When I volunteered in Little J’s 1st grade classroom last year I would often help at “centers” time – this is when the teacher sets up several different activities in the classroom and the children travel around to them in small groups. The teacher, the teacher’s assistant, and I would all sit at centers and the children would spend ten minutes or so at each station, then move.
This gave me a great opportunity to see what my child did in the classroom as compared to the other children (answer: they did what they were told, mostly, and he did nothing but rip up his worksheets and bother the other kids) and it also gave them the opportunity to tell me all the things my child did or said that week.
“Little J’s Mommy,” Taevon would say, “Little J said some cuss words in the lunch line today.”
“Little J’s Mommy,” Elsie would say, “Little J pulled my hair on the playground.”
“Little J’s Mommy,” Andy would say, “Little J showed me his thing in the bathroom.”
“Little J’s Mommy,” Hector would say, “You need to watch your boy. He is big trouble.”
I would sigh, and try to give advice like ‘ignore him’ or ‘tell the teacher,’ or ‘he only does that because he likes you,’ but I knew it wouldn’t make any difference.Little J was driven by the twin engines of ADHD and PDD: extreme impulsivity (ADHD) and a lack of ability to interact with his peers in a “typical” way (PDD). Combine that with less than stellar classroom control on the teacher’s part, no real, reasonable, 504-dictated response for his actions (like actually watching him when he was in a group setting, sitting him near the teacher, not sending him in the bathroom with groups of kids, etc. etc.) plus a demonstrated lack of understanding on the administration’s part (their directives: “sit down and keep your mouth shut,” and “keep your hands to yourself”) and you have many frustrated children, and most of all, a frustrated Little J. Not to mention a frustrated mommy.
“Why don’t they like me?” he’d ask me. “Why can’t I just be a normal kid?”
This went on for several months. Eventually I stopped giving the kids advice and started asking asking for it. “What would you do if you were me?” The responses I got were telling.
“He needs a whupping.”
“You need to take away his Xbox.”
“You can’t let him get away with things like that.”
“You need to watch him better.”
Out of the mouths of babes, right? They were saying all the things that I’m sure adults thought about my child: he needs worse punishment (the whuppin); he is too indulged (the Xbox); you are a bad parent (you are letting him get away with too much); and you need to have magical control of your child even when you aren’t around (you need to watch him better). This last thing, interestingly enough, seemed to be the attitude of his elementary school, too.
And for the record, physical punishment hasn’t make a difference in Little J’s behavior and just left us feeling like bullies and jerks. He didn’t own an Xbox, a PSP, a Playstation, or a Nintendo. We didn’t let him ‘get away with things,’ although most of the things that happened at school that year, including behaviors for which he was sent to the principal’s office for, weren’t reported to us until weeks after the fact. And it has always been extremely unclear to me how I was supposed to control my child’s behavior when he was at school. I’m open to suggestions for that one.
Happily, occasionally some of the kids would give me good feedback about Little J. Since I wasn’t hearing anything good from his teacher or anyone else at the school, it was always a happy day when they’d whisper positive things about my child, no matter how subversive.
“Little J’s Mommy, Little J is the funniest boy I know. He’ll say anything!”
“Little J’s Mommy, Little J gave me some money. He said he took it from his brother but that it was okay because his brother didn’t know.”
“Little J’s Mommy, can Little J come to my house and play? He said he’d help me beat up my sister.”
In any case, I highly recommend volunteering in your ADHD child’s classroom. What you learn from the kids may be much more valuable than what they learn from you.
(image from flickr user mag 3737)