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changing attitudes

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's parent-teacher conference time.

Tonight at 5:40 MST we get to start talking with the teachers about how the kids are adjusting to their new schools, new friends and new academic standards.
And for the first time I'm a little nervous.
And not for the reasons you may think.
My sweet, beautiful, kind Anya has been going through some sort of weird phase lately. At the first of the year her weekly attitude report had become riddled with little notes about needing to be more respectful and not talking during class.
I exchanged a couple of emails with the teacher and the teacher was confident she had it under control. Just to be sure, we introduced some minor discipline at home for every mark on her paper, and in the last few weeks it seemed to improve.
Until today.
I learned she got in trouble yesterday for talking and when the teacher corrected her and made her write a note on her attitude report, she got mad, dropped to the floor, tossed her pencil and started crying. Loudly.
It is SO not like her. While she is highly emotional, she's not one to put it all out there on public display.
She saves her tears and drama for me.
Its not entirely new. We did have a little bit of this when Anya was in preschool. It turned out the way the teacher was handling it was making things worse. Mrs. K started out by being wishy-washy in her approach (Oh, don't do that. You don't want to do that. Let's not do that, shall we?) And then, when she'd had enough, over-reacted by yelling, over-disciplining (by sending her to the principal's office for MINOR offenses) and generally having a bad attitude toward her. Now don't get me wrong. I know Anya was doing things that needed to be corrected - I just think there were more effective ways of handling it.
Anyway...once Anya reached Kindergarten, her new teacher told me of one episode, which she handled beautifully and Anya didn't have any more trouble.
Until this year.
Now, I know the teacher is not yelling, over-disciplining and having a bad attitude towards her. The teacher and Anya both have good things to say about their relationship. But I do wonder if maybe she is just a bit wishy-washy.
I don't know about your kids, but mine respond best to a loving, but firm approach. Let them know where they're expected to go and they do great. If appropriate, they can choose how they get there, but they are expected to behave in a certain way.
No ifs, ands or buts.
Maybe the teacher is a little wishy-washy.
Maybe Anya is still finding her way in a new school.
Or maybe she's just going through some sort of stage.
Whatever it is, there IS good news...
Anya told me about the episode with her teacher yesterday, herself. I didn't get a note...and she had forgotten about the parent-teacher meetings so she wasn't even worried about it coming up. She told me the truth because she knew it was the right thing to do.
That is HUGE in my book.
And it tells me this is just a temporary thing.
Thank goodness.
In other news...
Alek's recent attitude issues are also subsiding.
Ever since our move to Wyoming over two months ago, Alek has been a bit of a bear.
Understandable. We all have been in a bit of a funk.
But it is certainly not excuseable.
We had been going round and round with him to try and improve his attitude - trying everything in the book. (I had even started a post a few weeks ago to ask for input)
Nothing worked, until I remembered a little trick we used on Alek a few years ago.
Its called attitude boot camp. And it is NOT fun.
There are several stages - only one of which we've ever really defined and used. (Thank goodness it works.)
In Stage One - 'foreclosure' - the repo man comes to Alek's room and reposses EVERYTHING.
And I don't mean Alek just can't play with or use these items. I mean, everything is physically removed from his room.
A few years ago, it was bad enough we even removed his curtains, rugs and pictures. All he had left were his bed and dresser. And I was seriously thinking about taking the dresser.
Unfortunately, now that the boys share a room its a little more difficult...but doable.
We took every priviledge away from Alek. He lost ALL toys, ALL entertainment, ALL freedoms, ALL benefits.
He no longer was able to stay up an hour longer than the little kids. He was back on an 8 p.m. schedule. He no longer could play ANYTHING after school - he had to be as bored and bored could be. He couldn't watch TV, listen to the radio, listen to an MP3 player, watch any movies, get on the internet. NOTHING. He was given several extra chores and had to serve his brother and sisters before himself. All of this was an effort to promote a better attitude. An attitude of thankfulness, respect and servanthood.
It worked.
Alek is back to being my sweet, respectful boy. He's catching himself before his bad attitude strikes full force and is self-correcting. (Thank goodness).
Slowly but surely he's earning back his possessions. He recently got his TV privileges back, but I doubt he'll see his Playstation again until Christmas. His bedtime is still 8 p.m., with allowances for Sunday and Monday Night Football. His chore list is shrinking, but he's still serving his brother and sisters first (although now he's doing it on his own.)
One of our first priorities is still going to be getting him his own room. I'm sure this won't our last battle with 'bad attitude-itis'. It'll get worse the older he gets.
Who knows, we may need to go to Defcon 5 before his teen years are over - whatever that means - although I think it may involve removing his bedroom door from the hinges. ;>)

6 salty messages:

jessy October 23, 2008 at 6:34 PM  

Way to go mom! You're one smart cookie! You're taking it all so well.
Oh, my father-in-law took the door off my sister-in-law's bedroom when she was a teenager. I understand it did wonders for her attitude!

Elaine October 23, 2008 at 9:44 PM  

John Rosemond fan? We actually did remove our daughter's bedroom door from the hinges once. There had been many (too many) warnings about slamming said door, so we jsut took it down one day. She wasn't slamming it out of anger, it's just the way shed closed it ALL THE TIME! Removing it for a few weeks really did the trick.

Drew Michelle and Luke Paras October 24, 2008 at 11:04 AM  

I just removed all of my son's contents of his room last Thursday night! His room is so clean!!! He has earned back his baseball cards but quickly lost them this morning when he broke a louver (sp??) on his shutters.

If our house wasn't for sale and could put everything in the garage, I would move everything out except his bed!

Good luck with the kids!

Cindi Campbell October 24, 2008 at 2:45 PM  

When I read the comment about Alex , at first honestly I thought I saw the word "leader" instead of a bear. Strange how your eyes can play tricks on you, but hey maybe God wants you to know He is preparing him for leadership. I just had to share this with you. Be encouraged.
Cindi Campbell

Susan October 25, 2008 at 3:54 PM  

Those preteen years can be really tough, no doubt about it - tough for all concerned. Everything can be so dramatic and so challenging and frustrating when you're eleven or twelve or so and you feel like no one in the world understands you.

It IS hard - you're trying so hard to become independent and discover and reinforce your individuality, yet you're still a kid and have all these limits and expectations imposed on you by these impossible parents whom you know love you, but who just don't get it.

On top of that, your body is starting to behave in weird ways that are completely new to you, even if you've been told about it ahead of time, and all your peers are changing, too, and you're not sure about where all this is leading or how to keep cool with it.

At least, that's the common view when you're around twelve. It's a tough, tough age.

And dealing with that frustration and drama is just as tough for parents.

How about some one-on-one time with Alek and Anya? Not disciplinary - just you or their dad take them out one at a time for a milk shake or soda and let the conversation naturally flow.

Maybe find some old photos of yourself or their dad when you were their ages and share (they'd probably find the pictures hilarious but a good conversation starter about what it's like to be growing up now as opposed to back in the dim dark ages when you were their age ;-), at least that's been the pattern in my family with my cousins and their kids!).

I'm glad Alek is enjoying football - hope his team wins and he makes a touchdown!

I hope things settle down soon with your two almost-teens. Hang in there and do give the one-on-one times a try (maybe several tries - a once-a-week outing might be a great way to keep tuned into their changing worlds) before it gets too confrontational, which might make them more defensive and adversarial and less communicative...

Best wishes,
Susan in Ky

Christine October 27, 2008 at 11:13 AM  

Tami, your Anya sounds like my Anna. :)

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