Thursday, October 01, 2009

Crazy week

Alex is driving us crazy. He has basically stopped doing his work at school which means he has to do it at home. It is making my afternoons nuts to be trying to get dinner on the table, help Tim and Danielle with any homework they may have, and keep Emily entertained all while listening to the whines of "I can't do it...I can't find it...I can't...I can't" (which, by the way, he can, and when he stops talking he gets his work done very quickly).

Tuesday night I hit a wall and said no more. Yelled it is probably more like it. :)

I told Alex that because he wasn't doing his work at school that he would not be going to school.

What he didn't know is that I already had to stay home Wednesday morning to wait for the gas man (long story--huge bill in the summer--meter not working--fixed now). I took the opportunity to try to convince Alex that it would be a much better idea to do his work at school rather than at home. Part of the issue is that I think he likes the attention he gets from me (even if some or most of it is negative) when he does his work at home. No matter what, he has to have me check his work and sign off on it, and if it's wrong it gets erased and redone.

All of that changed Tuesday.

He brought home 4 papers he had not done (completely blank--all of his seatwork for the day) and another math paper that had to be corrected that he had failed. I was livid, because every piece of paper he brought home was on things that he can do without any assistance whatsoever. And because of the school district we're in, we send the kids to a small private school, so we are paying for him to go and not do any work and then make the afternoons and evenings miserable doing it all then.

So we have a new rule at home for him. Any work that does not get done at school will be done (or corrected) at home. And then it will all be erased and done again. And again.

Yesterday morning he spent at home doing his work again and again and again. He missed chapel, bake sale, recess, and lunch with his friends (and you can bet I reminded him of that several times). After the gas man had come and gone I took him to school...just in time for seatwork! What a fun day, huh?

I honestly don't know if it will help, but I'm at my wit's end trying to figure out how to get him to do his work.


BT said...

We have so been there. Our older son (adopted from Ukrn at age 5) is now in grade 4 and mostly does his work (so far for this year, and throughout most of gr 3 but with some exceptions). But we have had many evenings in previous years that sound a lot like what you're dealing with. Work he could easily have done at school, and then what goes on at home is tons of seeking of negative attention.

We were lucky that the school was willing to back us up as we tried something new. The back-up we needed was the school to hold him accountable for unfinished work. We assured the school that any unfinished work that came home would be given one hour. We then told our son to sit at the desk in our home for the hour and he could either do the work or think about doing the work. He was welcome to call on us if he required help, but otherwise we did not hover over him for that hour. At the end of the hour, he was free to get up. The work -- finished or unfinished -- went back to school for his teacher to see. The school devised a plan where he started losing privileges for unfinished work that did not get finished at home. Within about two months, our son's track record improved drastically and has pretty much stayed that way. It is still excruciating for me to sit him there and not intervene or lecture or check on him or any of the other urges I have!

Courtney said...

He does go to a more or less separate room for doing his homework (he wasn't getting ANYTHING done with 3 siblings running around! LOL) but it's the constant "come erase this please" (he doesn't have erasers on the end of his pencil because he chews them off) and "I'm all done" (only to go in and half to erase half of it because it's wrong that keeps me going back in there.

The school (specifically his teacher) is giving him consequences at school, too. His teacher has been very supportive of our work with Alex which has been great. I'm hoping this is just a phase and he will decide to get it in gear sooner rather than later! :)

Kelly said...

Hey Courtney, this is Kelly. I was the one who did aid work for years to Artemovsk Baby House. I just noticed on the RR Yahoo Group that your boys had been there for six months previous to moving on. I think I may have some younger photos of them from my trip! Can you tell me the dates they were there, and when they were moved? I will take a look. It dawned on my that THIS is why your boys look familiar to me! :-) operationukraine - at -

Tami said...

What a gift Kelly! What a precious, precious gift! :)
Oh, Courtney...I feel your pain. Thankfully, our kids aren't pulling that trick, but Anya has been going through another struggle with self-esteem issues when it comes to school. She thinks she can't do it, therefore she refuses to do it. Unfortunately for her, not doing it isn't an option. ;>) We are having a hard time getting her to settled herself down enough to sit and do the homework, so I've been sending her to school without it done and she's been staying in from recess in order to get it done. It's getting better...slowly. I bet Alex will get it figured out too! :)

Winnie said...

Hey! My little guy was in Artemovsk too.

Now that we are neighbors we've got to get together sometime.


Leslie G said...

I feel your pain. We have gone through this too. Mine are very strong willed. You just have to be persistent and it will finally pay off one day......

Diana said...

You know, I'm of a different opinion. Quite honestly, my kids spend 6 hours a day in school. When they come home, they need a chance to be kids and they need to be be doing family stuff that fosters attachment and bonding, not drilling more school stuff. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that school is very important and kids DO need to do their work at school. But especially at this young of an age, they don't need to bring school home with them and have school completley take over their family life, which it can very quickly if you're not careful. As far as I'm concerned, unfinished class work is a SCHOOL problem, not a home problem, and it needs to be addressed by the school at the school with you completely removed from the equation.

I'm also willing to bet the farm I don't have that this school work problem isn't about school or even school work. It's about insecurity and fear and a manifestation of a need that in his mind, isn't being met. You hit it right on - it's a plea for attention and this is his way of filling his own need to be noticed...and it's working quite well for him, too. Therefore, he's not likely to quit the charade as long as it does continue to work for him.

I can't even begin to tell you how many time (a day) I see this type of behavior. Almost always it is rooted in intense anxiety and fear that have absolutely nothing to do with the means of manifestation. It could be a fear of abandonment (his thinking: if you have to help him with his work, then you won't leave) or some other related thing that's at least indirectly, if not full on directly related to attachment. Right now, he's chosen school work as a vehicle of expression because 1)he can control it 2)he gets LOTS of attention over it and 3)he knows it's important to you that he does it right - and as long as he can keep you hopping with it, you won't be leaving. Ahhh, welcome to the little RADical brain!

I'm not saying he has full out RAD or anything like that, but it does sound an awful lot like a pretty typical attachment based issue. So, I would really recommend either doing or revisiting some reasearch in this area. Believe me, I hope I'm dead on wrong about it...but having seen this story being played out so many times, I'll be pretty surprised if I am.:-(.

Unfortunately, this need for attention (and you are right, it does't matter if it's positive or negative as long as it's attention...because in his mind as long as you're at least noticing he's alive, he is assured in that moment that he won't die) is like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it. No matter how much attention he gets, it will never be enough...and so he'll just find more and more ways to seek it, desperately hoping that next time it will be enough.

In order to really change the situation, you 1) need to find out what his real issue is. Like I said, it's most likely not about school. And 2) you need to hit him right at the jugglar on this one and remove what he values most from the equation--YOU! Very often if you can present an appathetic attitude in which he isn't able to push your buttons, he'll figure out that the gig is up and will move onto something else.

Here's a sample conversation: I understand you would like my help. But, you know what, Alex? I'm certain that you know how to do this stuff already. This is something that Alex CAN do! Therefore, it is up to you to do it on your own. If you want to turn it in blank, that is fine with me. If you want to turn it in with the wrong answers, that is ok with me. If you want to not even turn it in at all, well, that is fine with me, too. Whatever you choose is fine with me. Pause - "Cool!" Pause - "Can I ride my bike?" "Once your homework is finished, sure!" "But you said I didn't have to do it." "You don't. You can ride your bike when it's finished correctly, though." The end. Walk away.

And while he's out on his bike, break out that chocolate you've been hiding in the back of the pantry and enjoy! It's medicinal!

Courtney said...

Actually, the scenario you played out at the end is pretty much the way it's working, Diana. I do not help him at all with his work. When he says he is done, I go in and erase whatever's wrong and then leave the room again for him to correct it. Occasionally I can look at a paper and know that he will have vocabulary issues with it, so when I first hand him the paper I go over the pictures or words to make sure he knows what they are.

The school is also helping, as yesterday his teacher did not send home any of his not-done work--she saved it for him to do at recess today. She feels that he feels doing his work at home is an "out" that he has so he doesn't have to do his work at school. So she's not sending his not-done work home anymore, only the work he has turned in that needs to be redone.

However, I disagree on letting him go play when he gets home from school if he has work to do. He has work to do because he chose to do sloppy work at school and we are not going to allow him to develop those habits and think he can get away with it.

I actually don't think it has anything to do with RAD. What it has to do with is having two new siblings who require a lot of attention from mom and dad. :) I think a lot of what we're going through right now is not uncommon for any child with new siblings, we just happen to have added kids that are old enough that they appear as more of a "threat" to his time with mom and dad than a baby would have.

Christine said...

This is something we have encountered at our house-- but I am sure you already know that. :0 Hang in there--- and stay on top of things.