If you are reading this, you have asked to do so because you are either a teacher, school administrator, bus driver, or Sunday school teacher. You might even be the parent of one of my son’s classmates. In any of these cases, I appreciate your time and attention to what follows:
I realize that my son is a handful. He always has been. You may feel free to mention this to me, but be advised that I am already aware of this. It wasn’t just today that he appeared to be stubborn, spoiled or bad-tempered. It’s nearly every day. Before you make assumptions about my parenting skills (or lack thereof), you should know that this isn’t my first rodeo. I do, in fact, have four children, and I’ve been raising kids for nearly 17 years. Little B is not my youngest child, either. He’s got a little sister. So get the idea about him being a spoiled baby out of your head. None of my children are spoiled, there’s just not enough time, energy or money to make them that way.
You might have already decided that you are not going to put up with Little B’s attitude or behavior. You might have already decided that he’s a bad kid. I can’t change your mind about either of those things, but if you give HIM a chance, HE can. Let me explain, if you have just a moment to continue reading.
Little B’s problems have been around forever. They just didn’t become pronounced until he reached the age that everyone expected him to have outgrown his apparent impulsiveness and temper tantrums. The older he gets, the more it worries me that he won’t outgrow this on his own. He is going to require some understanding on the part of the adults that interact with him, and he’s going to require some assistance from someone who knows a little more about how his brain works than I do. I have spent a lot of one on one time with him lately, and I know what you mean when you say that he refuses to cooperate with you. I have seen him hit his little sister for what appears to be no reason at all. And I think that I know why. He doesn’t seem to process emotions like frustration and anger very well. As you might have experienced, the smallest disappointment or interruption or correction by you sends him into a fit. Sometimes, it’s just that he crosses his arms over his chest, cries, and grunts, refusing to listen to reason or explanation. Other times, he hits another kid, stomps his feet, or kicks a wall. The more you try to explain why the answer is no, or fuss at him for his response, the worse the reaction becomes. My husband said just the other day that he has to learn that he can’t have it his way all the time. And it dawned on me: He doesn’t expect his way any more than any other kid his age does. A “normal” kid gets told no and may beg or plead or even cry for a while, and then they move on to something else. Little B, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to do that. And the more you harp on how inappropriate his reaction is, the longer his “tantrum” will last. I have found lately that if I try to change the subject, move him to a different room, get his mind off of what it is that he’s upset about, the quicker he calms down and returns to himself. When I tried to “punish” him by putting him in a corner or sending him to his room to “think” about what he’d done (and usually this was hitting his sister during one of his tantrums) then the longer his tantrum goes on. This new way of dealing with his anger and emotional unrest seems to be helping. I know one thing: he certainly trusts me more. He finds it easier to get to the point where he can explain to me what he’s feeling and why he’s upset. And it’s easier to get through the things that we need to get through because of it.
If you’ve been around him enough, you already know that he is super smart, can be very funny, and loves to be told when he’s done something well. He is disappointed in himself when he comes home to tell me that he’s gotten in trouble. He tells me some mornings that he doesn’t want to go to school because he asks “What if I can’t be good?” He doesn’t like disappointing me, and he doesn’t like disappointing you. He simply can’t control his frustration, and if you allow it to escalate, instead of just moving on or re-directing his energy to something positive, then he is going to do something that neither you or I will be happy about.
He gets overwhelmed when he’s in large groups of children. He doesn’t like loud noises, or people interrupting him when he’s trying to talk. You might have noticed that he sometimes stammers or stutters to get through a thought. Please be patient and wait for him to finish. What he has to say is usually pretty perceptive. And sometimes he’s trying to ask you what he can expect to happen next. If you listen to him and answer his questions, you just might prevent a meltdown. If he’s in a group of kids and you see that he’s frustrated, do me a favor and put him by himself for a while. He sometimes asks his teacher if it’s okay for him to eat lunch by himself in an empty section of the lunch room. Maybe it’s those days that he recognizes that he just can’t handle the other kids that day. Maybe if we pay more attention, we might also recognize those days, and prevent one of his classmates being punched or pinched or something like that. What I regret the most about the way he is not that he’s frustrating for YOU (although I do), but that he’s capable of hitting another child. I hate that he worries constantly about whether he’ll be able to be good. I hate that he feels different. I hate that his classmates say that they don’t want to play with him because he’s mean.
We are having him screened for medical or neurological causes for these behaviors. But, even if we are told by medical professionals that there’s not a medical reason or label to be placed on him, that’s not going to make his behavior change. It’s going to take patience and grace on the part of the adults around him. If you choose not to be involved in a positive way, then please let me know, and I’ll try to make arrangements. I can’t afford to have you undo a week’s worth of my trying to teach him how to deal with emotions in one hour by making an example out of him in front of your class. His Kindergarten teacher has taken nearly an entire school year to see what I’ve explained in these lines. Had she started out (or had we BOTH) started out this school year with our current understanding of how his brain works, then we would have saved ourselves and him a lot of heartache. She will tell you now, I believe, that she knows how smart and capable and sweet he is.
I hope you give him the chance to show you this too.