Now that I homeschool my son, the title of today’s post represents words that I hear about 500 times a day! We have settled into a nice little routine here at home, but I can tell you that when you hear that same combination of phrases so many times a day, even the most patient of emotion coaching and aware parents can lose their ‘blob’ occasionally.
A typical day of homeschooling starts with breakfast followed by a ten minute coercion process to get my son to brush his teeth. Then comes the 20 minutes of convincing him to give tying his shoelaces another go. Those 20 minutes go a little something like this…
Son: No! I don’t to! I can’t do shoelaces. I will NEVER be able to do shoelaces. They are too hard!
Me: Sweetheart. It is completely normal that you can’t do shoelaces yet. You have only just turned 7. I don’t expect you to be able to do them until you have had lots of turns of trying to do them. So, watch Mummy again and then you have a go, one step at a time.
He proceeds to fly through the steps I have shown him at the speed of lightning, expecting to be able to do a perfect shoelace bow around his little inexperienced fingers in 30 seconds flat. The result of course is inevitably a floppy mess of a bow with only one side actually tied.
Son: See! I’m so stupid I can’t even do a shoelace!
I heave a great sigh and ‘tough’ Mummy comes out.
Me: Listen. First, you are NOT stupid. Second, slow down and follow my instructions one at a time. You ARE going to do it the way I have showed you and you WILL succeed if you slow down. Now……
I take him through each step….again.
He scrunches up his face then does as I’ve asked with serious hand and face attitude. Naturally, he manages to do the shoelace up. Sadly, he feels that it is not perfect enough and immediately undoes it and insists that I do it for him. Since I am satisfied that he has actually given it a good go, and succeeded (although I can’t possibly tell him “I told you so!”), I give him a quick smile and re-do the lace for him.
Me: Great! Now, the other one.
Repeat conversation and behaviours as above…sigh. This happens every day. I guess when he practices this shoelace argument every day for enough days, he’ll eventually either get bored of it, or realise that he can actually do up his shoelace and we will be able to move on….hopefully…
Finally we are ready to take the dog for a walk. We return from our walk around 11am and after a quick ice block to cool down, and a quick dog poo scoop up from the lawn, we are ready (after washing our hands thoroughly of course) to begin school work. So begins at least 5 minutes of …ummmm…’discussion’ about how he doesn’t want to do school work and I am the meanest mummy in the world for making him do it. I kindly and gently remind him that all the other kids are at school doing their work, and that he is quite lucky to have had a nice walk in the park or bike ride for the morning while others were doing their work. I then remind him that he doesn’t actually have a choice about doing work or not. He has to do it whether he wants to or not. I also remind him that if he just stops arguing and sits down and does the work, he will be finished quicker and then will have the whole afternoon to play. Basically, we have to complete 1.5 to 2 hours of sit down work each day. That is the equivalent of 6 hours of classroom learning apparently. The encouraging thing is that once he finally settles to a task, he gets it done really well and quite fast. The frustrating part is that each time he has to start a new task the whole process begins again!
There is also the anxiety disorder to deal with. This means that for example if he does some writing and it doesn’t look like the printed version he was copying from, he will throw his pencil across the room proclaim his stupidity and proceed to try and leave his chair and hide in a box. This can be quite disconcerting and alarming if you aren’t used to it. Since he does it every time he makes a mistake or doesn’t do something absolutely perfectly (according to his own internal expectations of course), I am quite used to it and I just heave a great sigh and say…
Me: Sweetie, I know you have really strong feelings of frustration and anger, and probably disappointment right now. It’s ok to have those feelings. I need you to feel them and still sit on this chair. You can stop working for a second and tell me how you feel, but you can’t throw the pencil or break anything, or hit Mummy.
Son: Well, see! I’m just so stupid. I can’t even do my alphabet. I hate it, work is stupid.
Me: You can and you did. It is only yourself saying that it’s not good enough. I think you did an awesome job and each time you practice you do it a little better than last time. That’s all anyone expects you to do. Just to try and improve on what you did last time. Making a mistake is expected and fine. I know you don’t like being wrong or making mistakes, but no one else thinks you are stupid or that you can’t do it. Now come and sit back on this chair, feel your feelings and we’ll move on through them.
After telling me that I suck because I always tell him to feel the feelings that he doesn’t want to feel. He finally settles down and looks at me and says,
“You can’t really run away from the feelings cause you can’t run away from yourself. It’s impossible to hide from yourself.”
I remain quiet… and hopeful… and we get back on with the next piece of work. We’ve made progress, but tomorrow will be pretty much the same.