One of Those Days When You Think About Quitting

woman flopped over table, sleeping

So.

Today was not a good one.

Remember when I wrote about the 3rd week of school being kinda bumpy?  But then I got all strict with the boys and they shaped up.  They’ve been deteriorating again.  This morning it took 2 hours to go through about 40 minutes worth of history, and another 2 hours for a 30 minute math lesson.  It’s not work that’s difficult or complex.  Heck, it’s barely work.  Listen to a story and talk about it, then write down some key points (half of which are already on the paper for them) and color a map.  Math covered subtraction.  We started learning subtraction in first grade.

I was getting frustrated, but really went over the edge when the little boys started throwing tantrums when I invited them to come do school.  Our first activity was story reading.  That went well, but when I wanted to watch the Letter People show Captain Earthquake started crying and resisting.

Crying and resisting is how it all started with the big boys.

I can’t stand the idea of the little guys acting the way the big ones have and going through all this angst and frustration again.  Especially since the littles have been learning things so easily all this time.  We do things a few minutes at a time, they always end with smiles and they’ve been tremendously successful.  Picking up the bad behaviors of the older ones is not high on my list of priorities.

So I got mad.  And yelled.  They got moving a bit better, but it still took hours longer to finish everything.  School wasn’t over until 4:30 (they had a lunch time break/recess in there).  Then I had to rush around to try and do at least a little cleaning and start dinner.  Next was soccer for the younger boys, then a standing organizing appointment which meant that I wasn’t going to be home until ten.  Just to be clear, I love my organizing appointment; it is fun and relaxing to go work with my friend.  I still flipped out at the thought that no time was my own today.

I’m not hoping to spend the day watching soap operas and eating bonbons.  I would like to be able to work on projects in the afternoon.  Hubby and I are trying to add insulation to parts of the house.  I could have worked on that, or one of the other many projects on my list.   I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I have time to do those things.  It is ridiculous that boys can continue to believe that if they wait long enough, I’ll give up and stop pushing them.  Or that I’ll just do the work for them.

The Mercenary made some comment about how they’re doing so much schoolwork and I don’t have to do any.  Hello???  I’m doing kindergarten work, fourth grade work, and then college work when I help out my cyber-son in Florida with his writing class.  I don’t understand where this whole “woe is me I’ve got soo much work to do” attitude comes from.  I remember having huge talks with them and going round and round, explaining why school is important, why they have to learn to read yada yada.  And then they look at me with those big eyes and say “But I just want to play”.

I think that’s part of the problem.  They won’t submit to the idea that they are on this planet to work.

Hubby brought them home from soccer, fed them their snack and put them to bed, at around 7:30 at night.  I know TechnoBoy was appalled.  We’ll see if they wake up tomorrow in any different kind of mood.

My middle-of-the-night conclusion is I’m not gonna quit.  I’ll be much happier when they finally get that lightbulb moment and realize that work has its own rewards.  I’m not asking for an adult understanding of the concept.  Just for them to start getting the idea, and maybe joining me on Team Success.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who struggle with homeschooling.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • PandaBean October 9, 2007, 12:40 pm

    *singing you a note of encouragement!*

    God Bless!

    Reply
  • Amy October 9, 2007, 6:35 pm

    🙂 Thanks PandaBean!

    Reply
  • Stu Mark October 11, 2007, 6:23 am

    Two things: One, I find that validation helps grease the skids. In other words, before you attempt a behavior modification, validate the child’s emotion/statement/whatever.

    Also, here’s a link to another parenting theory I’ve found useful, something I call “The Problem”

    http://stunewsandphotos.blogspot.com/2006/09/person-isnt-problem-problem-is-problem.html

    Let me know if it helps.

    Reply
  • Stu Mark October 11, 2007, 8:22 am

    My unasked-for advice is this: If you dig “The Problem is The Problem,” consider explaining it to your kids. In other words, walk them through the whole concept of “You’re not The Problem” and see how they react. They may, despite your efforts, still fighting you because they think that you think that they aren’t *really* a part of the team. It took my kids a while to trust me when I would tell them that, other than physical dangers, they had an equal vote in our house. In the end, it’s always about trust, and kids have trust issues, as the world is HUGE and SCARY to them.

    Reply
  • Stu Mark October 11, 2007, 8:53 am

    This word search issue, let’s focus on that for a second. My money says that this is a “Mom, I want to do it *my* way” issue. If so, I empathize. My youngest essentially thinks I’m an idiot and has real trouble surrendering her control to me. One strategy I’ve employed is to demonstrate my acumen when she’s up for it. That includes easy things, like watching Jeapardy together and me shouting out the answers as fast as I can. That usually impresses her. One time, when she was treating me like I was dumb, I just called her on it, saying “Hey, you wanna take matching IQ tests and see who does better?”

    If it’s not the “You’re dumb” issue, it might be a control issue. When I battle my daughter on that front, I specifically put her in situations where she has no control. She gets uncomfortable, but it does seem to be working a bit.

    My sister taught me this: “Remember, you are the parent and they are the children. Even if they try really hard to change those roles, don’t let them.”

    Reply
  • Amy October 11, 2007, 7:36 am

    Stu, agreed on both points. I grew up in a family that was more on distant side emotionally and married into one that’s incredibly warm and expressive. Can’t get off the phone with my mother-in-law without being told I’m wonderful several times.

    I’ve warmed up quite a bit myself, and the boys get lots of I love you’s and hugs and snuggles every day. Admittedly, I’m not as good at the affirmation, especially when I’m frustrated. I’m working on it. I’ve noticed that it’s easier for me to affirm and validate the younger ones, and I’ve often thought it’s precisely because they’re my second time through some of these phases and stages. When the older boys do something, I haven’t been through it yet so I don’t know where the light at the end of the tunnel might be. Curse of the older child(ren) perhaps?

    I caught myself laughing at the older boys again yesterday, so that’s a great sign. We’d built up a fantastic friendship over the summer, but I was losing that in the frustration and anger. Here’s hoping we keep that balance.

    I also like the Problem is the Problem theory. I tend to lean that way with my words, having taught special ed. for several years and am fairly proficient at separating the child from the behavior. Your theory puts child and adult on the same team. But therein lies my frustration: the inability to convince them to join me on the team. I’ve told them many times that it’s perfectly fine to dislike school, or to feel like “I don’t wanna”. Heck, I feel like that many days. But a lifetime of dragging them underwater uphill through brick walls is too much. There has to come a time when they decide to just try it. We could have a lot of fun if they’d just give it a shot. Granted, each year has gotten better, and this one is really the best yet. 🙂 I still get frustrated when everyone mutinies though.

    I didn’t wind up doing any behavior mods beyond the fit I threw the other day. We’ve had 2 really good days, and I’m talking to them about what they’d like to see in terms of rewards for effort, etc.

    Reply
  • Amy October 11, 2007, 8:42 am

    Trust is definitely an issue. It amazes me sometimes that they don’t trust me, and I ask myself “what did I do to make them think I would hurt them?”. I hadn’t thought about it as natural to children to be see the world as a scary place.

    I will talk to them about the problem thing at some point soon.

    I’ve been trying to communicate to them for a while the power that they have over the situation, but the concept of attitude affecting success has been too abstract.

    I don’t care if they make mistakes, and have made that clear. They do get pretty upset so we’re definitely battling perfectionism. If they can’t get it right the first time, they don’t want to try.

    I do care if they reject what I’m trying to show them just because it has form and structure and requires them to follow a process. There’s no way to count how much time they’ve spent angry because the answer to a question requires a procedure to find. Like word searches. You’re gonna find the answer quicker if you use a systematic approach rather than just staring at the page until your eyes cross. But that drives them NUTS. They want to just look and have the answer jump out at them. I’ve tried to explain that rules are our friends, and that they can use them to an advantage. Use a system-any system-for the word search and you’ll get your answers faster. Now that we’re moving into higher level thinking activities (they’re in 4th grade this year) they’re starting to recognize that Mom wasn’t just whistling Dixie all this time. Turns out, boys who’ve got a firm foundation have an easier time. Who woulda thunk it?

    I really just want to have fun together while we’re learning. Of course, that’s because I love learning. I’m the queen of useless trivia and a voracious consumer of information. As yet, they’re not. So bridging that gap is another of my responsibilities. But they gotta come to the table without the giant chips on their shoulders. So far today, we’re doing great again. I’ll be sure to remind them how wonderful they are as soon as they finish math. Don’t want to break the concentration now. 😀

    Reply
  • Amy October 11, 2007, 9:23 am

    Ya, I definitely see the “my way” issue there. I’ve thought of it more as a dominance thing. Pack of 4 boys….natural to try and dominate each other and me. The fact that they’re both sets of twins lends confusion to the pecking order I think.

    The dominance issue is why I’m so fond of Cesar Milan. I know he’s into dog psychology and not kid, but much of it transfers. Especially the part where the dog owner needs to understand how dogs think and relate, and then take the leadership role firmly. With love, of course. Sometimes I go wobbly on the leadership stuff, both because I get sick of asserting myself and I’m not as consistent as I should be. It takes energy to make sure they’re staying in the kid spot. But they teach me and Hubby again and again who they need to be boss.

    Reply
  • Jenny December 6, 2007, 9:52 am

    I gotta say, I completely sympathize with your kids here. They’re making it clear they DON’T like all this and are NOT enjoying it, and no one is listening to them!

    Blaming THEM because you didn’t have time to do your other projects is crazy! Who initiates these school activites? YOU!! Did they WANT to do it, or ask for more? NO!!

    How would you like it if you were engaged in something really important and interesting to you, and your husband said, “Stop what you’re doing; you need to scrub the ceiling for several hours” and then got frustrated with you because you didn’t enjoy it?

    BTW, I am also a Christian whose kids are homeschooled.

    Reply
  • Amy December 6, 2007, 3:44 pm

    Jenny,

    First of all, I’m the last person to say that I’m perfect here. Far from it. Most of the reason for the post that day was to share the difficulty I was having, to give myself a chance to analyze, regroup, and start over. I’m not the only one out there who has rotten days, just one who’s willing to put myself out there publicly.

    As for no one listening to the boys…well I gotta disagree with you there. Had you spent the last 9 years looking over my shoulder you would have seen me trying everything I could think of to make learning appealing, interesting, and fun. I love to learn new things. It has been quite beyond me why they don’t join me in the excitement.

    I wish I could quantify clearly the difficulties that the older boys seem to have. I was trained as a special educator, taught the EI (kids who misbehaved or had emotional problems) kids for years and loved loved loved it. My master’s is in educational psychology. Yet I’ve never seen anything like the reaction the older boys have had to ANYthing remotely like learning. Even computer games-which they adore-that have anything like learning numbers or letters have been avoided. TV shows, videos, songs, books, you name it they avoid it if they think it has to do with learning. It truly seems to be some kind of language delay, coupled with motivation and self-esteem problems.

    Could I have contributed to this? Yep. See above where I mention my level of perfection. Have I spent hours in prayer and anguish trying to figure out what I could change to make things better? Yep. I have. I recognize that my behavior sets the standard for them, that if there’s something wrong in my house that I have to look to myself first.

    But where do you go once you’ve exhausted all the options? I’ve tried everything I can think of. Heck, I’m still open to ideas and I try new things and make changes and efforts to make life fun and pleasant.

    There comes a point when the kids have to have some responsibility. It’s not wrong for me to expect them to contribute some effort to do their schoolwork. In fact, I believe it’s a major factor in the development of a quality adult to be practicing responsible behavior in youth. I didn’t bring them into the world to be parasites…and how fair or kind would it be to let them lead a completely irresponsible existence for 18 years, then throw them out into the world and expect them to succeed?

    As for interrupting them, I’m a little confused. I didn’t describe in the post an incident of interrupting a boy involved in a deeply meaningful activity to drag him off and torture him with school work. Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on where that particular observation came from.

    Honestly, if my husband asked me to do something then I view it as my duty to do so, whether or not I like it. And if he got frustrated with me for behaving badly…well that’s okay. I shouldn’t be behaving badly. If he got frustrated with me for just not liking it, then I’d have to say he wasn’t a very understanding individual.

    Let me be clear: I’m not upset with the boys’ feelings about school. I am displeased when they behave badly. Everyone has the right to whatever emotion comes their way. They do not have the right to misbehave and/or cause pain or difficulty for others. Setting a bad example and teaching little brothers to hate school is not cool and I’m not going to start that cycle again.

    It’s been almost 2 months since I made that post, and most days have been very good. I’ve seen some really great things especially from the older boys of late. They are now singing songs. It’s amazing. They never used to want to listen to a song-any song-and now I hear them singing along to a few fun ones from movies and tapes that we have. Also, they are showing some great imagination. After seeing a show or hearing a story they frequently act it out, pretending to be one character or another. Ooooh, and on top of that they’re picking up books to read and enjoy! Shoot, I’m telling you all this in the comments and not in regular post. I’m saving the rest of my bragging for a post later tonight. 🙂

    Reply