Does your student meltdown in tears or frustration when completing certain subjects at home? How do you properly curtail a pending meltdown without bribes or threats, but yet maintain authority as a parent and teach your child self-control?
While we absolutely must teach our children that the way they show up at school is just as important as the way they show up at home (more on that in another post), many times, they are losing it at home because they do not have their social and emotional guards up like they do in school. Simply put, they are "safer" with you (which is a good thing) and so their guards come down. So, how can we work and grow through this?
1. Don't take it personally. Your child is not attacking you personally. They expend so much energy on campus and in other activities holding it together- working out their character, and growing in self-discipline and self-control. This is good. But then sometimes, they get home and meltdown because they are emotionally safer in this environment. While we don't ignore the need to parent and discipline when necessary, we recognize the "growing up" that they are doing and we find grace and compassion for the fact that they are not yet fully formed. Stay the course. Keep your cool. They will get there.
2. Do not underestimate the power of their body's sensory system. This does NOT only pertain to students with specified sensory disorders or sensitivities. It goes for all students. Find ways to distract their sensory system when approaching a difficult or frustrating task. Some moms of multiples are already panicking thinking, "I don't have time to jump rope and create games. We have to complete our work quicker than that because there are five kids who need my help!" You don't need to! Distract their sensory environment by giving them something to eat, drink, or touch/hold while they are working.
What does that look like practically?
If you know your child always has meltdowns over the math lesson, simply hand your child one of these Zollipops Clean Teeth Lollipops anti-cavity and with no sugar) and keep moving on with the lesson. This distracts their sensory system and allows their brain to focus on the task, and bonus, if they don't get a lot of candy or treats just handed to them like this, this becomes extra special for them. HOWEVER, what you say surrounding handing them the lollipop will make or break this. Do NOT turn this into a bribe. "Honey, if you don't cry during math today, I'll give you a lollipop." Bad parenting. Really though, that is bad parenting. You do not want to teach your child that they should only compose themselves and do hard things for a reward (which is what a bribe is). You are simply distracting their sensory system so their brain can focus. This is no different than when we as adults sit down to output a bunch of work and find that we do better with a cup of tea, our favorite gum or snack, sitting on the porch, or with music in the background,. You are distracting your senses so your brain can focus.
What are some other ideas?
Snacks- If you know your child is fully capable of an assignment, meaning, they really can do it with no problem, but it is a longer assignment, why not distract their sensory system with a snack. Microwave popcorn is great for these types of assignments. It's a quick, light snack, and not as unhealthy as giving them potato chips! We eat a lot of popcorn in our house during the school year!
Drinks- Some kids like sipping on special drinks they otherwise don't get to have whenever they want. My kids never have bubbly waters (such as LaCroix, Bubbly, etc) so those are good options for having when doing schoolwork and don't add a bunch of sugar. Some kids love tea! My little girls have found they love tea and it perks up their mood while working, just like it does for many adults. (Just choose no caffeine)!
Candy/Gum- Our kids rarely get access to candy so having it during a school assignment is a plus. Worried about the sugar and their teeth? There are lots of healthier options. If you want smaller amounts of sugar, use dum dum pops. If you want no sugar and anti-cavity try the Zollipops. Gum is an excellent sensory distraction for kids (especially if they aren't really allowed to have it otherwise) and there are a lot of sugar free options available).
Kinetic Sand/Play-Doh/Stress Balls- Kinetic sand in our house is ONLY used for school. This makes it a little more special. It's in small containers and it's not for getting out toys to use with it, or cookie cutters, etc. It's one little thing to squish around while watching history lessons or reciting memory work. Give them a stress ball to play with in the hand they are not writing with when completing assignments.
Outside/Different Environment- Sometimes our kids just need to complete work outside of our watchful eye. Obviously, there are some assignments where this is not possible. But when possible, give it a try. "Hey, why don't you go write your spelling words in your bunk bed with a clipboard." Or, "Go do that paper sitting on the porch or the swing and come right back when you're done." Different locations doesn't need to turn into a long distracting thing. Put tight parameters around it. "If you don't finish in ______ amount of time, or don't come back right when you are done then _______." (insert consequence and stick to it). They'll learn quickly that if they don't comply with your standards they will have to sit at the kitchen table right next to you!
Music- Some adults cringe at the thought and insist that no one can learn or study with music playing. But, give it a try. Some of your kids have sensory overload and it seems crazy that adding more sensory input would help, but sometimes it does! Try classical music (how about the composer for the semester at school) before you try music with words. Have a couple of kids where this would drive them nuts? No problem. Grab a cheap set of earbuds or headphones. Bluetooth headphones work best so you won't have to deal with all the wires.
Smell- some families love essential oils. Putting a diffuser in your student's workspace could be a fun way to distract their senses so their brain can work!
Do you have tips and tricks you use? We would love to hear them!
Keep in mind, this is not about bribing or threatening, and it's not about letting our kids do whatever they want, however, they want, and whenever they want. It's growing their perseverance and their reserves. It's giving them tools to complete their work while they are continuing to learn how to live out the fruits of the Spirit in all that they do- including home day schoolwork!