Recent Posts

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kids and Coping Skills

My son did not want to go to school today, which is completely uncharacteristic of him. We talk about his day after he comes home, and nothing came up last night. Until this morning at breakfast. The whining prevailed, the sluggish demeanor that says "I am stalling so I won't have to go!" and I asked what was up. He finally told all over a bowl of Rice Krispies.

"At recess.....(long pause, mumbling)...some kids were tying to hit me with a basketball."


"Some seventh graders."

"Was it an accident? Did they do it on purpose? What did they do?"

"They... (mumble mumble).... I turned around and they tried to hit me on the head. Twice."

"How do you know it was an accident if you weren't looking?"

Big pause.

After he stalled some more, I informed him of his options: Tell them to stop, and/or tell a teacher if it wasn't an accident. I added, bluntly, that we were not paying thousands of dollars a year to send him to a private school if he didn't want to go.


I hate to be too "tough love" but sometimes I think it teaches my son better coping skills. Some candy coating is necessary; I mean, he is only 6. But, in my opinion, too much does not teach them how to deal with situations that come up on a daily basis.

Once we got to the bus stop, I explained to the mom (one of the parents I mentioned in the spanking post) what was going on. She said her son (we'll call him S) gets upset when the class has a substitute. He also freaks out when mom forgets to pack milk money, because it means he has to go up and ask an adult for help and get milk.

I'm thinking, "Wow. My kids are totally not like that." Yeah, like I blathered on about in my last post, every kid is different. Timid is something my children have never been. I wondered how S's mom helped him resolve his inner conflict? About getting up the nerve to ask for a milk because he forgot his money? How is he learning how to cope with his intense fear of social situations?

Then S's mom went on to say that R's mom (the other mom I mentioned in my spanking post) was having trouble with her daughter, too. Apparently difficult social situations at school that revolve around lunchtime and outdoor recess once a week are making things hard for R to deal with. So R's mom was diligently picking her up once a week - sanctioned by the school, of course - as an alternative.

I was kind of horrified inside. I already know the difficulty R's mother has in saying no, and just encouraging her daughter to face her problem. I said this to S's mom: "Well, we try to teach our kids to face their problems, rather than running away from them," which wasn't really in response to either of S's or R's moms' situations, but rather my own. I wasn't trying to say she was wrong, but absentmindedly just telling her what we did in those situations. I told my son that morning that chances are, those kids were playing and it was an accident, and it might never happen again. I did not want him to be afraid to go to school because of one isolated incident. And if it happened again, he definitely needed to say something.

It all reminds me of the 'helicopter mom' trend or the current problem among some parents who want their kids to be winners, even when they aren't. The "everyone's a winner!" philosophy has caused some to question how these parents are teaching their kids to deal with not being first, with competition and how to cope with loss.

It reminded me how one of my husband's students last year, a senior, would be whisked away from campus by his mother (waiting in the driveway of his dorm in the family minivan) every single day for some activity or other. It bothered me because her enabling was essentially robbing him of being an independent young man, who should be experiencing the full range of activities that defined him as a boarding school student. Not only that, but she never wanted the school to be too hard on her son and demand too much of him (which, thankfully, my husband and the administration just smiled and nodded to). Not only that, but his parents were paying over $30,000 a year for what - to pick him up and entertain him for a few hours? Plus gas for a 45-minute (one way) trip? What the heck?

My husband contends that, if sometimes our kids are unhappy, we must be doing our jobs. We are not striving to be our kids' friends, or extract them from every difficult social situation and come to their rescue all the time. I figure, sometimes we don't have a choice but to make our children do something they don't want to, and they need to learn, through us, how to cope with that. How to deal with not always feeling comfortable or getting their way on everything. Part of establishing my son's independence and growing up came with riding the bus by himself in the mornings and afternoons (he switches buses in the morning, which really worried me - but he did great!). I fear that constantly changing or bending the rules teaches them little of these skills, if only to perhaps enable them to grow accustomed to being catered to. Sometimes you do have to pick your battles, but some things are just non-negotiable.

I often think if we gave our kids half a chance to deal with things on their own, instead of metaphorically cutting and chewing their food for them to buffer them from disappointment, grief and loss, they would do just fine.


Anonymous said...

ok... I haven't read the whole post or the post before this one, but whenever I read anything about children not wanting to go to school specially at a very young age (6 y.o.) I think "why don't you keep your child at home and homeschool him?" It's just like a homebirth type of thing...why do you need interventions when you can teach your child how to talk, how to eat, walk should be able to keep him at home and teach the other necessary skills and enjoy the most precious years of his/ her life??!!!! ok..I am ranting.... just food for thought. I will come back later and read the rest of the post and the one before this one. Got to go change diapers now and see the house my other 3 children (7 y.o.and under) are building with some old card boxes. :) yes, I homeschool.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I don't know that I would homeschool just based on one isolated incident. We send our child to a private school that gets very good ratings, and thankfully we can afford to do so. While I admire those who homeschool, I don't know how we'd do at it - three busy, crazy kids and one frazzled mom who needs that downtime during the day or I would go nuts. I know I wouldn't get that if they were here all the time, and I think they would suffer for it.

If there is a reason a child doesn't want to go to school, I would rather get down to the bottom of it first before considering removing them from the system entirely. To me, again, that seems like you're running away from something. If it's bullying, bad teachers, a poor curriculum, it depends on the situation. A few parents I know homeschool because their local school district really stinks.

Otherwise, my son loves school and makes friends very easily. He is well-behaved at school and his teacher gives him glowing reviews. LOL We know that, for now, it's the right fit for him. But our local public school would not have been, and I am grateful, again, that we can afford the alternative.

Anonymous said...

ok I am back. I read your post and also read the post about spanking. I agree with you on the spanking issue. I think that there is a place for it and it depends on the child.
As for the homeschooling comment... here are some of the reasons we homeschool:
- keep our children safe from bullies, being exposed too early to issues like sex, bad language, bad behavior, progressive agendas, pagan doctrines;
- keep them from being conformed to a box (school is a system used to make everyone think and do things the same way);
- freedom to spend more time with our children and let them learn what they like and at their pace without pressure. WE practice unschooling.
- to teach and train them according to our faith, to teach and train them on life skills like: cooking, helping around the house, family life, work, play... real life does not happen in a classroom with 20-30 children all the same age group.
- being able to directly participate in what they are seeing, learning, reading... really being a direct influence and authority over their life.

I could list more things but these will do for now. I agree that we need to teach our children not to run away from things and face their challenges head on. However a 6y.o. is not ready to face a 13 y.o. who is trying to provoke or hurt him. A 6 y.o. in most cases does not have the ability to defend their case with words. Your own child had difficulty talking to you about what happened in school. You are his mother, it shouldn't be a problem. He shouldn't have been timid or ashamed of sharing with you what happened. But somehow bullying (whatever kind mild or really brutal) robs us of our value, of our confidence.

I have kept my children at home from birth, my oldest is 7y.o. and my youngest is a couple months old. I have 4 children. I have seen them fighting or provoking each other and they will defend themselves. But for some reason if a stranger would do the same as their sibling do they would be without action. If a stranger attacks you (physically, emotionally, verbally) it throws you off. No matter what age you are. One does not expect or foresee a stranger being uncivilized. When it happens we call the police, we call for help. Why is it that we want our children to act differently? If someone is attacking them at school we want them to ignore it, or talk to the offender nicely. I think we are asking our children to fend for themselves at an age that we are supposed to be protecting them.

I am not against you and I understand about needing time to oneself, but for us there will be time for that later. Right now it's time to care for my babies.

I don't know if you are a Christian. But for us, we sought the Lord and we are doing what we believe it's His will for us.

I never thought I would have this many children or that I would be a housewife, mother, teacher and all the other hats I use 24/7 everyday of my life. In my weakness He is made strong and He equips me.

I appreciate your blog and the open communication you provide here. I really enjoy reading your thoughts and findings on child birthing and mothering.

Again, I hope to have given you an opportunity to consider and read more on things you hadn't thought about. :) But you can disagree and take a different route, for you know best what is good for you and your family. :)

PS. I was proof reading my comment and read your post on the Duggars and I saw this "How can they get any alone time? They can't, just like I can't with my husband and I only have three kids."

I disagree. LOL I think they do find alone time, they got 19 kids to proof. :) I heard Michelle once say that they have a date night once a week. They have had his Mom live close by and help them since the beginning of their marriage. They are lucky like that!!! :)

anyway... :)

The Deranged Housewife said...

Just off the top of my head ... it's early, and I've just brewed the coffee. :)

I wouldn't say my son was afraid to tell me ... it was just his natural way of "processing,"? I think that sometimes takes awhile. :D Sometimes he has a hard time getting to the point because of being distractible or whatever else is going on - typical six year old stuff. However, I asked him again how it went that day, and he told me they were nice and he told them to stop, and they apologized. He then added, "Yeah, me and so and so were just under the hoop playing catch..." I said, "Wait a minute, you were standing under the hoop? No wonder you got hit in the head!" LOL So, the truth comes out. :)

We are not Catholic, but he does go to a Catholic school. I wanted the religious instruction (yes, we are Christians) but the other Baptist school is too far, in my opinion, for me to serve there and be close to my other kids. My youngest is only a year, and I have to get my 3-y.o. to preschool, so it would never work out since they don't bus to that school.

our choice to send him there was because our local school district is particularly shrouded in liberalism. Being a artsy-fartsy LOL suburb of a large city, they are known for certain things like yes, their art - and practically worshipping the man who brought it to their community over 100 years ago, who believed in an open marriage. Disgusting. There is even a quote of his (misconstrued Bible passage_) of his on the school entrance, which told me right away my son would NOT being going to this school.

As far as school and social situations, I think sometimes we are afraid of things that might never happen. It depends on where you live, the personalities of your kids and how you teach them to resolve conflict. Ignoring them - not giving them the attention they want and seek - often makes them stop. Or you can 'kill them with kindness,' another approach. Also, I told my son, there are even adult bullies - people who act like children even though they are grown ups - and once you are an adult, you can't run and hide from them anymore. They are in the workplace, in social situations, even in your CHURCH. They are everywhere.

One thing we did do was cancel cable (we don't even do basic antenna). Certainly cut the fighting, mildly bad language and other negative influences down to practically zero.

A lot of your personal philosophy sounds like the Waldorf School without the classroom. :) We did look into one of those, and it was somewhat appealing until you got to 'religious' practices. They seem to be into a lot of earth worship type stuff, which turned us off immediately. We do the cooking/sewing/crafts thing at home, but right now my kids aren't interested much in learning how to use the sewing machine (they're a little young). I let them help cook when it's appropriate and have told my son that 'even boys know how to sew.' :P

Your comment about 'alone time' is interesting, though. I don't necessarily mean sex. To me, and my husband, yes, it's an important part of marriage, but it's peripheral, almost. Alone time can mean time to finish projects, take a mental health day, get some shopping done without little ones for once and just do something alone. My husband gets a lot of it (hmm....) by going into the woods to hike, hunt, etc. I don't think I should be any exception, just because "I'm just the mom." You need to read my blog post "Validation" to see where I'm coming from on that. :D

Thanks for reading and leaving comments - I appreciate it and I'm thrilled that I've touched someone's life somehow! It's been nice connecting with you. :)

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying our chat. I think if we lived close we would be good friends. :)

About the alone time, validation post...yes, I understand. i know what you mean about alone time. I am a crafter and I crave alone time. Uninterrupted time to think without little voices asking me for juice, alone time to glue paper without having to stop. :) yes, it's not about sex. It's about uninterrupted conversation about anything between 2 adults. :)

I read somewhere about this me time in a Christian blog one time and it made so much sense to me though. It went something like this: "me time just feeds my selfish self". It might sound legalistic but I had to agree. I think you need a breather as a caretaker of children but having a non-negotiable "me time or alone time" becomes an entitlement and that is not good because it feeds my selfish self. I don't know about yours. :)

When my parents are around and take the kids out many days in a row, all of sudden, I think I am entitled to have that free and uninterrupted time everyday. This selfish monster comes out of me. you know what I mean?

So, I am learning to have free time when I can. I am also asking the children to give us some private time. I will send them to their room to play together and Mom and Dad will have 20 minutes alone in the kitchen for conversation. We have date night once a week at home watching a movie, having sex or just talking. :) whatever we are in the mood for that week.

The other nights we spend by ourselves or together if we feel like. We are learning to be flexible...I think it's a necessary trait for parenting. We have come to realized that establishing a date night weekly makes us accountable to each other and there to supply each others needs - whatever they may be.

About your child's education - I think you know best.

We went with home education because of all the reasons I already listed. So far so good. Our oldest who is in first grade is actually way ahead of the curve. She is doing 2nd and 3rd grade work in Math, reading and Science. She is a sponge, has a great memory, very creative. She learns fast and gets bored easily. I can just tell you what school would do for her. :( We do about 30 minutes of sitting down work and then they "play" the rest of the day.

I am learning that we all learn in different rhythms and ways and a school setting might not allow for those at times.

Anyway... a friend of mine who has grown children told me the other day that I was a good Mommy because I knew my children well. I don't agree with her completely, but I am trying really hard to know them. I think it's one of the secrets of good parenting it's to know your children so you can be an asset in their lives and be able to read signs of danger or caution. It's part of any relationship - to be aware of and to know the other person. Makes me think of God - practicing His presence and being aware of His actions (His grace and mercies) in our every day life. :)

This conversation made my day. :) hey, I got some adult conversation without leaving the house. :) ha!

anyway, have a blessed day and with God's grace we can do the impossible!! :)