I’m struggling right now with how to help my son.
He is nine years old, just starting fourth grade, and after just two weeks, I’m already fighting for his right to stay “drug free” with a new teacher, and feeling frustrated that she doesn’t have the classroom freedom to explore his unique style of absorbing information.
I get it. She has twenty-two kids to work with and a short amount of time. My little guy is jiggling, chatting and Fortnite dancing his way through much of the day. These first few weeks of school are a hard adjustment for an over-active child who has been free in the world all summer.
So how do I help him make the shift and get back to learning?
I’m not qualified in any way to diagnose or make recommendations about ADHD. All I have is the experience of my six grown children, two of whom are ADHD, and were once on Ritalin. I feel it was damaging, and with this late-in-life child, I feel there’s a better way for him to manage his attention deficit.
In our case, it’s a matter of awareness. He is becoming old enough to understand that “they” want to put him on medicine which will dull his personality, creativity and excess of motion. He is old enough to understand that some of the problems he’s having at school can be corrected by his own choices, so we’re working on that – progress, not perfection.
To make myself clear, I will never expect his teachers to understand or tolerate an over-active child in a classroom setting. I also do not expect them to make exceptions or change the rules for one child. I also do not expect him to be able to do his best work in a classroom – I’m not worried about teaching him to be a perfect child. I want him to learn to be a free-thinking adult!
Do I need to recount the number of billionaires in our world today who “suffer” from attention deficit? Is it really a bad thing… or just inconvenient?
So our focus this “back-to-school season” is on just one thing: organization.
My son does do his homework. When he doesn’t, it’s because he forgot to write it down, forgot to bring home the right books, or forgot to turn it in! So, I’ve been talking with him about minimizing these problems, which are 95% of his problem with homework.
Involving him, rather than punishing him, has definitely made a difference in his awareness and the results.
I never take away privileges, as long as today was better than yesterday. Improvement is all I ask of him, and we are chipping away at the issues, one at a time.
Some helpful things have been:
- At the end of each homework session, I ask him, “What is going to happen tomorrow morning. Where will your backpack be? What things might you need in class that you forgot today? What homework will you need to turn in, and where is it in your backpack?”
- I say, “Let’s make a morning plan. I’ll have your uniform ready when I wake you up. Can you make your breakfast and let the dog out?” I’m finding that he gets out of bed quicker when he knows the plan, and he’ll check to make sure I did my part, then he does his very willingly. We are a team.
- On the way to school we talk about self control. We’ve been listening to some adult “YouTubers” who are very successful, and he’s absorbing business tricks that work at school, like pausing before speaking, techniques for visualizing his brain settling down and focusing, and so on. He’s only nine, but it seems to encourage him that people of all ages need “hacks” to be successful. He likes that he’s getting his hacks from cool guys like Jeff Bezos and Tim Ferris.
- Planning. We are currently working on cutting big assignments up into little bits to do each day. This includes projects, studying for tests, and things that are not due tomorrow, but have to be looked at daily. We are also working on trying to “think ahead” of his teacher. What will she say, what will she expect, how do we avoid the behavior notices on the class app. How do we get good ones?
I know that over the past two weeks, just talking through potential land mines before he steps on them have avoided tons of problems and strangely, it has made me his “favorite” for taking the time to try to understand what’s going wrong.
Without judgement, I’m trying to be on his side and be more understanding of the challenges he faces every day.
In turn, he is absorbing and being open to the mindfulness I am trying to teach him. At first he rolls his eyes, but later I catch him “visualizing” and doing mindfulness exercises on his own, which is helping him focus at school and at home.
Hopefully, as the school year progresses he will find his way through fourth grade in a more methodical way than he did third grade. I’ve stopped being angry and started trying to show him what I do when I’m overwhelmed and need to get organized.
It seems to be helping, and it has created a new bond between us as co-conspirators against the “system.