Tough Year at School

proserpinaJanuary 26, 2007

Hi parents-

I am hoping you have some tips for this one, but our youngest is having a tough time at school.

He is in first grade and it hasn't been easy. Mind you, outside of the classrom, he is a very well adjusted little boy. But the minute it comes to school and subsequently to homework, the histrionics begin.

I volunteer in his classroom, and I know that it's a very divided class (as in, they don't seem to be one "organism"), but that doesn't seem a good enough reason for him to be so miserable. He draws and is very creative, yet, when it comes to drawing or coloring in class, he bursts into tears. And at home, writing sentences is an issue (yesterday, he wrote 11 times, "I hate school" but that was more of a test to see what reaction he got)....

So, my question is... uhm, are:

-I am trying to keep a positive environment outside of school to balance the loneliness he feels in class (his kindergarden buddies ended up both in another class); is there anything else I can do?

-I am all about encouraging, but I don't like to sit and hover while the boys do homework because they are all very capable. I have seen them, and the little one in particular, do their work independently, so I only hold that in mind... Is there something else you suggest I do?

-What tips do you have? Have you ever run into this? I am stumped because the other two boys have always loved school and never had any problems academically, so I have no experience with this....

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Hello there

I sympathise with you, it can be awefully upsetting for the parent in these situations.

This happened to me, when my son was in year one. Crying every day for weeks, it was aweful and heartbreaking for me.

In the end I went to speak to his teacher. I was very annoyed that she did not address his distress, it was obvious to her. I found out he did not have any friends. He did not have a pal, to hang around with. I blamed the teacher for not sorting this out and arranging a "buddie" for him. He just needed a little nudge, a little bit of confidence to set him on a course of being sociable and happy.

In your case, your DS's buddies are in another class, perhaps you could ask for your son to be moved to that class.

Perhaps it is is a case of bullying, again talk to the teacher.

It's very difficult to get the full story from children, you can ask all sorts of questions, but you never really know what goes on in school.

Does your son have older brothers, sister, that can check up on him in the playground to see if he is playing ? Perhaps the playground teacher can keep an eye on him.

I think your first port of call, is to talk to his teacher.

Let us know what happens....

Now my son is 14 and next week he is back at school after a 2 month summer break...still doesn't want to go back !

Take care

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 1:27AM
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Hi Popi-

Thank you for your post.

I talked to the teacher and she says he's fine but just that he is very sensitive (and he is a sensitive boy). But generally speaking, he is pretty involved in class but say, he would rather sit with the teacher than with his classmates.

Because he has two older brothers, I also think that he relates more easily to older kids than the ones in the classroom.

I have spoken to his brothers, other volunteer parents at school... and I get bits and pieces here and there. Generally, when he doesn't like/want something (or say, when his brothers tease him), he gets enraged, as if he goes from 0 to 100 after bottling up whichever frustration he's holding inside.

Oh, as for switching class, we thought about it, but I am not sure it's a good idea. It's the middle of the year and I don't want to remove him from something just because he's having a bit of a tough time... am I making any sense? I should really just go to bed instead of staying up trying to find solutions half awake/asleep.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 1:53AM
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Sometimes kids just have bad years. My son had a bad year last year. The teacher wasn't bad, just not that great. This year's teacher is awesome and it made such a difference. He is doing great this year.

For instance: Involve your child in activities outside school as well to boost his confidence. My son is in karate and it has really helped his coordination and discipline and concentration. And the fact that he works for his belt levels gives him a sense of having accomplished something. He likes to draw - perhaps art lessons at your park district.

I would continue to talk to the teacher and monitor the situation though.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 11:29AM
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My ds is very sensitive also. He gets teary eyed over things that don't bother other kids. I'm trying to find things he can do to help him out of his shell. I think in my ds's case, I need to get him into something like acting or sports where he can't be as quiet or shy.

Personally, I would not try to move your child into another classroom with his friends and try to make this classroom work. Why? Because at some point in our life, we all have to learn to do things on our own. Mom, dad, and our friends aren't always going to be there to help us. If your ds's friends aren't in his new classroom so what? It's time to make new friends. There is always going to be something 'new' come up. It's a life skill that will serve him well. Maybe you could have your ds pick out a couple of kids from the class he'd like to know better and have a playdate with the kid and his parents. Attend birthday parties for the other kids even if you don't know them well.

My ds#1 is in first grade also. We moved three weeks into the school year after he had started making friends in his old first grade class. It was hard for a while because we went from knowing everyone to knowing nobody. My kids have been upset because they can't have friends over because we don't know anybody. In ds#1's case, he told me he was sad because he didn't play with anyone at recess. I had to tell him it was ok to ask the other kids if he could play. They would probably say 'yes.' DS was discouraged at first. It didn't always work out well. One day ds tried to play with one group of kids and one kid said he didn't want him there, but another kid stuck up for him and said he could play. Then some kids were making fun of another classmate's picture and calling it ugly. DS told her it was interesting and made her day. He and I talked about that. I explained to him that we can't always control how others treat us, but we can have some control over our situation. Not everybody is nice, but we don't have to act like that. DS has made friends with other kids in the class and is happy now. I had asked the teacher about the situation. She said he gets along well with everyone. DH and I showed up for an awards program. He and other boys were playing together. I think it just took a while for my ds to get comfortable. He needed us to give him the skills to get there.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 5:28PM
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I like Klimkm's suggestion of involving your son in outside activities, those which involve other children like sports, scouts, etc. It will give him practice making friends.

Can you invite his friends from the other class to your house to play? Or ask him to choose a friend to invite over from the current class. Doesn't your son see his friends from kdg at recess? Friendships are more easily developed outside of classtime.

Do stay in touch with the teacher and seek her suggestions as to how she can encourage him to develop friendships. Ask her too if she thinks it would be better if you did not volunteer in the classroom.

Just some thoughts...I know you are worried. Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 12:54PM
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This must be so hard for your son. It sounds like someone might be bullying him, and he figures if he doesn't do his homework, he won't have to go back to school. If he's sensitive and would rather stay near the teacher, it could mean he's being physically threatened or even assaulted. He may have received a lot of cruel comments because of his artistic skills. He's not going to tell you, and if no one else sees or hears it, no one may know what's going on.

He's not writing "I hate school" to get your reaction, kids that age aren't that sophisticated. He really hates school and you and his teacher and anyone else at school that can help need to figure out what's really going on.

When my son was in third grade he was being assaulted regularly by a classmate. Because of racial differences, the school told us, rather bluntly, that they wouldn't intervene and our only option was to transfer our son to a private school, which we did. He did ever so much better.

When kids bothered him, or his sisters, we taught them to speak up loudly, telling the classmate to leave him alone. Trying to do it quietly usually resulted in my kid getting into trouble, because by the time the teacher turned around, that's the only one she saw talking. By speaking loudly, it put the teacher on to the real offender.

They all made it through school and seem to be pretty well adjusted adults.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 5:39PM
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If it were my child, I would have him moved into another class with one of his friends...and here is my thinking on this.
I would want him to get started out in his education on the right foot...liking school and enjoying the experience of learning and having the security of having at least one friend in the class room. He can then expand on that making more friends. He is so young yet...goodness, he has only been on this earth 5-6 years, and he has given it a good long try, and for whatever reason, it is the wrong fit for your little boy, who does not have the ability yet, to explain what is wrong. But something is. The fit is wrong for your little guy. Can you imagine even as an adult being thrust/forced everyday to endure returning to...say a high school for example...where no one wants to be your friend, and you are grossly uncomfortable, lonely, and feel so out of place, etc.??? This little guys sense of who he is, and how he fits in with the world, and those around him, is just beginning to develop. His self esteem is just beginning to develop, and he does not have the words, or ability to explain what feels wrong to him. But your little guy is telling the people he loves that it is very wrong, and he is trusting you to help him. There is a book, and audiobook titled: "REAL BOYS" and it discusses how we expect boys to tough it out, and the damage we are causing them by doing this. I would go to the principal and ask...OK, for once I would consider demanding, that my son be moved into a classroom with one of his friends. I would then watch and see how he did in the up coming months and just observe any changes in him. He has given it a long chance, and something is wrong. Be his advocate and get the school to do the same. A miserable school year must seem like an eternity to a 6 year old.

He is telling you that for him, it's awful...go to bat for your little guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's what we are here for. He can tough things out when he is much older. For now, he needs to be heard, and the adults need to listen.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 6:32PM
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AdellaBedella, you really cleared it up for me: "I explained to him that we can't always control how others treat us, but we can have some control over our situation." I haven't been on the site for a while, but in many other words, I somewhat got to the same place while you had already summed it up for me. Thank you!

Momj47, I have to disagree with you: I think children are far more sophisticated than what we give them credit for. When I was my son's age and my mother passed away, I remember adults asking me if I understood what happened.... duh! I understood it throughout her illness (which started when I was 4) and I understood it when she died. Children may not have the means of an adult to express themselves, but they have other ways of doing so. The little man had had a tough week at school, getting in trouble with a substitute teacher and then having trouble with his new words... He had been tested and had tested all week. The "I hate school" episode was just another test. Absolutely, he was expressing his frustration to me, but he also wanted to get out of writing his sentences. We re-wrote them the following day, no tears, no anything.... Sorry, HE re-wrote them the following day while I prepared dinner (give credit where credit is due, right?). ;o)

Now? There has been a definite change. With Valentines Day coming up, he is thinking about all the things he wants to get his classroom friends. He wants to get a water-bottle for his big classroom enemy with whom instead he exchanges his phone number now on a daily basis. He comes home and does his homework with no hesitation, no tantrums, just some questions here and there. And this has been for 2 weeks solid. Just last night my husband was commening on "what a happy kid" he is. Could it have been the talks? Time spent with the cousins? The fact that he is back in baseball? That his birthday came and our birthday-week celebration got him all pumped again? I don't know. It's probably all the things together; but it may be that it is also just our little guy outgrowing a tough phase.

A year is an eternity for children, but each moment they live can also come and go very quickly. I am thankful that there was no bullying going on and that this was just a slump he went through (coming to think of it, his brothers went through the same thing in first grade...hmmm). It seem as if now that they have been back in school for a while after winter break, he is back in his groove, being the zany boy he always is with some new-found umpf!

Thank you again all. I really appreciate all the posts. As always, much to ruminate!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 12:04PM
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Glad to hear things are better, I hope he continues to be happy.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 12:38AM
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Actually, I notice that my son was a lot more sensitive about criticism and other stuff than my daughter is currently at the same age. Every child is different, you can't lump them into boy or girl categories at all. Everyone knows a tomboy, and every one knows the boy who loves nothing but to sit and draw.
Glad to hear things are going better.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 2:10PM
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And sometimes the child is just a little young for first grade and holding him or her out of 1st grade for another year may be a big help. Moms need to be a detective and decide just what the solution for this child may be.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 8:11PM
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sheilajoyce...good call! I forgot that many parents start their children in school a year early, and some are just not yet ready.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 4:44PM
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