We’re having a hard time with our eldest son at the moment in regard to his behaviour at school. He’s 8 now and in Year 4, and we were really hoping he would start knuckling down and taking school seriously but sadly he doesn’t feel the same way!
According to his teacher, he is constantly being silly and disruptive and is more interested in making the other children laugh than getting on with his work. Frustratingly, he actually does well academically. He’s very bright and quick to learn and flies through tests with very little effort.
It’s a similar story at karate. His Sensei told me yesterday that he has a great natural ability for the sport and if he could concentrate he could do really well and enter competitions. As it stands he’s too busy messing about to really focus on what he should be doing.
We teach him to respect his elders. To use manners. To be kind. So it’s hard to not feel frustrated when he is not behaving in the manner we expect of him at home.
The challenge is, how do we deal with it? This isn’t one of those posts where the author offers tips and advice on how to produce perfectly behaved children. This is me jotting down my feelings because right now I feel like I’m failing him. Why can’t I get through to him? What am I doing wrong?
We have tried multiple ways of dealing with the behaviour – the removal of privileges, his IPad etc. We have tried earlier nights to ensure it’s not due to tiredness. We have tried compassion; getting him to talk about what is on his mind, asking if anything is bothering him. Yet his behaviour doesn’t change. What else do we need to do?
One thing we have found to have a slight impact is rewarding good behaviour. We have always found that punishment doesn’t always have the effect we want. The more we punish and remove the things he enjoys, the more withdrawn he becomes. Rewarding him when he does well does have a more positive impact on his behaviour but it’s not always long lasting.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had the mortifying “please have a word with him at home” conversation with his teacher. This weekend we made it a mission to get him to open up about school and to ignore his dismissive “it’s fine” comments. We eventually managed to get him to admit that he is being teased by a couple of children at school. He feels he is lacking and has been told by one of his peers that he is “rubbish” at things. He has had cards he is collecting smacked out of his hands. He feels physically intimidated by some of his peers (he’s shorter than most), despite them not actually physically hurting him.
All these admissions build a pretty clear picture. We’re becoming to understand the “why?” It’s become clear to us that he’s overcompensating. He’s desperate for his classmates to like him and so he acts the fool to make them laugh. He told us he enjoys “entertaining” them and despite us telling him repeatedly he doesn’t go to school to be entertaining, he continues to behave in this way.
It’s so hard to explain to him that the opinions of others don’t matter. He comes from two socially awkward parents and we see a lot of ourselves in him. I can talk for England when I am comfortable in a social situation but unless I am around people I know well, I feel awkward and uncomfortable. My husband is even less confident is large social gatherings than me. He acts the fool at times in an attempt to hide his awkwardness. He’s not great at communicating and finds it easier to make people laugh than to actually hold a conversation.
What chance did our poor children have with us two as parents?!
Interestingly though, our middle child and youngest boy, is a little social butterfly. He’ll talk to anyone but is as happy on his own as he is in a group. He’s just happy full stop. He doesn’t try to be anyone else but who he is.
But our poor J tries too hard. His teacher’s have told us that he silliest when he is around certain other children, and we should perhaps encourage him to make friends elsewhere. But these are the boys he considers his friends and since he finds it so difficult to “fit in” I’m reluctant to tell him not to play with them. The last thing I want is for him to become completely isolated.
Even at home, my youngest and middle child are particularly close and I know at times J feels a bit pushed out. Just this weekend I took the two boys out with my niece and the boys both wanted her attention. It didn’t take long before J started to act silly in attempt to make her laugh and pay him attention rather than his brother.
The whole situation just makes me feel so sad. His behaviour isn’t malicious. He was genuinely upset when I explained to him how sad he must be making his teacher when she can’t teach the lesson she has planned because he’s being so disruptive.
The most saddening thing is I worry that his peers and teachers don’t see the little boy we do. He’s full of kindness and empathy. Just last week I was unwell, and he did his best to ensure I was OK. He did small jobs around the house without being asked, just to help me out. He cares about people. He asks a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world. He worries about social injustices and voluntarily gives up his money to charity. He’s clever and inquisitive.
But I fear people don’t see that. They see the disruptive little boy making silly noises and faces when he should be doing his work.
I am obviously going to talk to his teacher about the teasing and hopefully get a plan of action in place. We have reinforced the importance of respecting his elders and doing as his teacher instructs. We have told him to not waste opportunities and to make the most of his intelligence and natural abilities.
But how do we teach him the confidence not to care about the opinions of a select few or the “cool kids” as he calls them? How do we encourage him to find his own tribe, his people, without resorting to acting the fool?
I’ll let you know if/when we find out the answer!