I got a call from my son’s school last week. As soon as I saw the number come up on my phone, my body was tense and my palms started to sweat.
He’s always been my wild one. He came out kicking and screaming. As soon as he was strong enough, he started throwing furniture in his room when he was upset. His father is the most laid-back person I know. My other kids are relatively calm. And while I’m the most anxious person in our family, I certainly don’t have a temper or treat people with any disrespect.
But my son has always had an issue keeping it together in group settings. He likes to do things to get attention. He can be impulsive and doesn’t like to quit if he hasn’t accomplished his mission.
These calls from school happen almost once a week, and I’m still not used to it. This time, the school was calling because my son thought it would be a good idea to throw an apple down the stairs in between classes. He’s already on the “no pass” list, which means he’s not allowed to have a hall pass to use the bathroom or get something from his locker because he’s shown he can’t handle it.
He has a sheet signed at the end of the day with scores from each teacher. He’s scored on a scale of one to four, one being the worst kind of behavior, four being the best. If he’s late to class, he automatically has to sit with a teacher during the 20 minutes of free time they get a day.
His father and I have already had three meetings with his teachers this year to come up with a game plan to get him on the right track. We all sit in a room for an hour to discuss it, but nothing seems to help.
“Did he hit anyone?” was my first question. After I heard he hadn’t, I was able to relax a bit, but I know this drill. My son will be punished, he will turn it around for a bit, then it will happen again.
I team up with his teachers by supporting them, having a talk with my son as soon as he gets home, and taking away all his devices and friend time for a few weeks. The punishments have become second nature, but clearly, I need to find a new solution because it’s just not sticking.
But it doesn’t end there. You don’t have the luxury of giving your child a consequence and knowing it will fade away when you have the “bad” kid — the one who’s constantly getting into trouble and engaging in annoying behavior that disrupts other people. You know it will probably come up again. And you are utterly exhausted.
I literally drop him off at school and say to him, “Please, I have a lot of work to do today and I better not get a call. You can hold yourself together.”
When the phone rings and I see it’s the school calling, I get angry. Like, very angry. The kind of anger that seems to be simmering at the surface and doesn’t completely settle. I have to use every muscle in my body to pull it back because if I don’t handle this in a calm way, nobody wins.
I talk to my kids about not caring what others think, but I do care what others think about how my child’s behavior affects their children. I care very much.
It’s another trigger for my anger because my son doesn’t understand that he isn’t just hurting himself, the teachers, and his classmates, but he’s hurting me and other moms who have to navigate this. He has a lot of friends and a lot of peers who follow his lead — kids who wouldn’t probably do things like spread Nutella on a locker if a boy like my son wasn’t telling them to join him.
Being the parent of “that” kid is terrifying because you don’t just think about how they are going to get through the day or school year, you worry about their future in a whole different way.
You wonder if they are going to outgrow this and how much they are damaging their chances for other opportunities. You worry about whether they are going to lose friends because the other parents may throw their hands up and say, “No more.”
But I have to tell you, being the parent of “that” kid, regardless of how much they misbehave, makes you feel helpless and like you are failing.
At this point, I feel like I’ve tried everything I can try: strong consequences, tough love, extra love and attention, therapy, a change in diet, lots of talk and time together, and he still doesn’t have a strong enough urge to change it around.
He’s been tested and observed. He knows he’s loved. He’s well taken care of and has friends at school, not to mention siblings who adore him.
The only conclusion I can think of is he just doesn’t care enough because he doesn’t understand the impact of his behavior. I just hope nothing too drastic will have to happen before he changes his tune.