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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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god, my life is a weird soap opera
children of dune - leto 1
Child was picked up today about twenty minutes after I got to work, as he claimed he was having problems taking deep breaths. He'd complained about it the night before. So arranged the committee stuff for the Thanksgiving luncheon, grabbed my stuff, and ran off to fetch him and take him to the doctor to find out what was wrong.

He and I described as best we could what the sensation was (tightness in chest, trouble taking deep breaths, in what I think might be called episodes), so the doctor ran some tests. His lungs are clear, his oxygen is fine, he's not feverish or anything else, so he gave me a script for an inhaler and said for him to use it when necessary. He didn't say asthma, but there's a fair history of it in our family. I'm not worried really so much as--wary. This is new.

Hmm. I'm torn on causation. I just dont' think it's asthma, not without more evidence. I'm actually leaning toward psychological--Child, and for that matter, me, tend to loop our psychological into our physical fairly regularly. When I'm stressed, I lose my appetite and increase my caffeine limits, hence my second semseter in college going down to a weight that still kind of awes me in that I didnt simply collapse. When he gets stressed, he throws up and now (possibly) has trouble catching his breath. It's still very real, just treatment is going to be different. But what it is may be the problem--there's a chance he doesn't even know that himself.

Hmm. It could be the school--a glance at his homework is kind of aweing in what's required. OTOH, his last school sucked beyond measure, so honestly, I cant' be sure. I'd be more sympathetic to him feeling stressed over school if he was trying--but before now, he's never *had to*. He skated by on charm and doing his homework five minutes before class. Like me. *g* And that's not good enough. I mean, yes, I got away with it pretty much all my educational life, but he's *bad* at it. He gets caught without his assigments too often, and if he's not intersted in the subject, he tunes out. It's frustrating. And for the first time, he's in a school with a fairly strict discipline system that does punish for things like forgetting homework and not having your materials. It *sucks* for him, and I get that, but he's basically stressing himself. I've nailed down homework time to be as soon as I get home from work, he's on three weeks grounding and early bedtimes for the next two weeks at least from what I saw in the last discipline reports, which are every one of them homework and assignment related.

Plus the motherlode of general parental notices like for Halloween, and for Picture Day, and for PTA that he freaking *hoardes* in his room or in his backpack and never tells me about.

So it's kind of trapping. I have to be harder on him than the school just to make sure my well-behaved kid doesn't get detention for not bothering to do the work. Or escalate to ISS, to regular suspension, to expulsion, and with teh regular suspension, he loses his slot in the school for next year And he *can* do the work--when he bothers, it's good. He understands what's being taught. He just doesn't want to do it. So. Hmm. There's a fairly good afterschool program that three days a week has a strict study hall until five, when I get off work, and two days of clubs and enrichment activities. I didn't want his afternoons structured like this, to be honest--I don't want a nine year old already on a tight academic schedule. Afterschool should be *playtime* and cartoons and snacks and screwing around in the backyard digging holes convinced there are dinosaur bones or fossils or what have you. I believe in unstructured time. But again. SUSPENSION.

I think at least for a few months, it may be the only way I'm going to be able to snap him into at least some kind of academic discipline. If he genuinely couldn't do the work or needed assistance, that would be one thing. This just isnt' it.

I'm taking a nap and finding zen. Zen in this case will likely be coffee and self-pity. Or maybe porn. Seriously. Where the hell is the porn?

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Here's some porn: features Drunk!John.

What grade is Child in? Is this public school? It seems a bit much for public school, but the homework thing is a *huge* issue these days and they start cranking it up in 4th and especially 5th grade, because the amount in the later grades is frankly *insane*. Downside: a lot more stress than when I was a youngling. Upside: the Future of Fandom has hugely better work- & time-management skills than her father or I ever had by her age, because we could coast all the way through HS and still have top scores & grades.

Ha, so I see you commented on Tora's story already. These days when I wants porn I go to sgastoryfinders, because they often mention good stories I haven't thought of in a while.

And then there are the stories that make me mock and mock . . .

There's a growing amount of literature on things to do with kids who are smart and can do the work, but are bored or otherwise disaffected and therefore don't. I can't think of any off hand, but if you're interested in that, I can look up some titles, or figure out where you can go to get recommendations. It's not always the right thing to do, beacuse with kids this smart it has to be specific to them; they'll spot mass-market very easily and dismiss it the way they do their classes -- but I just wanted you to know there is stuff out there, if you want it.

I didn't want his afternoons structured like this, to be honest--I don't want a nine year old already on a tight academic schedule. Afterschool should be *playtime* and cartoons and snacks and screwing around in the backyard digging holes convinced there are dinosaur bones or fossils or what have you. I believe in unstructured time.

You have no idea how refreshing, after working with kids (usually preschool) for over a decade, that attitude is. And how grateful I am that there are parents out there who'll let their kids be kids as much as possible.

The worst of the problem's going to come when he's restructuring his own habits and during that period-- I'd say air on the side of more structure. I was just like him, never had to work hard, etc. What got me was realizing how little time the work actually took and then how much less stress the next day was. The thing is? It'll take time, but as he gets used to it, the time will be less and less and soon he'll have most of his play time back.

I think it's important for kids to play as well-- but smart kids? Sort of end up utterly stubborn and bored and need a bit of the extra before you can let them be. What happened with me is I ended up with s bit of snack/unwind time, followed by homework, followed by OMGPLAYINGWEE!! But after a while-- it was all on my own terms and I wasn't stuck to that schedule as long as I got my work done.

Well, I have a surprising amount of relevant personal experience to this post! First of all, the breathing: I myself have something LIKE asthma, only it isn't asthma, exactly. It seems to occur sometimes as a reaction to smoke? Anyway, the point is, I got a diagnosis of "Reactive Airway Disease," which, according to the internets, means "you seem like you have asthma but you don't so we're just going to make up a fancy name and call it a day." My point being – there are more types of airway weirdness than just plain asthma, so it's possibly not just psychological on your kid's part.

BUT, re: the psychological thing – that sounds exactly like what happened to me, and my dad, and a lot of other smart people I know. I even did the hoarding thing, actually. It's like, you just hit this point, suddenly, where you actually have to do the work, and this is just completely mind-boggling. The common factor with all the people I know who this happened to, though, is that they have some form of ADD. Now, I know that this is supposedly overdiagnosed, and stuff, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And whether or not you want to go the medication route (I find it's a useful tool, but I also think there are real benefits to not using it sometimes), just knowing exactly what it is you're working with can make an unbelievable difference. For me, it meant that I wasn't just lazy, that there was something I had to work around, but that I could DO it. And it's amazing how encouraging that was.

Now, all of this stuff happened to me when I was in 10th grade, and I do think the reaction to it should be different for a nine year old. But if I were you, I would at least consider talking to a good shrink with him. I'm saying all this based on a livejournal post, and it is MORE than possible that I am talking out my ass here. But... what can it hurt to check?

/unsolicited advice

Having (barely) survived intensive primary and middle school, I stay stick him in the afterschool program. It's *hard* to concentrate at home, with all the distractions.
Also, if he's in a rigourous primary school, I hate to break it to you, but you've locked yourself into 2 hours minimum homework per night. That's right. He's 9 and he's got effectively an 8 hour day. But, that's the way it was for me, for my much younger brother, and a number of other younger kids I know. They're just forcing kids to do too much too young. Also, I wouldn't be too hard on him over the hoarding of papers. There's only so much a kid can remember at the end of the day, and it sounds like they've overloaded him completely. Encourage him to pay more attention, put papers for you in a special folder that you pull out to examine every day, etc., but also realize that he may just be overloaded. I literally *couldn't* force myself to concentrate on every lesson when I was 9. Call it ADD, call it normal childhood attention span, it may just be too much. But give him a little time to catch on, too. He's probably just now realizing he has to change his behavior.

As for your diagnosis of stress, I concur. My brother started ripping his hair out for awhile in middle school. He had a bald patch for awhile.

I think you may be right in suspecting that the problem may be based in psychology. I switched from an easy school to a a rather academically rigid one between 4th and 5th grade and I remember the panic attacks. They didn't give us impossibly hard work or too much stuff to do, but it was a lot more than I had experienced beforehand.

If it is a case of switching schools, it should clear up next semester or next year. You say that you don't like the rigidness of an after school program, but it might be something he needs. Someone mentions above that home is distracting, sometimes you need a study-oriented environment and I agree.

When I got to high school and started having a study hall, it was the best thing ever. Quiet, peaceful, no distractions. I started getting homework done in 50 minutes that would take me hours at home (or was left to the last minute). I say, it's only three days a week, maybe it will teach him to just focus and get it done (like ripping off a band-aid) and maybe he won't need it after awhile.

I had that same deal going on in third and fourth grade, which led to a number of parent-teacher conferences and my father giving me a few Serious Talks about how his older brother was the exact same way, zoning out in class out of sheer boredom. (And that uncle's son brought skating by on the minimum possible effort to perfection, barely passing all his classes by not bothering with the assignments but acing all his tests.) Right from the start in kindergarten and first grade my mother did the thing of sitting my butt down every night and making sure all my work was done, and at least by the time I got bored with classes I had the habit down -- I just tuned out the teacher a lot. And I frequently forgot about things to show Mom or to specially remember to bring to school the next day, due to the whole compartmentalization of not thinking about school at all once I had my homework out of the way.

I'm thinking the study hall thing might be good -- especially if you let him know that this is a matter of getting him off in the proper habits for his new school, and that if he straightens up then in a few months you may try cutting him loose from the afterschool program and letting him manage his own afternoons again. (Conditionally on him continuing to stay on top of his homework, that is.)

Speaking as someone who tended to skate myself (although I had enough of a responsibility kick in me to get my homework done, it just frequently wasn't done very *well*), I think the study hall is a good idea. There is so very much at home to distract him that trying to do homework there may be something of a trial. I don't have ADHD personally, but I have enough restless tendencies that I can get distracted by nearly anything. Especially if you take fyrdrakken's suggestion of letting him know that you hope this to be a temporary solution rather than a permanent one.

I have a stress asthma-like thing that sounds vaguely similar. It looks exactly like a bad allergy attack, and seems to be triggered by the same things. Except if I'm not under stress, the allergy attack is only vaguely annoying. If I am under stress, it gets rapidly worse to the point where it feels like asthma and I have trouble breathing.

Hope you can work out the school problems. :hugs:

I wish my school had been that strict. He won't appreciate it now, but it will help him in the future, I'm sure.

I'd definitely get him checked before you go with asthma--I spent first and second grade on various allergy medicines because they thought I didn't have asthma, and that messed up my system a bit. And, also, not having asthma would most likely be pretty good for him. Could it be anxiety? Do you know if there was anything that could have triggered it? I know some people who get short of breath from things like that. Good luck! Kids seem like they can be such a hassle!

I feel your pain!!! You might check with your son's counselor to see if the school offers some sort of Content Mastery program he can be enrolled in. Someone will make sure he's got assignments written down and takes home pertinent worksheets and books in the afternoon, and then they check & organize it for easy access in the morning.

Of my 4 kids, only one does his homework without prompting. Two just don't care,(and they're brilliant so it KILLS ME!) and one is crashing off his ADD medication when he gets home so we have only a brief window of about 30 minutes to do homework before his emotional meltdown.

Wow. Asthma. Homework issues. Child stressed. I empathize with you on all of this. One thing I would get checked is if it is allergy-related, like to a mold or something. You mention that this is his first year in this school, and if there is an environmental issue, such as mold, it is usually worse during the winter months as kids are kept more indoors. If it is a low-level allergy that is causing asthma-like symptoms, it could also affect his ability to do the homework and pay attention in class, because not being able to breath well means less oxygen to go around. He may not even notice that he is affected, until he can start breathing okay again. Then suddenly, his ability to focus on his homework will go up.

Or so it was with my kid. *g* I know this stuff isn't universal, but it is something to get checked out.

I yanked both my kids out of public school at late elementary because of just the problem you describe above. They were skating along on their ability and their school didn't understand the concept of challenging them. I agree that playtime is very important and it's a real problem balancing that with the development of good study habits. The work load does get insane later on though and kids who have not had to put any work in previously tend to drown in it. So maybe the afterschool program is the way to go until he demonstrates he doesn't need it any more.

*pulls face* LJ ate my comment.

Suffice it to say that my memories of after-school care as a kid were fantastic, and having structure isn't necessarily a bad thing. He's a kid. I wouldn't expect any kid to willingly sit down and organise a time to do their homework. I also wouldn't really expect him to comprehend the rather adult attitude of "work hard now to make life easier later".

But I would expect Child to respond to a school-like atmosphere where all the kids around him are doing homework. It makes it a norm, and it gets him into the habit of homework long before that habit becomes vital.

Of course, I guess another factor is financial and working it around whoever's currently babysitting Child after school.

How does one go about teaching a child to be self-disciplined and self-motivated is the question. Because it sounds like Child's lack of self-discipline and motivation is what's causing him to avoid the work he knows he needs to do, which in turn is causing the stress and breathing problem. It does sound like it's a good school, though! Maybe someone at the school can help you two through this? Also, a quick trip around the internet can give you some ideas and suggestions for next steps, for instance:


I'm not saying the internets will solve your problem, but it will give you suggestions to think about. A lot of kid teachers & psychologists seem to have helpful sites out there!

The afterschool program sounds like a step in the right direction, and NOT just more clutter for his schedule, because he is supposed to use the time to do things he'd be doing at home anyway (like homework and study.)

GOOD LUCK to both of you!

I'm surprised how uniform opinion seems to be! My instinct wrt schooling and kids is to go mellow, but I was always the do-the-assignment-immediately type.

- Helen

I have no kids, and pretty much no parental instincts, so please understand I am basing this off the fact that my mom is an elementary school teacher and works with children who need special attention.
That said, my opinion is that the structered study time after school would probably be the best if he doesn't want to do the homework at home. This way his brain is still set to the school atmosphere, and when he gets home he won't have to worry about the schoolwork.
Anyway, I know for myself that if I don't force myself to sit in the library and do homework, it usually doesn't get done. I still pass my classes, but I'm not as good as I can be.
Good luck.

I didn't want his afternoons structured like this, to be honest--I don't want a nine year old already on a tight academic schedule. Afterschool should be *playtime* and cartoons and snacks and screwing around in the backyard digging holes convinced there are dinosaur bones or fossils or what have you. I believe in unstructured time

Which, you know, is good because even if you haven't read John Gato, a lot of things I've read seem to indicate that the more overhead structure someone has through the school years the less well they do with time management skills when they're on their own in college.

On the other hand I coasted and it didn't do me a lot of favors. I'm in grad school right now and classes plus assignments puts me at 60-70 hours a week. If I had learned time management skills before this? My life would be a lot easier right now. Even that one undergrad semester where I took 22 credits and worked 20 hours a week wasn't this much work. My mom's kind of hand's off attitude toward school was horrible for my sister. She almost failed high school. And while there were other issues involved, a big part of it was it didn't interest her so she didn't think she should have to do it.

Does the school have some kind of system where you can find out what his assignments are to be able to make sure they are done? I guess what my opinion is to structure his time to make sure things get done and then try to wean off the overhead structure and see if he can do it on his own. Which seems to be the general consensus.

Ack. Poor kiddo on the breathing thing.

On the plus side of having a homework time, if it gets to be a habit with him, he will carry it on in the future years, when school really gets insane aka college.

*looks around* I don't have porn but this made me think of your rabbits. There's even three of them! It's not the spidey banner

Everyone has given really helpful advice, so as anecdotal evidence more than anything else.

I know two sisters, one who topped the state and the other did well but was not brilliant. However because the first lacked motivation/discipline (or what ever you might like to call it) she has been changing from one University course to another for the last 6 to 7 years. The thing is, she has never officially one course at all and that is the biggest shame I think.

The less brilliant sister, knew what she wanted to do, finished her course and found a good job before graduation.

My point is, you will only be doing your son a favour if you teach him how to be disciplined and if you can teach motivation more power to you *grins*.

I think you are a wonderful mum and once he gets some good stuying habits I bet he will actually find more free time to play than before.

Sounds like something my neice put the family through a couple of years ago. She got more structure, convincing her that her mother was serious about the whole homework thing. Lasted a couple of months, then the two of them worked out a deal- Neice did homework and she could join wrestling team like she wanted.

Still have problems now and then, but what do you expect out of a 13 year old?

Okay, don't know how much this will add, but sometimes kids need a kick in the butt.

I'm mostly speaking from experience with my little brother (who is significantly younger, so that I remember all of this and sometimes helped out). I was that kid who coasted, but did the homework to turn in, knew which teachers would check, could do assignments really quickly and correctly, etc. My brother was incredibly smart, but didn't do anything, and got some really bad grades starting around the time it seems like your kid is. My parents had the time and inclination (my mom teaches at college, my dad does piano lessons) to help at home, so basically the rule was, they looked at everything he did for school, made him write down assignments and check them off, and often made him rewrite math homework and whatnot if it was illegible or all wrong. He couldn't do anything (watch TV, play computer games, whatever) until he got their approval. He's now (almost done with high school) getting fantastic grades and doing all his own college applications with no prompting, and taking hard classes on purpose. Of course, it did teach him to do the easy homework on the bus ride home, or in homeroom, or during class, which is a bit of a downside. But he's definitely better than he used to be.

Basically, some kids need to be pushed. And maybe this after school thing will work out, and maybe not (my parents never had us in after school stuff, we were on-and-off latchkey kids, although my brother's been on the occasional sports team and I did a lot of musical and drama stuff after school by choice; my cousins are incredibly over-scheduled, and it worries me a bit because they don't have time to be kids). Maybe he just needs personal attention, if you've got the time to help him yourself. But he clearly needs something. And it's awesome that you're trying, and not just medicating him. Smart kids can be hard to handle.

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