One Stumped Mother

Do you ever just feel like a complete failure in the parenting department? I do. Right now, in fact. I feel like if the phrase "clueless mother" was in the dictionary, there'd be a picture of me beside it. Probably one that somebody took when I was caught off-guard so my mouth would be hanging open in an unflattering fashion.

It's Colin, y'all. My Kindergartener. I don't know what to do with him. (And I can't imagine, if it's this difficult now, what it's going to be like when he's a teenager. I don't even wanna think about that.)

He's been getting more and more bad reports from school. As in, Colin isn't following procedures. Colin isn't practicing active listening. Colin had to miss recess today. Colin is now sitting in a separate desk because he wouldn't leave so-and-so alone.

Each day he brings home a notebook with an update on his behavior. And every day, when I open it desperately hoping to see a smiley face, I see the same sad face and a note. Please remind Colin of the procedures when lining up outside. ... Colin didn't finish his work in the allotted time today; please have him complete it at home. Every day I feel like I'm the one being scolded, like, "Make your bratty son behave already!"

I just want to run into the school and yell at the top of my frickin' lungs, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS!!!!" Because I don't. At all. Obviously I don't claim to be a perfect parent - I'm far from it - but I can't identify one single thing that could be causing this behavior. He always has a balanced breakfast before school (I know, I sound like a cereal commercial). He goes to bed at 8 o'clock every night, and gets plenty of sleep. He has rules, and when he breaks one, he faces the consequences. There's no upheaval at home to speak of that would be making him act out - Curtis and I aren't, like, fighting in front of him or going through a divorce or anything. It's pretty boring around the Templeton household, really.

We've had this problem before. Near the beginning of the year, he was doing the same type of thing. We determined that he was bored, and after a few curriculum changes (working one-on-one with the TAG teacher instead of in a group setting, for example) he seemed to be doing better. For a while, anyway.

I don't know what else we can try to get him to behave - "make better choices," as his teacher puts it - at school. Curtis and I have talked to him until we're blue in the face. We've taken away privileges and favorite things as a punishment. (We always say, "In trouble at school, in trouble at home.") I have tried to bribe him with the promise of something fun: "If you get a smiley face every day this week, you can pick any experiment out of your Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do this weekend."

But ... nothing. None of it is working. And I feel like we've tried everything. Whether threats or promises, positive ("I can't wait to see the smiley face in your planner this afternoon and hear all about your great choices!") or negative ("You'd better not have a frowny face today, Colin, or you'll be in big trouble when you get home"), it all seems to fall on deaf ears. 

I don't want my kid to be the bad seed. I don't want him to be the one his teachers dread seeing. He's so smart, y'all, and so inquisitive ... I don't want all that to go down the toilet because all the focus is on his behavior. I hate that they don't see the sweet boy, the bright shining light that he can be ... instead he's just the disruptive one who won't follow procedures. He says he still likes school, but how long could that possibly last when he's getting in trouble on the daily? It makes me really, super, down-in-the-dumps sad.

I'm at a loss. I feel like I have somehow failed him. Like there's something I should be doing, something that would alleviate this problem, something that I'm not seeing.

Is there? Does anyone have any advice for this floundering, frustrated mama? 


  1. okay, first off, BIG BREATH! Now, listen to someone in the know (remember I work with students both "exceptional" and "learning disabled" and those in between), with nearly 20 years experience with the public education system (from parent, to teacher, to administrator, and as non-trad student myself).

    You have the answer in this entry.....

    "He's so smart, y'all, and so inquisitive"

    Before I even read down to this line, I knew the answer. I have followed this child since before his birth and I have no doubt he is bored as crap. He is bright and he needs to be stimulated more and in a public education class with 20+ other students there is no way (even with what they had done) they are giving him enough to keep him from doing these other things.

    The answer isn't so simple in what to do though. I have seen extremely gifted children not do well, fail, even drop out of school because of this problem. There isn't much you can do within the school hours that you aren't already doing. It may just take some more adjustment time, and he will eventually do better as long as you keep up your expectations high.

    AND - this is MOST important - stop blaming yourself or holding yourself accountable for his getting in trouble in this case. You have nurtured a questioning child, THAT IS A GOOD, EVEN GREAT THING. Don't change!

    I wish I could give you more useful suggestions but just know there is nothing wrong with your parenting or your child that needs changing!

  2. oh, I feel your frustration. As a professional in child development, i see this scenario often; an intellgient and energetic child who is basically bored by the classroom geared towards a child with fewer academic skills and more compliance. Work with your teacher on challenging and engaging your son in the classroom, or finding another super physical and challenging outlet for him in lieu of class a few days a week.

  3. I don't know if I have any advice but I do have empathy. I go through the same thing with Hayden.

    This behavior in school gets worse and worse as the year ends.

    I don't know what to do either besides reinforce things all the time.

  4. My oldest son was just like this in kindergarten! He just DIDN'T GET IT as far as having to listen and follow the rules and his teacher went NUTS! His first grade teacher was an ANGEL FROM HEAVEN and she changed everything for him by praising him for any tiny thing he did right, so that made him VERY eager to please her. He's now in 2nd grade and his behavior isn't 100% perfect, but MUCH better. I'm sure part of it had to do with maturity, too, but I will credit Mrs. Claypool for most of it!

    Towards the end of kindergarten the teacher started giving him a sticker each day for good behavior and after 5 good days in a row he got to take a treat from the treat box. Does Colin's teacher do anything like that for him?

    I also agree that he's probably bored. Owen has always been the top reader in his class so he gets pretty bored with that quickly.

  5. I hate to ask, but has he been screened for being on the autism spectrum? I certainly don't mean that in a cruel way. I've experienced this kind of thing at work (children's hospital) many many times. And there are so many different places on the spectrum that it could be some time with an OT would sort it out.

  6. As a kindergarten teacher for many, many years, I can tell you that this situation is not that unusual for a bright kid. Unfortunately, it is a rare teacher that will take the needed steps to provide the right kind of stimulating environment for a gifted student. Can you enroll him in some enrichment stuff (drama classes have been something that I've seen lots of gifted kids really embrace) and then use that as the motivator for his good behavior in school? Just an idea...

  7. Has the school tried a behavior contract? As much as you are trying to handle the problem at home- fact of the matter is that the problem is at school. Does he have a reason for his behavior? What does he have to say about it?

    I would ask for a conference w/the teacher and see what y'all can come up with together. Maybe getting to go read a book to the principal or office personnel or someone who he admires if he is good all week.

    Good luck!

  8. I just wanted to give you a virtual hug and tell you that you are a fantastic mom. Maybe he is just clashing with his teacher. ? I think you got some fantastic advice up there from your readers. I have a friend who teaches Karate and have seen the wonderful results of that particular discipline on kids. Could be worth a try... Good luck, *hugs* and be easy on yourself. Give Colin an extra kiss from me tonight. :)

  9. Don't think my comment posted. It sounds like a classic case of smart kid not being challenged and maybe a lack of impulse control - both of which are totally normal. I don't think there's much you can do - it's up to the teacher to control the classroom and challenge/engage the kids appropriately. All you can do is support the teacher, but you can't punish him at home - he's too young for that.

  10. It does sound like he's a bit bored out of my mind, but I didn't have behavior problems when I was (I just wasn't trying and my grades were lower..) Once a teacher recognized there was something there, my grades skyrocketed. Maybe you can get him involved in some extra class type things after school? If he behaves there cause he's challenged, it might roll over to school.

    Also, it may be an issue with his friends. A lot of my students don't try because it's "not cool" to try. It drives me insane :) But I try my best to get that trying out of them - I could care less if they're cool - I just want them to succeed :)

  11. Colin is way too smart to be getting in trouble. Like your other readers said, there's a reason for it. Maybe he wants attention and right now the only attention he can get from his teacher is negative so he continues to act up. Also I think he's bored. I really believe some extracurricular activities such as drama or karate would be great. Also recommend talking to his teacher about only giving positive attention for a bit and see if that helps. Good luck girl! You're a terrific mom!!!

  12. I agree with the comments about Colin being bored. As a mom with an "unruly" smart child, I recommend going in to talk with the teacher and principal. Be honest with them, and see if they have some ideas that you can all work on together to help Colin keep his love of learning while the teacher keeps her sanity. :) I have found open, honest, frequent communication with the teacher and principal to be the most helpful and encouraging thing I could do.

  13. Ugh, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. Indy had a disastrous K year. He was always getting in trouble for talking. He likes to talk and has a LOT to say. He was also bored to tears AND dyslexic (though we didn't know it at the time). My solution was to remove him from school and homeschool him. I can't tell you how much happier we both are. He's a super smart kid (dyslexia and all) and takes great joy in school now. He dreaded it before. We're in our 3rd year of hsing (almost finished with this year!) and plan to keep going until at least 8th grade. Just when I'm ready to send him off to high school, Han Solo will be ready to start K and I will do it all over again!
    I don't know if hsing is an option for you, but if it is and you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email.
    Best of luck to you and sweet little Colin.

  14. I SO understand your frustration! I've seen this behavior before in our family, and it's always been with the boys. Colin is a sweet, inquisitive, amazing child. He's a free-thinker, and that doesn't fit well in a conventional classroom that's designed to accommodate the majority of kids. I know home schooling would be hard with two little ones who need attention, too. Maybe you should contact Michelle Duggar (from the TV show) and find out how she does it! Wish I lived closer to help. I'd love it!

  15. Everyone has had such great comments, but I just wanted to weigh in about the attention aspect. He not only is getting his teacher's attention, but he is getting yours (lots of talks) and the other kids in his class. He may get into a pattern where he thinks that is his identity--- being the child who is obnoxious, always in trouble, etc. He needs to know that he is important and can get your attention without negative behavior (you are a great mom and I know you do this already, but maybe he needs MORE physical time with you, reading stories, etc. He is still LITTLE).

  16. I was like this when I was a kid. Heck, I'm still like this now a little bit and I'm 21. It could be that your child is just not stimulated enough at school and acts out of boredom. But it could also be else as well... Maybe he has ADHD? I've lived with it my entire life, and I'd hate to see a child being subjected to people always telling him he's wrong if he has ADHD. Have him checked out for it :)

  17. My advice?
    Hang in there.
    Be his advocate, obviously no one else is going to do it for you. Quit sweating the small stuff. Throw away your pile of small sweaty stuff and realize that with 20,23,25+ kids in a class this will happen.
    We have the same problem. Boys will be boys, and mine will be bored.
    I finally told mine's teacher "I don't have a problem with his behavior, if you do then you need to learn to engage in his interests". She went to the second grade learning library (he's in KG)for some "activities" and I haven't heard a negative word since.
    Good luck to you!


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