My 7-year-old son is beginning to hate school. He is impulsive and as a result, often has to sit apart from his classmates. This consequence only intensifies his behavior. I have provided suggestions on how to handle his impulsiveness, but the school’s staff will only administer the school’s policy of separation. He is not trying to be defiant, and he is now feeling like he is being punished for who he is, not for what he is doing. He feels singled out. What are my options?
This situation, if allowed to continue, will hamper his education. So you must act now to stop it from continuing. Did your son go to preschool? How was his kindergarten experience? Preschool and kindergarten are when impulsive behaviors are dealt with through redirection, teaching and practicing more appropriate responses.
Impulsive behavior is normal; we all have impulses. As we grow and develop, we learn to curb our impulses through social interaction. How other people respond to our behavior helps clue us in to whether or not that behavior is acceptable. We adjust our behavior in order to get positive reactions from those around us.
In school, the social reaction to a student’s impulsive behavior is separation from the group in the “safe seat” or “buddy room.” While there, he is missing out on classroom fun and educational instruction.
Some children do not connect their behaviors and the consequences of their behaviors very quickly. It takes administering consistent and repeated responses before a child learns that his behavior is linked to the consequences.
Your son has not made the connection yet. Perhaps he is strong-willed or stubborn, and thus it may take more time. Don’t be surprised if the behavior worsens at first. This is common but not long-lasting.
There are steps you can take to help your son with this developmental lesson. First, you must support the school’s staff and their policy on how to handle impulsive behavior. Second, find out what is occurring at school directly prior to the inappropriate behavior. Work with your son each day after school by teaching and then practicing a more acceptable behavior to use in place of his unacceptable behavior.
The goal is to teach him the necessary social skills to succeed in the classroom and wherever else life takes him. You can work on this by using a three-step approach that we call Preventive Teaching:
- Describe the positive behavior. Be very clear and demonstrate it if necessary.
- Give him a reason to do it this way. Make this reason a “kid” reason that shows him how he will benefit from doing it this way.
- Have him practice what you just taught him. Keep it brief and make it fun.
The comment about being “punished for who he is” is not likely his words, but something he heard an adult say. Kids will say whatever they need to in order for their parents to take their side and defend them, whether they are truly the victims of the situation or not.
You are not trying to change his personality. Neither is the school’s staff. The goal is to help your son succeed and be happier in an environment that he will be in for many years to come.
My older son has played soccer for three different seasons, and he has given up because he seems to be afraid of the game as well as his father’s criticism. He feels that he is not very athletic and would rather focus on academics. We feel that if we let him quit, it will adversely affect him in the future. Should we let him quit, or should we push him to play another sport?
Sometimes neither the parent nor the child knows when signing up for an activity if it will be enjoyable for the participant. Your son has played soccer for three seasons and does not seem to like it. This is not “giving up.” It is more like, “Well, I gave it a good try.”
There is a difference between quitting a team mid-season and not signing up for the next season. Being part of a team requires doing your workload, encouraging teammates, showing up for practices, etc. You can foster these strong work ethics with many activities in which he can become involved. In other words, finish out the season, but carefully consider signing up again in the future.
No child is going to perform better if the motivation is criticism. Criticism often has the opposite effect. It sounds like your son is not comfortable with this sport. Schoolwork is in his comfort zone. Since physical activity is important, ask him what sport he might like to try. It could be another team sport such as basketball or baseball, or an individual one like cross country or Taekwondo. You and your son will be happier if he is having a good time and is engaging himself in a sport he enjoys.
A friend of mine has three extremely athletic sons who excelled in sports. My friend was often their coach. His fourth son was physically awkward and could not hit a baseball to save his life. After many years of working with him, my friend finally asked his son what it was that really excited him. Robotics was the answer. They have been competing in robotics competitions ever since.
Find out what really excites your son, and embrace his unique talents.
My 13-year-old daughter has a terrible attitude about school. She shows a lack of interest, motivation and desire to be a part of the classroom. Her teachers complain that she plays with her hair more than she pays attention in class. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, so it has been difficult trying to set rules and expectations. I don't think she thinks I am serious. I need some direction on what to do. It is difficult as a working parent to know what to do. Her father agrees, but he doesn’t help because he doesn't want her to hate him.
It is not uncommon for youth with an ADHD diagnosis to come off as having a poor attitude toward school. Sometimes it's easier to give off the vibe of "I don't care" instead of just saying "I don't get it." If she is still struggling with schoolwork or if she's still having a hard time concentrating, that may be where this sort of attitude is coming from.
If she hasn't had a medication management checkup recently, we would suggest that you schedule one to assess how her current medication (dosage and type) is working for her. At 13, her body is changing, and her ADHD can change along with her. It's important to monitor that closely because medication can have a huge impact on her concentration.
If you would like to help your daughter succeed in school, consider the following suggestions. Ask about her day, visit her school, volunteer at school events and/or attend sporting events. Studies have shown that the level of parental involvement is closely tied with a child's success in school.
Focus on your daughter’s homework by establishing a central location for completing it. Make sure the workspace is clean of clutter. Try to keep the area as quiet as possible. Shut off the TV, and try to limit distractions such as phones and computers. Set aside a specific amount of time (45 to 75 minutes) for studying and homework each school night. If she struggles with concentrating for that long, you can break these up into smaller sessions. If she doesn't have homework to do, then encourage her to read a book.
Set a positive example by using this same block of time to write a grocery list or pay bills, or use it as quiet personal computer time. As parents, we encourage our children by always setting aside time for learning and reading.
My 12-year-old stepson, who lives with his father and me and has no contact with his biological mother, was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD a few months ago. At home, we mostly experience back talk and argumentative behaviors. School is a nightmare. Teachers call us or email daily that he argues and is angry with the other children, isn't organized and blames others for his actions. Even with all this he has mostly A's. Their biggest concern is his lack of social skills. I want to help him have some positive social interactions and have put him in sports. He ends up alienating himself by telling the other children how they aren’t playing right.
Parenting can be frustrating when you have a child who’s facing his own challenges with learning. He is lucky to have a stepmother who cares for him since he has no contact with his biological mother. The school and both you and dad should see eye to eye on his special needs. If his counselor has not addressed these with you, it might be a good idea to make an appointment. Educate yourselves as much as possible. There are scores of books at your library or local bookstores that offer a world of knowledge on these issues. They will give you the support and strategies to help your stepson be successful and for you to feel good about your decisions in raising him.
Here are a few things that we have found to be helpful when working with children with ADD:
- Give your son a very consistent and structured schedule. At home, things may not be as structured as his school day. Setting times for showering, homework, down time, bedtime and dinner will help him stay focused.
- Make sure you have his full attention when talking to him. Remind him to maintain eye contact with you when you are speaking to him. Make sure you reciprocate.
- Keep your instructions simple. Ask him to repeat them to ensure he understands.
- Look for patterns in his behaviors. Certain foods and lack of sleep could impact his behavior.
- Be patient. Try not to take his behaviors personally.
You mentioned that you would like to get him involved in sports. Great idea. Keep in mind that maybe a team sport is not his gig. Martial arts is a great sport for kids and adults, and your son wouldn't need to worry about anyone's actions to perform well. If you notice changes in his behavior and you have questions, call his doctor or counselor. Keep in contact with the teachers, so they understand what is going on at home.