Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Parenting/Teaching Advice Sought

I have a situation with my Atticus that has me stumped.

Atticus is a great boy. Happy, energetic, imaginative. He loves to have school, to play, to be busy. An easy kid. Which makes this issue all the more confusing for me, since it isn't something that he displays at any other time in his days.

Atticus often becomes quite frustrated in school, and that frustration inevitably leads to tears. In violin, he cries when he is working intensely on a song and can't get his fingers to remember their placements. In math, it is when he doesn't understand a concept. In handwriting, he'll cry when he gets frustrated at how his capital 'S' turns out, or when he writes a capital 'E' backwards for the second time that day.

The frustration creeps in, his face turns really red and he begins to cry. Which in turn makes him more frustrated.

If I suggest that he just take a break, he becomes more upset because he doesn't want to take a break. He wants to master whatever it is he is trying to do.

I admire his doggedness. But I have NO idea how to best help him work through the frustration.

I don't show any anger or frustration with him. I usually try to cheer him through in a positive or upbeat voice.

One of his favorite stories is how King Robert Bruce of Scotland was defeated 6 times by the English. With his army scattered, his countrymen downtrodden, he had to hide himself in a garden shed in the woods. There he saw a spider try 6 times to throw a thread from beam to beam with no success. On the 7th try, the spider succeeded, which then convinced King Bruce to try yet again. And on his 7th try, he kicked the English down the block, back to England.

I always tell Atticus, "Do it for King Bruce!" or something silly like that.

Half the time, I get a laugh and he's able to go on. The other half, he still cries. And it seems to bear no effect on helping him handle his next period of frustration.

So what do I do? If anyone has any advice or suggestions, I would LOVE to hear from you. Many thanks!
(For a bit of background for those new to my blog, Atticus is 6 years old and we home school.)


This Mama said...

Sounds like you have a little perfectionist (I say it in a good way) on your hands. I have no idea what to do/say in this case. My husband is like that (minus the crying part) and he just likes to master things. Were you or your Mr. like that?

Julie said...

I have a 10 year old son who has been there (and at times still goes there). He is a perfectionist and literally expected himself to master things the first time. From piano to timed speed drills (we homeschool too)to spelling tests -- he would melt down when he made a mistake or didn't get a perfect paper or play the song perfectly.

For us what has made the biggest difference was sitting on his bed until his heart attitude changed. Of course this made him mad initially, but in the isolation he gained the self-control that he had lost and eventually came to a point where we could talk things out with him and he would listen and respond. Here we could parent the "attitude" behind the perfectionistic tendencies. And usually, he was able to come back and quickly pick up and ace the area he was struggling with.

Each child is different, but for us this worked well. Best wishes.

Jenn said...

Your Atticus reminds me of my Ty when he was small. Ty is the type of kid that if he doesn't do something well, he doesn't want to do it at all. I can remember countless nights of homework and tears.

I think you are doing exactly what you should do. Stay calm and try not to get frustrated, explain to him that being perfect is boring and that if we were all perfect at everything the world would be a pretty lame place.

Ty still likes to only do something if he knows he will be good at it. This summer we asked if he wanted to start playing golf, it would keep him active in the off season of hockey and allow him and his Dad to have some time just the two of them. We were told "no" because he wasn't good at it. No matter how much we explain that no one is good until they practice, take lessons, etc...he still refuses to try.

If I could go back in time to when he was six and not 13, I would really encourage him to try things and then see over time that as he practiced he got better. I made the mistake of not wanting him to feel defeated by the task at hand and not force the issue. Now he is really reluctant to try anything new.

You are doing a great job with Mr.Atticus.

bbbunch said...

Mikah was the same way (I think our little sensitive boys ARE a lot alike). Just keep doing what you are doing, Sarah. He will realize that his hard work will pay off. I always remind Mikah of things that he mastered through his hard work. Works well now, but did take a LOT of patience when he was six and made his letters backward (lots of tears!) He'll be great :)