DS1’s continuing discombobulation at home was becoming cause for concern, with recent events prompting me to contact his teacher and the school Senco for a chat.
That day, he’d refused to go to judo, hiding his kit and getting dressed in his uniform, adamant, that although he still wanted to do judo, he wasn’t going. Explain that one.
His downing of tools with regard homework was ongoing and, from talking to other parents, it was clear he was lagging behind his peers on the times table learning front. He categorically won’t engage with practising them.
He knows the answers, it’s just that his slower processing time means he doesn’t complete the required number of questions in the given time to be able to move up to the next level.
Coupled with this was the fact that we were taking him out of school a day early to go to a music festival. School had authorised it and we go every year, so I wasn’t expecting any drama.
But when I went to pick him up from school on the preceding Monday, he was in a right two and eight.
Full of excitement about Enterprise Week (where the children are split into groups to design, make, market and sell a product – in his case Galaxy Slime, whatever that is) he was gutted to realise that he would miss the final day because we were off to the festival.
He was whiny and tears were falling down his face as he launched into some serial door slamming. He overturned my office chair, dispersed a packet of printer paper over the floor and even removed the bathroom mirror from the wall, discarding it several feet from where it once hung.
I reasoned with him that the last day of Enterprise Week was the one where parents come into school and he’d have to talk to them – not his favourite pastime – and that the Head wouldn’t have given him permission to be off school if it was important for him to be there.
“You knew it was Enterprise Week, so why did you book the [festival] tickets,” he wailed.
“We booked them nearly a year ago, and last year it didn’t clash with Enterprise Week.”
“But you knew.”
Nevertheless, he was insistent that he wasn’t going to go to the festival until after school on Friday.
“I’ve always hated music,” he added, for good measure.
Ice, ice baby
Then he got it into his head that he wanted to eat some ice, because he had seen a big bag of ice cubes in the freezer.
He kept chanting: “Ice, ice, ice” and opening the freezer door and trying to rip open the bag.
“No,” I told him, “that ice is for the cool box for the festival, please don’t open it.”
It was as if he had no ears. My patience snapped.
“I hate you,” he screamed. “You’re such an idiot.”
Doors slammed. My patience snapped further.
This was a tantrum wanting a reaction rather than him being completely out of control. Then again, this was typical PDA behaviour – the demand to stop doing something fuelling the will to continue doing it.
He was being extremely vexatious (I’ve just learnt this word and was determined to shoehorn it in somewhere).
“I’m doing it because I know it annoys you,” he told me, just to prove my point.
I still didn’t cave. But admittedly I didn’t exercise calm in telling him that his attitude was unacceptable.
“You’re so mean, you should be in prison,” he shouted. “I never ever want to see you again until I’m dead because then I won’t be able to see you, which will be the best time of my life.”
A little bit of an over-reaction, I felt. But he didn’t stop there: “The only person you care about is yourself.”
Sometimes, maybe, but not entirely fair, I thought.
When the wife returned home and walked into this maelstrom, she (having been prepared via text) asked him what was wrong.
“It’s nothing you can do anything about,” he admitted. But this didn’t stop the sobbing and the anti-Dad vitriol.
Until the wife caught him out in the absurdities of one of his arguments. At which point he smirked and came and sat on my lap and cuddled in; his hatred for me having dissipated just as quickly as it had arrived.
Gradually the hurricane subsided. He still wasn’t happy, but his breathing slowed, his rage faded and he kept hugging and hugging. He then licked me. I guess this meant he was sorry.
“But I still don’t want to go until Friday,” he added.
Sorry is no longer the hardest word
Anyway, back to where this post started… the following morning I popped in for a chat with his teacher and the Senco.
We discussed the homework issue. The problem with homework is twofold: the school operates a no consequences policy if homework isn’t done, recognising that it’s not compulsory at that age; added to that if consequences were imposed our beloved son wouldn’t relate to them.
“The problem is,” said his teacher, confirming that there was a problem, “there are no consequences for not doing homework.”
“Yes, he’s worked that out,” I agreed. “I’ve tried saying that his teacher will be disappointed with him if he doesn’t do his homework, but he says ‘it doesn’t matter’ because he knows there are no consequences.”
“What if I were to introduce some?” she enquired.
“The problem is they don’t work with him,” I said, which she acknowledged.
He just doesn’t care if you introduce consequences: if anything he digs his heals in more, not bothered by whatever it is you deny him. Consequences just emphasise the fact that a demand is being made on him. And he will have no part in that.
“What about if I get him to do his homework with me at lunchtime?” she suggested. “Maybe that way he’ll get back into the habit and realise that he’s better off doing it at home – the lesser of two evils?”
“Well, if you’re sure about giving up your lunchtime”
“I’m there anyway,” she said.
“Well, he did say you’d forced him to go to Get Ahead Club last week.”
She laughed. “OK, I’ll carry on ‘forcing’ him and we’ll see how we get on.”
We also agreed that the student teacher being in class could well be the cause of the upset to his equilibrium. Although he had denied this to me, his teacher was casually going to drop it into conversation.
“It may even be that what he doesn’t say could give the cause away,” I suggested.
She concurred, mimicking his tendency to drop his head and look at the floor when faced with a question he doesn’t want to answer.
“It could be he’s worrying about transition,” added the Senco. It may be too early for this, but who knows how far ahead he thinks. The fact that a new teacher was in class could make him worry about who will be teaching him next year – the fact that he will have to start from scratch, building up a relationship again.
As for the times tables, because of his additional needs, in exams he would be allowed 25% extra time to complete the work, so his teacher resolved to find a way to give him this additional time without drawing attention to the fact he was being treated differently to the others. It’s a complex web we have to weave.
“Also,” I said, “I think he might be deliberately not completing them, because that will mean he will have to move up [a level] and learn something new. By staying at this level he can coast.”
Then, I had a cunning plan: “How about after half-term, you just put him up to the next level and see what happens?” This was met with approval all round. We shall see what sort of reaction that receives…
On a more positive note, his teacher re-emphasised how good his behaviour continued to be, citing two recent examples.
“He came to me and told me Andreas had squeezed his cheeks,” she said. “That was pleasing because it meant he was able to tell me and that he hadn’t reacted.” i.e. punched Andreas in the face, she didn’t add – a definite step forward.
“Then, in PE he upset another boy by telling him ‘I knew you’d come last [in the race] because you are so slow’.”
Pot calling the kettle black if ever I heard it – he’d told me the other day how he’d come last in a race because his legs wouldn’t work.
“[The PE teacher] asked him what he’d done to upset John and he told her exactly what he’d said. But, without prompting, he asked her if he should say sorry to John. And he went over to him and apologised.”
Another giant leap for DS1kind.
Which still begs the question: once he walks through our front door, what gives?