Solutions for My Son’s Homework Tantrums

After the start of the second grade, I very quickly noticed some heavy struggles around homework come up. At the start of the year, my son’s second grade teacher gave all the parents special instructions for doing homework this year: set a timer for 30 minutes for homework time, and when that timer goes off, put the pencil down and walk away. If any tears or yelling happens before the timer goes off, put the pencil down and walk away. It was as though he was perfectly foreshadowing what we were about to see.

For a number of days in a row, when homework time approached in the evening, my son met it with resistance and frustration. I would see a range of reactions, from announcing that it was boring and he wasn’t going to do it, to kicking and yelling and crying over his homework. I noticed in myself how inflexible I was around homework time – I was frustrated that he wouldn’t just sit down and do the assignments that looked to me like they were easy enough to do with his eyes closed! It got to the point where I could not touch homework time – we just had to wait until my husband got home to do it with him, as he was somehow able to put more play and lightness to it and succeeded in helping our son get it completed. I could see that this was going to be an emotional project for the whole family and needed a new strategy fast.

I started on this issue in my own listening partnerships. I got listening about how frustrating homework was, how intolerable my sons behavior was, especially when it was always topics I know he is good at and have seen him complete with ease! I got listening around how when I was his age homework was easy for me, so why did it have to be such a struggle for him? And finally, how I don’t like that homework even exists! It cuts into our family time in the evenings, and more often than not is IS as boring as my son says it is.

Next, I made a point to do Special Time with my son before my husband got home to do homework with him. Honestly I was happy to do Special Time in place of homework with my son, it was much more enjoyable. We would wrestle, or pillow fight, or play his favorite video game depending on what he would choose. I started to notice that homework time seemed to go much easier when he would get this extra connection. I saw these as little victories along the way, but still I found that writing homework of any kind continued to be a frustrating struggle.

One evening my son pulled out his spelling and writing assignments and asked for my help. He was already upset about the subject of the homework before he even pulled it out of his backpack. I asked him to read me the instructions while I was cooking something in the kitchen. He became more and more distracted and agitated. I told him it was time to stop playing with what he was playing with and sit down to focus on homework. “Then come help me!!” He screamed. He screamed this again, and I put down what I was doing to come in closer to him. He kept yelling “Help me! Help me!” over and over again, and the closer I got to him while offering my help with my words, the louder he yelled it. He was kicking and screaming on the floor and I just continued to say “I am here to help you,” while he continued to scream for help.

This went on for some time and I continued to stay close, holding a gentle arm around his baby brother to make sure he did not accidentally get kicked. I acknowledged that homework was frustrating, that he works really hard all day at school. He screamed and kicked, and cried a small amount. After a while his system began to settle down and relax. He turned to a toy to play with and I let him take his time to play and relax while I went back to the kitchen to cook dinner.

By the time dinner was done, he had returned to the table and quietly completed his homework on his own. He was very proud of his work, and showed me each part.  In these last few weeks, I have continued my connection tools all in combination, and it has meant that I have been able to help him with his homework. He now will often complete it before my husband gets home and we get extra time to play and connect as a whole family.

 

Natalie Thiel, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

If you have challenges around homework or setting limits, Natalie can help.  Join Natalie in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 30.  Register now!

Listen to the podcast of her teleseminar How Do I Connect With My Baby?.

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet

Breaking “Bad” News

firstgrade-bearWhen my 6-year-old son began the first grade in a new school district, school went from being easy to being a big challenge for him both socially and academically. Being the youngest in his class with a late November birthday, it seemed to his teacher and me that repeating the grade the following year might be a good direction for him. When we reached the second half of the school year and it came time to make the decision a reality, regardless of how prepared I thought I had been, the emotional side of it hit me like a train.

I had all the good reasons in the world, but it was just a minefield of triggers about not being a good enough mom, feeling so embarrassed, having failed him in some way, convinced that he would hate me later for destroying his first grade social life, thinking back to the fact that his father was treated like an outcast in grade school and not wanting him to meet the same fate, and feeling a well of guilt around having to break the news to him.

Clearly these feelings were all about me, and I could see all the red flags go up when I thought of telling my son about the retention when I was in such an upset state about it. So I lined up all the listening sessions I could get. I set up with my listening partner, my Skill Building Class, and regular group phone sessions to get listening time. I got a chance to cry, to feel guilty, and offload all the horrible ideas I had of how telling him was going to go. I must have had seven or so listening sessions in the course of a week and a half, until I started to feel less charged about the matter, and far more relaxed.

Then finally, on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly calm and connected with my son, I told him simply that his teacher and I thought it would be a good idea for him to do the first grade again next year. I anticipated a Staylistening session about it, and I finally felt ready for it.

He simply asked, “Why?” I gave him the reasons and my voice was calm and confident about the choice, to which he responded positively. I watched him put all the pieces together in his head and he responded simply, “OK, Mommy, can I have my teacher again for next year then?”

As simple as that. No freak-outs. No blaming tantrums about how I was ruining his life. And whenever re-doing the first grade is brought up, he is clear and confident about it. “I get to be 7 when everyone else in my class will be 7,” he likes to say. It turns out all the emotional upset about it was mine and mine alone, and with it out of the way I was able to give it the positive light it deserved.

Natalie Thiel, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Join Natalie in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 30.  Register now!

Listen to the podcast of her teleseminar How Do I Connect With My Baby?.

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Screen Time Becomes Connection Time

As my son grows older the draw towards video games is getting stronger and17748588-boy-playing-game-on-cell-phone-kid-holding-mobile-on-grey-background
stronger, and so is the family struggle over them. I started to notice the tension and frustration around video games increasing and began to set limits, but it did not seem to be quite enough. I would set a limit, and he would express his feelings, but never quite follow them all the way through, and for a period of time it continued as a daily negotiation.

He began suggesting playing video games during our Special Time. I hesitated at
first, thinking that it was not a good use of our quality time together, and worried that it might serve to encourage his constant desire to play them. But I told him it was his choice, and so we snuggled up real close under some blankets to play games on my iPhone. The first time we did this, he wanted to play the whole time and have me watch. I simply offered as much connection and enthusiasm as I could muster during the time. Then the timer went off, and I told him it was time to stop and put the games away. I moved in close to set the limit, and I held my hand over the screen on the phone. He erupted into a heap of feelings, insisting he had to play one more round, and angry that Iwas making him shut it off. I sat and stayed close to him while he kicked and yelled and offloaded his frustration. After he wound down he was flexible enough to do other things.

This same scenario repeated a second and third time when we did Special Time.
He chose to play video games, and after the timer went off I would ask him to turn it off and he would offload his feelings about it. After a few of these, I began to notice shifts in the way the Special Time was going. He was having me play more and more of the levels with him, and becoming much more flexible about turning it off, as well as not asking to play any more for the rest of the evening.

These past couple of weeks he has wanted to play video games during his Special Time, and I have come to really enjoy it! We snuggle under a blanket together, and he facilitates us switching turns back and forth on the different levels and challenges of the games we play. It feels like we are really playing together and we laugh and get excited and give each other “high fives” to celebrate good moves all the way through. When the 15 minutes are up it has been me who says, “OK, we’ve gotta do one more round!” It really does feel like connected play. Then when it is time to stop he is flexible and ready to shift to the next thing. I have also been noticing that he is not asking to play as much,
and when he does and I set a limit, he can cooperate with my limit.

Natalie Thiel, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Join Natalie in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 30.  Register now!

Listen to the podcast of her teleseminar How Do I Connect With My Baby?.

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.