, especially if DC1 won’t have this teacher again. Go with your gut — if you’ve done enough, in your mind, just let it go. I’d be much, much more worried if this was a consistent problem DC1 has across all classrooms. This is not to excuse any behavior issues, but there’s only so much you can do from afar, especially when DC1 is fine with you and with most teachers. You’ve already done a lot to work with DC1, so it’s not like you’re not dealing with the issue.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I want to make it clear that we weren’t telling her how to manage her classroom. We gave her a book that we had found helpful for moderating classroom disruptions which has dozens of tips and techniques (and notes in the intro that teachers can pick and choose what works for them– they don’t have to do all 75 or however many techniques). We did not contact her boss. We did not tell her she was disrespectful. We did not tell her DC1 was an angel. The book came along with a lengthy apology for DC1’s behavior from DC1 and a somewhat shorter one from us.

        DC1 is still forgetting things with us and is still easily distracted with us and still tries to be funny in often irritating ways, but I think most of the other teachers are better able to re-focus, re-direct, remind, and are just more used to normal little kid behavior, so it doesn’t provoke lengthy complaints.

        I don’t think it’s just the teacher, because DC1 needs to learn to respect people better, but this particular teacher reacts to it more than the other teachers do, and she doesn’t have that arsenal of tactics that the other teachers have built up to get kids back in their seats and following instructions. Hir Math and English teacher, for example, has decades of experience and DC1 says nobody ever gets in trouble in her class (or hardly ever).

  6. Cloud Says:

    To be honest, I think it is just an age-related phase. My pediatrician has this cool chart in one of her rooms that shows what sort of emotional development is going on at each age, and I remember looking at the info for age 7 and thinking “oh boy, that’s going to be fun.” I can’t remember the details (which is a good thing- it means that Petunia doesn’t get sick as much as she used to, so I haven’t been to the pediatrician in ages!) but I think it was about defiance and moodiness. I wish I could get a copy of that thing.

    Pumpkin tends to hit these emotional phases about 4 months early, and yeah… the last four months have seen a real uptick in defiance/talking back, getting distracted from what she’s supposed to be doing, yelling at us and storming off to her room to slam the door, etc. We’ve even heard that she’s had her clip on the behavior chart moved down more than once- which is way out of character for her (she is big into following the rules). If this phase is like the earlier developmental leap phases, we probably have another couple months and then she’ll be back to “normal.”

    I don’t have any ideas about how to fix the problem you have. We always just keep correcting the behavior as normal and just wait for the phase to pass. I really struggle with what the “right” way to handle these leaps is- on one hand, I am sympathetic because there’s a lot going on in her brain, and it is no wonder that her behavior suffers a bit. On the other hand, I figure that one of the things that she’s supposed to be doing during childhood is learning behavioral norms, so we have to keep telling her what we expect. So it is just a hard phase for everyone.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 seems to always be late with the phases (and they tend to be short, which is a blessing), so that would match up.

      Ze has been as good as gold this week and spent all of yesterday between getting home and bed working on an extra credit assignment for that class. So who knows, maybe it’s passed already.

      I do wish we still had the color chart for behavior, and the every day information about that color and what the infractions were. It’s really hard to address things when we don’t know they’re happening or when we know *something* happened but DC1 can’t remember what it was. Of course, that just opens us up to criticism about grade-skipping, but until recently every one of hir teachers said ze was the best behaved in class and ze never got in trouble. (And misbehavior definitely happens when DC1 gets bored. Otherwise ze would never get stuck in chair slats.)

      • Revanche Says:

        I just had this exact conversation yesterday with a friend whose 5.5 year old started this phase a few months ago: previously a generally good kid, she’s been having huge outbursts, overreacting to disappointment and being told No or to do what she’s always done before. Friend went to a child development therapist and has been trying things like sending DC1 to cooldown, or to the Being Upset tent, when the meltdowns start. She’s seen some improvement but we’re also really hoping this will pass in a few months.

    • Leah Says:

      Have you ever read Yardsticks? I think that’s the title. It’s meant for teachers, but I find it really useful in general. I used it a lot when teaching camp to pre-K through 6th (not in the same camp, thankfully). It’s all about what sort of behaviors and abilities to generally expect at different ages.

  7. anandar Says:

    Well, I think “this too shall pass” is as good of advice as you’re gonna get.

    But, since I cannot resist an invitation to opine on parenting dilemmas, I’ll ask: has DC1 been getting enough physical exercise, and outdoor time? My nephew had similar issues at a similar age, and what my sister found really worked was getting lots of outdoor time (not just on a play structure, but in a wooded park). She was not a SAHM or homeschooler, so there was no perfect solution, but she did change her choices about aftercare and summer camp.

    IMO kids, even the really “good” kids who enjoy school work, often don’t get to move their bodies and be in nature enough, and it sometimes has a detrimental effect on behavior.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That is an excellent question. We’re not really sure. The main problem class is definitely at far removed from recesses as the last class of the day (on 2 or 3 days/week).

      Ze did put on hir list (that ze gave to the teacher with the apology) that when ze feels squiggly to (raise hir hand and) ask the teacher if they can take a break to do jumping jacks.

      • Liz Says:

        Excellent option. Research is showing negative impacts of removing/reducing recess (don’t get me started) because of the energy levels of young children. They really do need to get it out before they can pay attention to lessons. In high school I interned at a Headstart (pre-K, so aged 3-4 years) program. One of the children was definitely a problem kid for not paying attention, being disruptive, etc. So I had him stand in a corner with his hands on his head, then do some jumping jacks. It was a punishment, yes, but I was trying to make it useful – “you obviously have too much energy, kid, so let’s fix that before we go back to the lesson.” Other than his, ahem, enthusiasm, he was eager to please and to learn. Just needed to figure out how to channel that appropriately while in a fixed/dictated environment.

      • bogart Says:

        I had pretty much the same thought. In thinking about it and reading your post and comments here, and some other recent ones, I see DC1 going to school and doing extra credit assignments, and playing computer games, and playing the piano. Of course you’ve not set out to give us a time log of DC’s day and it’s likely the list isn’t exhaustive — but I’m not seeing the soccer games, or the jump rope squad, or the biking, or the hiking, or the swim team. Maybe adding one of those kinds of things in as a regular part (or an additional regular part if some are already there) of most days would help. And could (depending on structure) provide another social outlet, which might help address some of the other motives for misbehaving in school.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The private school has recesses, PE, and after school playing (in the gym or at the playground). As we’ve said before we make sure that DC1 gets at least an hour of exercise every day (usually at the park on weekends) or ze gets unruly. If you search for biking and swimming you should be able to find the posts on those topics (they’re also about overcoming perfectionism). And it’s four-square, not jump rope that’s in at the school.

      • bogart Says:

        Ah, sounds good. It always astounds me how much energy my LO has, sounds like yours is similarly situated!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Another benefit of private school is that they didn’t take recess away to make time for standardized test teaching.

  8. chacha1 Says:

    The thing that stood out to me was this: “and also mentos and coke are involved”

    I immediately thought, the kid may have too much sugar/sugar regulation issues. Maybe high-protein snacks could be packed along instead of sugary things like strawberries.

    Second thought after reading the comments is, since the worst behavior is in the class with the inexperienced teacher, my guess is that at least 50% of it may be the teacher not knowing how to really cope with a seven-year-old who has some 15-yr-old mental capabilities but is still emotionally 7. I sure as shit wouldn’t know what to do.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      There’s two of them in the class! (DC1’s best friend is like half a year older, and, as of Christmas, behaved almost as well as DC1.) There’s also a kid with developmental delays and a kid who is “just lazy and her parents don’t care” (or so we heard at the Christmas function, though if her parents don’t care I wonder why they’re paying for an academically focused private school).

      So a really wide range. It’s hard in a class of 8 students, and must be impossible for public school teachers with their groups of 20-40.

      p.s. the coke and mentos isn’t for eating: . IIRC the glycemic load of strawberries isn’t too bad. I haven’t had problems with them, anyway. The trail mix we used to send with DC1 for snack (that ze would pick out hirself at the grocery store) would just get old and uneaten … better to eat something healthy at snack time than nothing.

      • Perpetua Says:

        When I first read the “mentos and coke” comment, I was tired and for some reason thought that you were making aside that this is how the *teacher* keeps her energy up – you know, with sugar and cocaine. Then I was like, um, that doesn’t sound right, and re-read, and realized you were talking about a science experiment! Gave me a chuckle, though.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hahaha, no, specifically diet coke. Diet Coca Cola. No drugs!

      • Leah Says:

        Sometimes I find smaller classes more difficult to manage than larger ones! With 20some kids, there’s a group mentality, and if you can get most of them, one is usually pretty good with management. A lot of the kids in a larger group will police each other. In my biggest class here (18), I’m always sad when one boy is gone because he is a year older than the others. He doesn’t hesitate to remind the other boys when they start to get out of line during group work.

        With 8, two or three kids being a bit wiggly can sometimes set off everyone.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    In Star Trek land, this means an alien has taken over DC1. An alien which you then trained on how to blend in. But then ze stopped blending which means the first alien was not accomplishing hir mission and so was replaced by a second alien.

    You need to find the alien’s weak spots and trick it into leaving DC1, preferably in some way that shows the aliens that DC1 is not a suitable vessel for any of their kind.

  10. becca Says:

    I’m teaching a swimming class where I have one six year old in with my ten year olds in an intermediate level class. They are supposedly ability grouped, but the 6 yo really can’t keep up, and is obviously not as emotionally mature. However, the 6 year old IS a fine swimmer and listener *for a 6 yo*. He would likely be more challenging in the next class down, he’s better when he is busy. And I’ve got 4 kids in the class, so I can often take the time to adjust for him. Everybody is progressing. His report card does note a lot more social and skill areas for improvement than other kids. He is objectively the worst behaved kid in that class. This is not the same as me thinking of him as a bad kid. He’s actually reasonable, and responds very well to certain aspects of challenges. Is your DC1 exactly like that? Probably not, but teachers can identify problem behavior in students that will not be quickly fixed by a clever intervention. And still like the kid.

    Ultimately, I think what tends to be gratifying for me about teaching younger kids is seeing how quickly they progress. With older kids, how they are to interact with as people matters more. While I see why you are worried, as long as DC1 is progressing, ze doesn’t have to be the most teacher-enjoyed kid in every class. In many ways, its good to experience different roles in class (one advantage of having different teachers for different subjects).

  11. oil_garlic Says:

    I definitely think DC1 is trying to fit in with peers; maybe ze has noticed that a loud disruptive kid that is popular and gets attention.

    • Donna Freedman Says:

      That was my take on it, too: If DC1 is younger than the rest, ze may feel it necessary to prove coolness/fitinability to the other kids.
      Or maybe it is just blood sugar, or just a stage (i.e., “I have more to say and want to be myself vs. the preternaturally good kid everyone thinks I am”) that will even out once ze realizes there are plenty of acceptable and respectful ways to be an individual.

  12. Jay Says:

    Very very frustrating. Sounds like the kid doesn’t see it as a problem, which makes it much much harder to address. We’ve talked with our daughter about the need to “play the game” with certain teachers – do what they ask even when it doesn’t make sense and even when it’s unnecessarily strict and arbitrary. Sometimes you just have to keep your head down until the year ends.

    And I had the same reaction to “Talking So Kids Will Listen”. I think it’s good advice. I also think the cartoons are a bit – well.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 does see the problems and wants to behave very much. Your advice sounds very much like the kind my mom gave us, and that we may end up giving DC2, but doesn’t really fit for DC1. (Ze takes after hir father.)

  13. First Gen American Says:

    Mine is the same age and this year he has chronically been forgetting homework at school when he never did before.

    Our issue has been more about not doing work during the school day and not finishing work on time…preferring to doodle or do other things. He’s finally doing fine but the first half of the year was a struggle. (Part of it was a new school, but part of it was the lack of consequences..the teachers were giving him extra time and the more time he had, the more he would procrastinate. And he would do 0 when a sub was in class. Creating harsher consequences for not behaving was ultimately the solution. We took away anything he enjoyed during non school hours until things were back in line.

    We also talked a lot about what everyone’s job is in the family and the minimum expectations that need to be met per person. I actually walked the kid through the scenario of what would happen if I decided I didn’t want to do my job anymore. I had him walk through what our life would be like if I stopped getting income and doing any kind of housework. At first, he’s like, well, I know how to do laundry so no big deal. but then when we got into how are you going to pay for the house and the electricity bill and food without a job, he started to get that it is important that everyone pull their weight or disaster will ensue.

    Good luck. It does sound like normal kid stuff for that age that will pass once they understand the consequences of their actions. Most kids will realize it’s a lot better to behave most of the time than to be punished constantly.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      YES. It is forgetting and dawdling (and not paying attention) and getting distracted. If your kid is doing it too, it really must be just a phase.

      We actually did take away computer games on school nights and that seemed to help with the dawdling and getting distracted and not doing chores at home. (Ze would claim to be done with chores and then it would turn out ze had “forgotten” about homework until I looked in the assignment notebook or the next morning would come and ze wouldn’t have a lunch. Ze remembers when there aren’t games to play.)

      • First Gen American Says:

        Computer games during week nights are a disaster. I sometimes weaken when my husband is out of town and it always ends up a hot mess. I find for my son, it is his way to escape when his is going through emotional/social issues. what he really needs is to face whatever is troubling him and figure out some coping mechanisms rather than lose himself in a game and forget his worries.

        I am also glad to hear the distracted forgetful thing is related to age too. He says all the other kids finish their work quickly but I sometimes forget he is one of the younger kids in his grade (he just made the cutoff). probably most of his class did the whole distracted thing in second grade so it’s not an apples to apples comparison just looking at his peers. On a positive note, he did win the science fair for his grade this week and that got him supercharged.

  14. Ana Says:

    I didn’t really have any advice to give (not a teacher, no children that age), but reading all this makes me feel like a pretty mediocre parent, since I actually did find the advice in “How to talk…” useful. I can see us falling into the “Goofus” side pretty frequently when we get frustrated by our boys’ perpetually challenging behavior. Its easy to be “Gallant” when they are behaving reasonably OK, but after a while of bad behavior we both tend to lose our heads. Small steps…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You shouldn’t feel like a mediocre parent! And it’s great that you found the book useful.

      I’m an easily irritated person when I have low blood-sugar, and we both get a little snappish when we’re doing solo-parenting. DH though is an incredibly calming presence, and generally nothing seems to ruffle or phase him (ex. kitten peeing on the bed 3x a week? It happens, we just have to clean it up, and one of these days we’ll figure out which one it is so we can take it to the vet). That helps a lot because he’s good at deescalating things.

      What seems to help more is DC1 taking after DH– ze has just always been pretty mellow, cautious, and happy, for the most part. DC2 is already much more of a handful. A delightful handful, but definitely a handful.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      p.s. One thing that bugs both DH and me about a lot of these parenting books is that they have no basis on research or even on lengthy anecdotal evidence (like you get from a forum). There really is no one way to parent and not everything will work with all kids (I was surprised to see this book admitting that up-front! Most don’t!) We know from science, possibly the kind that you do, that mother nature hedges her bets and kids flourish in all kinds of situations and some flourish more in situations where other kids flourish less. So… in short, your kids will no doubt be AOK. Of course, anything positive that helps bring sweet sweet quiet time is worth trying!

  15. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    DH met with DC1’s teacher for the problem class. She said that DC1 has been behaving perfectly for the last two weeks. When asked, ze said ze hadn’t read DC1’s full apology letter, just the top part to see it was an apology so ze didn’t know what DC1 was trying to do to behave better. She also said that DC1 was generally really well-behaved for a third grader and was better behaved than most of the other kids. She and DH discussed whether the problems were wanting attention (the teacher’s theory) or having an obnoxious sense of humor and being easily distracted by it (DH’s theory). They chatted for an hour, mostly not about DC1.

    Then DH got a phone call to pick DC1 up from school early because ze had tripped and was bleeding profusely from hir mouth. Hir two top teeth look TERRIBLE, but fortunately they’re baby teeth. Ze is currently holed up on the couch watching cartoons, having consumed the Jamba Juice smoothie DH got hir. We’re discussing mushy food options for the next day or so.

    • chacha1 Says:

      hadn’t read the full letter?! how long would it have taken??

    • Rosa Says:

      oh no, poor DC1!

      I’m glad at least the school stuff has been better. THat was sure a short disruptive phase.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hopefully it’s over… One never knows about these things.

        DC1 is a really good kid who wants to follow rules and wants to do the right thing. If we’d known when the bad behavior started, we’d have been able to talk about it sooner and it might have stopped earlier. Who knows.

      • hush Says:

        Glad the situation has improved! I have a theory about “rule-follower” kids (like my first child – small sample size alert) in the specific context of an overall decent but sometimes less than stellarly-managed classroom, particularly with a teacher who also possibly under-communicates with parents (yes, you’ve just described my son’s teacher from last year) — sometimes the rule-followers also like to try on some of the misbehaviors they see their classmates getting away with. Then they somehow get rewarded for it (with negative attention? with peer approval? the fun of experimentation? who knows?) I, too, can’t help but see this as a classroom mgmt issue, and as such, I applaud you for giving the teacher your favorite book on the subject.

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