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Sunday, March 1, 2009

One Mountain at a Time

As I sit here listening to rain gently falling outside I find myself reflecting on the past month and the struggles and triumphs I have experienced. As I come down the other side of the mountain I remember the struggle going up the other side. Parenting. It is a journey of climbing mountains and coasting down the opposite side. I am almost afraid to say out loud that I have reached the summit and am teetering on the cusp of the mountain. I am afraid to jinx myself.

Michael. My sweet little son. My angel boy. The source of my struggle this past month. Every night became a battle over homework. He would become distraught, cry, whine, dig his heels in and refuse to do his homework. I would become distraught, yell, pull my hair out, and say things I am not proud of. I was at my wits end and tired of the nightly battle. One night I almost didn't come home from work, I could not fathom another night of the same. Night after night, nothing changed.

I prayed about it.

An answer came to me. Every time he started to have a meltdown, he was told to take a seat on the carpet and I put the timer on for 9 minutes (he is 9 years old). Every time he cried, whined, yelled, broke down - the timer was reset for 9 minutes. Sometimes he sat there for 30 minutes. I did not yell or scream. He would finally calm down, the timer would go off, and he would get up and complete his work.

This worked....for awhile. Unfortunately I would find myself putting the timer on over and over again in the evenings. I was at a loss again. Inspiration came to me yet again.

At the beginning of each week a list was started. Whenever we needed to discipline Michael we wrote it on the list. Whenever he did a kind act, was responsible, etc. he would cross an item off the list and write down the positive act. At the end of the week, if there were any items not crossed off, he lost privileges for that weekend (TV, computer time, dessert, etc). He has never lost a privilege and his list is getting shorter and shorter and his good deeds are multiplying.

This has been working for the past few weeks. We have noticed a marked improvement in his attitude and behaviour. I am not a screaming banshee in the evenings. Peace has been restored to our house, for the time being.

Boundaries, consequences, praise, rewards, patience, love and kindness, respect. Climbing the mountain is hard work. At times I can not see the summit and I despair of falling down. Perseverance fuels my ascension, add to that the love and commitment required to be a parent and I reach the summit. As I coast down this mountain I look ahead and see another mountain on the horizon. I can't tell how far away this mountain is, or how difficult it will be to conquer. Conquer it I will though. I will bring with me my perseverance, my love, my commitment, my patience, and my faith. mountain at a time.


Jan said...

I've run divisions of companies, but the hardest job I ever had was parenting. Sounds to me as if you're doing a great job.

karisma said...

I feel sad for both of you! Glad its improving. I am and always have been a bit anti homework. I really think its unfair that a child goes to school all day then has to do more schoolwork at home when they should be playing and being a child. We only had to do it for six days with Zak and it nearly drove him nuts, one night he was up till 9pm trying to finish. I can really understand Michaels frustration, please be patient with him.

Big hugs and smoochies xxx00xxxx

Swampy said...

If a teacher insists on giving homework, it should never exceed:
10 minutes - first grade
20 minutes - second grade
30 minutes - third grade

My philosophy was to always allow ample time in class to finish "homework." When an adult works an 8 to 5 job, s/he certainly doesn't want to have to "work" some more later.
That's pretty much what homework is. More work after a long day at "the job."

Hang in there. Maybe someday he'll have a teacher that has a different point of view.

Alison said...

I completely agree with both Karisma and Swampy..but unfortunately we have to abide by the "rules". Swampy, his homework, in all actuality would only take him about 15 to 20 minutes to do, if he would only do it and when he does actually do it that is how long it takes. Of course leading up to actually doing it, we have the 2 hours of drama!! If I made the rules, there would not be any homework and all projects would be made in school so the children would actually do the work, and not the parents. Children would be able to play after school and be kids!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finding such a creative solution to a problem that has everyone in the family on their last nerve. I regret that I was not always creative enough, or patient enough or wise enough to seek better solutions for our boys, but we do our best. It's hard to remember when they are making us crazy and angry and frustrated, that they aren't feeling very good about things either and often don't know why. Good job, Mom :)

Karen in SC

Heather said...

i love the idea of a list. My nine year old is very difficult and this might be a tactic that works with him. We don't have homework battles, but boy there are others that this would be really useful for. Thanks for sharing what worked for you. It inspires me to find things that work better for me and my son.

Dr.John said...

Sometimes it's not another mountain it's a rock you hit as your coasting down. You can go around rocks.
Prayer is a wonderful way to handle problems. God often speaks to us quietly and the inspiration changes things.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great solution I do find your parenting inspiring :)

Karmyn R said...

I think you came up with a great solution. I might have to use that myself someday!

Jammin' has homework - as a 2nd grader it only takes him 15 minutes to complete. And then he has to practice piano for 15 minutes - so overall 30 minutes taken of his afternoon. He still gets plenty of playtime in.

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

Hang in there! Sounds like you folks are moving forward.

Pamela said...

you did well. I think sadly of all the parents who could care less if their children complete the homework.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

This is so true! I love it when I have those moments of inspiration, I just wish it happened more often!

lisaschaos said...

What a great idea! I never thought of doing that but I like it! I have had times of the absolute frustration in child rearing. Ouch.

NariceatL4 said...

What a great post, and how wonderful of you to listen to inspiration and follow through. What a great idea, and it illustrates some serious truths so perfectly! (I remember when my youngest son was in first grade--the teacher always gave way too much homework. It was a killer for both my son, who hated homework, and I!)

Jennifer said...

HOmework....grrrrr....I am going to try the time out thing with the goddess!!

Mother Goose said...

prayer does amazing things. I have a son like this as well. It was driving me to not like myself afterwards and have to say I'm sorry to him afterwards, but you know the words, I'm sorry doesnt always wash away the hurt, in fact, it never does.

How was I expected to ask him to control his tirades if I couldn't control my own.

The answer for me and for my son was when he acted out or cried whined etc. I would try to dispell it and say Yes, you can do it. try harder. Still met with incessant whining and almost fits, We both took a breather. I hugged him, and said "DASH" I know you can do this. I know it is hard and doesn't come as easy as your other studies, but be patient with yourself and I will be patient with you. It calmed him down. My son is a perfectionist. He is hard on himself and me being hard on him was really shutting his brain down from trying.
My answer through prayer was to be more loving and patient and then he would hunker down and DO IT! huge sigh of relief and back to peace in our home.