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Talking his way into trouble epiblogue: Recess returns!

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 No Comment

big_guy_mugWhen we last left Big Guy, he was struggling mightly to keep his mouth shut and avoid losing recess time at school. He had brief spurts of success, but largely it was a problem that didn’t stay solved.

Every day for a week, it played out the same way. I no longer had to ask if Big Guy’s name had been written on the Dry-Erase at the front of class, because Best Buddy was eager to tell me the second I arrived to take Big Guy home.

“He got his name on the board. Again,” Best Buddy would say with an eyeroll.

Big Guy didn’t always get the death penalty – loss of the full 20-minute recess – but day in, day out he managed to interrupt his teacher enough to at least enter the Hall of Shame.

He’s always been a stubborn learner who doesn’t so much test limits as he puts them through the LSAT and MCAT both on the same day. But this had gone on too long – six months into kindergarten and he still hadn’t learned when to zip his lip.

And instead of getting better, the situation was deteriorating. It was so bad that on Friday, he told me his teacher was going to talk to me about setting up a system to reward him for not getting his name on the board.

I did not want to do that. He already was in danger of becoming a reward junky because I’d gone to that system too many times.

“Do I get a treat because I helped clean up for the party?” he asked recently.

“No, the party was the treat. Working hard to make it happen was what we had to do,” I replied.

But I knew I had to come up with an alternative and fast. Luckily, Big Guy found one.

Friday night, as we watched an online video of a military ceremony, he was impressed by how still the soldiers stood. “How do they do that?” he asked, squirming at the mere thought.

“Their brains just tell them to stand still,” I replied. And their drill sergeant climbs all over them if they don’t, I thought.

He shook his head. “My brain can’t do that.”

“Oh, yes it came. Remember when you were saying bad words at your preschool and you told me your brain couldn’t make you stop. But you taught it how, didn’t you?”

He nodded.

“So you can teach your brain to do this. And you can teach your brain to not interrupt teacher.”

He looked skeptical. “OK, let’s try it. Let’s see if you can sit still for one minute.”

Emerging victorious at the 60-second mark, he wanted to try again. Two minutes, easy. Three minutes, no problem. I decided to throw out a big challenge.

“How about five?”

“I could never do that!”

“Let’s try.”

At about the 3.6 minute mark, he started to squirm. He grunted and his face contorted. He watched the digital clock, trying to will the minutes away. When time was up, he flew around the room like a balloon someone let go before they were able to tie.

“I did it! I did it!”

“That’s right! And if your brain can make you do it now, your brain can make you not interrupt teacher.”

It’s not a system that would work with every kid – Big Guy just happens to like a challenge.

And I had to be careful to spin it without sounding skeptical lest he wind up on a shrink’s couch some day lamenting that he’s so driven because Mommy didn’t think he could keep quiet in kindergarten.

And you have to be hooked up with the right teacher – I’m lucky that Big Guy’s showed zen-like patience in addressing this.

But given the right combination of factors, it works like a charm.

Yesterday, Big Guy proudly waved a magic-marker star on his wrist at me as I arrived, though Best Buddy scooped him on the news. “He didn’t get his name on the board!” Best Buddy crowed.

“I did it, Mommy! My brain did it!”

Indeed it did. Whew.

The down side to all the classroom discipline was the inevitable Armageddon-like tantrum in the middle of the afternoon. But that will get better, too, because his brain will learn to do it.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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