Friday, April 4, 2008

The Conundrum of Consistency

We're in the midst of a parenting conundrum. Bub spent the week -- every day this week -- getting in trouble at school. Recently, a point was brought up about "his behavior pattern," and we have been puzzled since.

In general, Bub is your average, every day seven-year-old, and if you don't have one of those, they can be quite irritating from time to time. Our boy is the same as all boys -- he enjoys noise coming out of his mouth and other orifices, he likes to talk all the time, he gets wiggly quite a lot. The fact that he has ADHD exacerbates those normal boy behaviors around lunchtime before he takes medication, but for the most part, he's really no different than any other boy.

His teacher, Ms. G, is very sweet and she's been exceedingly patient with him through the learning of new routines and the changing of medications. She really seems gifted to teach little boys, she's enduring when it comes to those ADHD moments, and she seems to really care for Bub. We're grateful for her, and we feel blessed that he has her as a teacher this year.

During Open House, Ms. G brought up these "random" week-long occurrences of poor behavior decisions on his part, and commented on how odd they were. She observed the fact that he's really cooperative and obedient three weeks out of every month, but in that same month, he averages four or five bad days generally all clumped together. Until she brought up that point, James and I hadn't really thought about it, but her observation sparked a discussion between us.

Bub does great three weeks of a month, and then about one week a month, he "struggles." He comes home with behavior demerits for talking or for not following directions -- complaints which are vague, at best. However, despite the fact that he's just been in trouble at school, he comes home and behaves as well as he normally does, which is really quite good. Nothing seems out of the ordinary to us.

Now, don't get me wrong: Bub has bad days, as we all do, but it makes more sense when he has a bad day at school and behaves like a crazy person at home. There's a consistency there, and we know what to do with that. The confusing thing to us is when he has a bad week at school, but behaves normally (and sometimes better than normally) when he's home again.

So far, we've been consistent with our behavior expectations, and with consequences when those expectations are not met, but at this point, we're at the end of our redirecting rope. It seems that these solid "in-trouble" weeks occur about the same time and for the same length of time every month. To me it seems what we may be dealing with might have less to do with Bub and more to do with Ms. G, if you know what I mean. I'm totally speculating here, but his poor behavior decision days clumped all together and occurring at approximately the same time every month seem so coincidental. We're not one for excuses, but we're wondering if there may be a legitimate one here.

Those truly random bad days when rules are ignored and behavior is unacceptable, we have no problem removing at-home privileges or following through in other pre-determined ways. But what do we do with that cluster of days that seem to be less his fault? I'm absolutely certain that those days he gets in trouble, he's in trouble because he's behaving in a particularly irritating way, but could it not more that the observer is just more prone to irritability? How do we encourage improved behavior in that 25% window when he's behaving exactly as he does the other 75% of the time? How can we maintain consistency of correction here when it seems like there may be an absence of consistency in judging his behavior when he's out of our care?



  • The Dukes Family

    No good thoughts for you although the entire time I was reading your post I was having the same thought that you ultimately concluded. Does he ever mention that his teacher seems more irritable than normal? I just think it's too coincidental that despite having regular meds and routine there are just a few days each month when school is hard but home is not. Do you have the opportunity to talk to other parents to see if any have experienced the same?

  • taralynn819

    Extra-Strength Midol, anyone???

  • Amanda

    I haven't talked to any of the other parents, but there's a sweet little girl down the street who gets in trouble from time to time. I'll talk to her mom to see if there's a pattern. But what then? I don't know if that's something that I can talk to the teacher about. I don't want to ruin the rest of is year, and I have a feeling pointing that out to her would put him on her hit list. Then there would be some real inconsistencies.

  • Someone Being Me

    The school year is coming to a close so there doesn't seem to be much point in pointing something like that out. Perhaps this time next month you could encourage Bub to be extra well behaved with a treat of some sort.

  • Tara

    Ya, we are having trouble with my son at school too. Total inconsistency. I don't know what to do either!

    You won my giveaway by the way! Please email me your mailing address and I'll send the book out to you this week.

  • niobe

    I wonder that Ms. G hasn't noticed this "coincidence."

  • In His Grip

    I think it's because she's having her monthly visitor. If you are consistent at home then I wouldn't lose sleep over it. You're a good mom. Keep up the good work!

  • Kristin

    I'm a teacher and it's not an easy job. Sometimes poor behavior clumped together has to do with vacations coming up, or having inside recess too many days in a row. Just cut her a little slack, cause as I said, it is not easy...

  • Amanda

    We don't have a problem with his teacher. As I mentioned, we love her and she does daily what I don't want to do ever. My problem is not with her at all, but rather with how to maintain consistency in discipline at home when he comes home with behavior demerits that may not be totally his fault. I have no judgements against teachers, but should he take a time out because she neglected to take a Midol?

  • Emily

    You know, I noticed that I felt and probably did this during those times of the month when I worked at school. Of course there were other times (during sever morning sickness, as someone said too many indoor times, etc). Have you asked Bub about what happened at school for him to get in trouble? If you find he is mostly honest about things, take his word for it. That's all I know to do. I know you have raised him well. I know if my parents asked me, I would have told them the truth. Shoot one time I grounded myself. That was the WORST month of my life :p I hope you find something that works for him.

  • Happy Mommy

    Oh Girl, I was so thinking his mama has pms until you said he doesn't act that way at home, then I knew it was his teacher! Oh yea she is having a tough time not your boy...
    I would leave well enough alone since she has been a good teacher this year, and be thankful the year is almost over!

  • Anonymous

    Well,look at it this way...there are only 2 more bad weeks left in the school year. You could test the situtation and have lunch with him that week a couple of time just to get a feel for him behavior. Don't let him know you are going to be there so you can "catch" either one of there behavior. Just a thought...

  • Mycrazylife

    Since we homeschool, I am probably not one to be giving any advice, but since my oldest went to public school through high school, I will give it a shot.

    I think you might be hitting on something. I'm sure it is very difficult to handle an entire classroom full of children and like us, teacher's have bad days too. They can be impatient and stressed out, especially trying to keep order in a large classroom.

    The sad part is, a teacher will never really be able to observe the situation because she has too many children to watch and these things often go unanswered with the children bearing the brunt of assumption and misdiagnoses as a "behavior problem."

    My child and myself both have ADD and I am able to see fist hand what causes any problems in her moods, or concentration. Quite frankly, sometimes I'm the problem.

    Anyway, just my two cents worth! Hope you figure it out.

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