Thursday, October 3, 2013

Soliciting Help

Well, the weekend is nearly here, and I've never felt so ready.  If you were stopping by here for a witty anecdote, I'm afraid I'm out.  But instead, I'm hoping you can help me.

As a parent, how do you respond when your child is misbehaving, but you're not present to see it or respond accordingly?  My sweet Cael, who we all know to be "spirited" even on his mellowest day, shocked us at the beginning of the school year by receiving glowing reviews for his behavior and kind treatment of others.  His kindness was no surprise, but we were going through a behavioral slump at home, and frustrated as I was by his acting out, I stated several times that if it was going to happen, I was grateful it was happening at home and not at school.

Well, the pendulum hath swung.

Not only did it swing in Graham's direction, leaving me grasping my hair at the root and wishing there was a dash of rum in that Walmart apple cider, but it swung Cael's behavior around as well.  I was so relieved that he was taking our talks to heart that I hadn't even considered how his actions had shifted at school as well.

Until, that is, the emails started coming. 

To be fair, let me interject that these are typical Kindergarten offenses: name-calling, fake-fighting that goes a bit too far, etc., but all are not in line with the boy I know or the behavior we expect of him at school or anywhere else.  My sun still rises and sets on his smile.

Should Cael read this blog someday, and I pray he does (preferably right around the time his son enrolls in Kindergarten), I hope we'll laugh about these moments and he can share what in the world he was thinking.  Because last night, as I tucked him in after a long and very trying conversation about his latest infraction, I felt lost.

How do you change behavior you don't see?

How can discipline have an effect on a child that seems perpetually unfazed?

How do I reinforce his good behaviors without seeming indifferent to his offenses?

How do I fold a fitted sheet so that it isn't twice as bulky as the flat one?

Sorry.  It's been a long week.

So parenting veterans, you're up.  Got any suggestions, or examples, or simply want to commiserate?  Got an iron and a few clothespins?  Bring 'em on.  Because I'm in over my head, and open to suggestions.  And if you see my boy around town, share your thoughts with him after you've reminded him how much he is loved.

Cael, that is.  Graham's not available right now.  That's what happens when you try to paint the dog...


  1. I read in a Parenting with Love and Logic book that you should let the school take care of the problems at school. I have followed that advice and it has worked for us. I offer empathy when they get in trouble at school and have to miss recess, but that is it from me. Unless it becomes a problem for me, ie the teacher calling or emailing me. But that has only happened once. Our school is a charter school and they are a pretty strict school and they take care of behavioral problems right away and always have consequences- for good and bad behavior. I know of other schools that don't do much for discipline and just turn to the parents to correct the behavior. I'm not sure what I would do if that were the case for us.

    The one time I got a call about my son was when he and another boy got into a little fight on the playground and had hit each other. I had my son write an apology note to the administrator and do some chores to pay me back for the time it took me to handle that problem.

    I like this method because they don't get a double dose of discipline, something at school and then at home. It helps them to respect and listen to their teachers. I also like that it helps our relationship. I can be sad for them when they tell me of their mistakes and consequences but I don't have to get mad. I have enough things to battle about with them for the time they are at home!! I know this might not work for all families, but it has been a huge relief and a help for us. Good luck! It's always hard to have the world see the not so good side of our kids.

    PS- as for the fitted sheet: lay the sheet on the bed or the floor. Have the top corners turned right side out and the bottom corners inside out. Fold the bottom up to the top and tuck the bottom corners into the top corners and then you can fold it and it will be flatter! I think I saw that on Martha Stewart years and years ago!

  2. Oh boy. I can totally commiserate with you. I really like what Lori said, I don't know how Cael's school operates though, and depending on what types of behavior(s) are being displayed. Sometimes though if you can explain exactly how/what way their behavior affects the people around them at school, other than what they did was wrong. Like when they are misbehaving they are interfering with their teacher being able to do their job, etc... I hope that helps some. Hang in there

  3. I hate to be the voice of dissent here, but when I taught pre-k, the children with behavioral issues improved the most when their parents were willing to and proactive about working with me. Typically that meant meeting with me to come up with an action plan that worked for everyone. Each plan was unique, but a lot of them involved a committment on my end to keep the parent informed of the child's behavior every day (good or bad) by sending home a note or chatting with the parent for a few minutes when they picked up the child, and the parents committed to following up with the child each evening by praising them for the good days and holding them accountable for the bad ones.

    Over time, I found that what made it effective was: (1) the child knew that his/her parents and I were communicating daily, which made him/her less inclined to try to get away with bad behavior at school, and (2) the child loved receiving praise from his/her parents for behaving well at school. In other words, the plans were less about the disincentive of double punishment, and more about the incentive of double praise.

    In my view, even minor behavioral problems were worth an action plan if the parents were on board so we could nip those behaviors in the bud before they got out of hand. But if Cael's teachers don't think it's necessary, another alternative is to familiarize yourself with his teacher's daily behavioral accountability system (when we were little, it was the "pull your card" system, but as you probably know, today's teachers have a variety of methods).

    If you know how the system works, when you pick him up you can look at his "card" (or whatever) to see how he did, or ask him to tell you how he did. Again, if you do it daily, and praise on the good days and hold accountable on the bad, his behavior will *hopefully* improve. By "hold him accountable," I mean however you'd hold him accountable for bad behavior at home. Hope that helps!


Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.