Thursday, July 15, 2010

Called to the Principal's Office

Things aren't better in our household with my daughter. I know we just have to ride it out. I know we just have to weather this storm. I know that in a lot of ways, this has been building in her for a while. I know that this is all related to something- a growth spurt or who knows what. I got a call from Teagan's school. We have a meeting with the Director/Owner this morning. On Tuesday, Teagan had a difficult time at naptime. Jeff picked up at the end of the day and was told that Teagan had refused to sleep and also woken up her friends. But Jeff let it go- figured school had handled it and he wanted to keep the peace at home for the evening. I got a call from the director, Lori, today. The Tuesday incident was more than just refusing to sleep and waking up others. She threw a trashcan. Picked it up and threw it. This morning, after talking at home, discussion was had about what Teagan could do instead of nap during naptime. This was, obviously, before we all knew about the trashcan incident. Once Lori knew about the trashcan incident, she had a long talk with Teagan. It was decided and agreed that Teagan would rest on her cot for 30 minutes and then could go and play with the quiet play group (provided she rested quietly on her cot). She fell asleep. When she woke up, she asked to go to the bathroom and then go play with the quiet play group. She went to the bathroom and came out without flushing or washing her hands. The teacher sent her back in to do both. Teagan flat out refused. "No." She was instructed again. "No." She went in the bathroom and just stood there. The teacher came in behind her and asked her to please flush and wash. Teagan stared her down with a smirk on her face. The teacher eventually had to flush the toilet and send Teagan out of the bathroom because another child needed the toilet. The teacher then let Teagan know that she wouldn't be going to the quiet playgroup since she wasn't willing to follow directions. WAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIL! Woke up the entire room. Only halfway through naptime. And she continued for the rest of the day. Making bad choices and having to sit for "brain breaks" and missing out on playing in centers. And informing the teachers that she liked sitting out and not playing. So this morning, Jeff and I will meet with Lori and Teagan. Here's what I'm noticing with my girl. Give her an inch and she is going for the marathon. Start building up her personal responsibility and independence- which is what she wants- and she is going to try and force that "being the boss" thing in all aspects of her little life. Given that she is only 5 years old, she hasn't yet figured out that you aren't always the boss of every situation. Or that kindness and respect will gain you more responsibility and independence. I feel so torn. On one hand, I want to give her the independence she wants. I want to encourage the responsibility that she can thrive on when she chooses. I want to have fun with her. I want to be more laid back and be able to simply say, "That is your choice, here is your consequence. You chose it!" On the other hand, it feels like I'm constantly in this corner of having to be a stern, disciplinarian, strict mom. I don't want to feel angry and yell and be frustrated as often as I am. I'm tired of having to send her to her room or hear her shrieking and wailing or listen to her excuses. I want to have fun and do fun things and laugh and enjoy my kids but I have a daughter that can make that really, really challenging. I'm confident that we will come up with a plan that will work and get Teagan back on track. Often, she just needs a reminder that school and home are strongly connected and that she doesn't get away with stuff at school and have no accountability for it at home. This parenting stuff... it's hard. It's so freakin' hard. EDITED: The meeting went well. Lori is fully aware of what we are doing at home with our family rules and chore chart. Lori created a similar chart for Teagan at school. There will be a check in 3x per day. If Teagan has a morning of good choices- smiley face. Naptime / quiet play time is made up of good choices- smiley face. Afternoon centers and activities are good- smiley face. We are adding a line to the chore chart- 3 smileys at school. Her school chart is posted where we can check it when we pick her up. We had a good conversation with Teagan about what is expected of her and what her choices are. It's funny... I was talking with a friend at church last night about all of this. She's a mom of 2 teens and someone I really respect and like. And her initial response was "Well, what is going on at school that she would act out like that? Teagan doesn't have those kind of behaviors, does she? She doesn't act out like that, does she?" Oh yes. She does. I've had other friends be very disbelieving when I describe a meltdown or series of events. Teagan has a very public face and a very private face. Honestly, I think it's quite a compliment, in a weird way, to Little Explorers that Teagan is acting out there like that. So far, she's only felt safe enough to let that anger out at home. At home and at school, Teagan gets the guidance and structure she needs to get through this rough times. She knows it, we know it, school knows it. I think there is a lot to be said for growth and development, too. There are times when little bodies and brains have to grow. Teagan hits a serious rough patch about 3 times a year, maybe once a quarter. It started when she was 3 1/2 years old. We just go through a rough patch of a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months. I'm wondering how much of these rough spots are due to brain and body growth and development. And if there are strategies that would better serve her. Or maybe I just need to chillax a bit and stick to the plan we have in place. Yeah. It's about all I can handle right now. Photobucket


Joy@TPMG said...

It is hard. No one mentions just how bumpy the road of parenthood can be. It will work out. It sounds like she is at a good school and they are really concerned about what is best for her which is wonderful. Hang in there!

Melisa Wells said...

It is very, very hard. But you have to stick to your guns, because in cases like these, from what I've seen, it's often when you feel most like giving up that you're on the verge of assisting in great change. Remember the payoff; with consistency it won't be like this just SEEMS like it right now. :)

Good luck in your meeting. I'm interested to find out what Lori's take is on it! xo

kbiermom said...

Hoo, boy. I feel for ya.

Two things immediately pop into my mind:

The book, "Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse," by Kevin Henkes. If you're not already familiar with it, get it and read it to her, you will both love it.

And Bobby Knight. Yah, that one's not helpful at all ;)

Here's where I see the turning point in the story: "The teacher then let Teagan know that she wouldn't be going to the quiet playgroup since she wasn't willing to follow directions."

Now if that's exactly the way it went down, I can see why T melted down.

She was blindsided.

I've seen it a million times w/ my kids, especially my oldest. If he's going to roll those dice, he has to know exactly what the stakes are, and given a moment to decide if he really wants to keep pushing his luck.

Also, T had turned it into a one-on-one showdown. She was baiting the teacher to single her out for consequences. T was basically saying, "Bring it! You can't hurt me! I'm stronger than you!"

A suggestion: word things in a way the remind her what the rules are and that those rules apply to everyone.

For example, "T, it's time to wash hands now. Everyone washes hands after going to the bathroom. Do you remember why?"(It's about respecting each other, and keeping each other safe from things that can make us sick.)

Then, "there's a classmate waiting on you, so you have just ten seconds. I'll be back after I count to ten." Walk away to disengage if she begins her showdown stance.

If she hasn't washed hands after 10 seconds, tell her, "I see you are not respecting your classmate by being quick in here. Anyone who chooses disrespect is choosing to lose a privilege. You are choosing to lose quiet play group time. I'll count to ten while you think about that." Then disengage again.

That may be a bit long and impractical if Johnny is desperately doing the potty dance behind the teacher... But you get the gist. Remind her that rules and consequences apply to everyone, that they are there out of respect for one another -- not as a game of chicken w/ her teacher -- and she has to know in advance exactly what privilege she's losing when she breaks a rule.

And you can relax, knowing that you've chosen a great school for her, where you have a great relationship w/ the staff is dealing w/ things like this.

Amy said...

You've gotten some good advice, so I'll just offer my cyber hugs and say "Hang in there, Mom!"

Garret said...

Can you stuff her back up some where like an incubator and wait will she's 18?

Alison said...


A. Ow

B. Yeah, like 18's gonna be so much better. )Well, at least you can send her off to college or the military.)

Liz, I'm guessing the stern, disciplinarian mom is exactly what Teagan's gonna need. And you're doing her such a favor by playing that role. Independence is all well and good, but I sense that this little one needs lots of structure.

Good thing she's got such a willing mommy.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Kris- I can't say for sure if she was blindsided or not since I wasn't actually there. But you do make a good point and I know I am guilty of doing exactly that to her. When I'm angry with her, I'm quick to start taking things away without a choice first. So that's a really good reminder.

Garret- Jeff and I keep talking about the many uses of duct tape. And I encouraged her teachers to try locking her in the bathroom if they have to (kidding!!).

Thanks guys... will update the post with meeting information.

Taryn said...

I'm with Kris on this one. It's doubtful that a 5-yo would automatically connect acting out in one context (showdown in the bathroom) with a consequence in another (loss of playtime). For her to make the appropriate choice, she has to fully understand it - and it doesn't sound like that connection was made for her until it was too late. I've done the same thing with my kids before without realizing it - and always with the same result. So, now we really focus on making sure the consequence is 1) clearly communicated at the time, so the child can make a decision with "all the facts" and 2) something we can/will follow through with, so that if/when the "wrong" choice is made, there's no backpedaling or renegotiating.

It's definitely hard - but keep in mind that her strong will is an asset that will serve her well when she's older.

Mom said...

Sounds like my teenager.

Anonymous said...

I typed up a big ol' reply and I lost it :(

In short-Ditto Kris, & Taryn. This is why I always try to give the kids a clear directive and consequence. "If you do not wash your hands right now you will not be joining the play group."

I'll bet had she been told that she would have changed her mind on that second "No!"

It's hard. Really hard sometimes. With each age it becomes a different kind of hard.

The brightside is that she is a stong little person who will stand up for what she believes in and not back down. This will be most beneficial later in life.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Lety- I tell myself that often. Said that to Jeff just last night. This will be an important part of her personality that can serve her well later in life if we can help foster it correctly and teach her to use it for good and not evil.

And I have to say... especially after talking to my mom this morning... she totally gets this from me.

Garret said...

"...teach her to use it for good and not evil."


Anonymous said...

ahhh the joys of parenthood. Having been where you are and now the parent of a 22yo, 19 and 13 yo, this is such good preparation for the later years!

I can really relate to the public vs private face. We see that even with our 19 yo daughter. Everyone loves her (I do too) and she really is a great kid but why are we the only ones to ever her mopey, disagreeable, pouty side?

You are doing a great job...just the fact that you write about your struggles and look for answers tells me all I need to know about you as a are constantly trying to be a better one...aren't we all!

Nancy said...

I got nothing but a big hug for you Liz. Hang in there, some day it will all be worth it. Teagan will have a child someday and you can tell her how you got through it!

Mom said...


Don't blame yourself. It didn't come from you. Just about everyone had these episodes when they were growing up. The fact that you are providing a structured environment means that you are seeing the temper. It's much easier to "go along" to keep the kids happy; you would be just postponing the problem. It's harder when they are teenagers.

kbiermom said...

I'm glad your meeting went so well :) And I def agree w/ the idea that she is feeling like family at school -- with its accompanying ups and downs. Also the idea of a developmental stress triggering stuff. I subscribe to barometric pressure and moon phases contributing, too -- seriously!

It is so hard not to shoot consequences from the hip. A lesson I have had to learn over and over and over again.

Come to think of it, a good example of it is in the very book that I suggested above -- even the great Mr. Slinger did it, and that's likely a big factor in Lilly's reaction. If you and T read it, ask her for me: why do you think Lilly reacted the way she did? She may tell you: Lilly didn't see it coming.

I'm getting better at not reacting from a place of fear or anger or frustration. I'm *still* getting lots of opportunity for practicing.... :/

"Today was a difficult day... Tomorrow will be better." <3

kbiermom said...

I'm thinking -- be careful w/ the idea of a chore/ sticker chart @ school. She's already trying to engage the teacher in a game of one-on-one, as if she's challenging the idea of whether the rules apply to everyone, or just her. One of the reasons it's so successful @ home, probably, is that she can see what everyone's job is, and that each person is accountable and has consequences for their actions.

Can the school post a responsibility chart that includes everyone?

Mrs4444 said...

Choices (no more than two) and time to make the decision are usually pretty effective. The choices need to be natural and logical whenever possible. She's all about power and control in those moments, so offer the choices and walk away for a minute (set a timer if needed). Then follow through. I know you know this--Just reinforcing/validating.

I guess I might have said, "As soon as you flush the toilet and wash your hands, you may go play with your friends." (One toilet in a daycare? That's kind of weird. I'm thinking the teacher was pushing the issue out of a need for power, herself.) Then, wait. As she sat stubbornly, I would say nothing or maybe say, "I see you've chosen to not flush/wash. That's your choice. If you decide to change your mind, just let me know." She'll need a chance to save face.

Also, I think you are spot-on about her feeling comfortable/safe acting out at school. She's going to give them a run for their money, so it's good you're on the same page.

Man, I love that little stinker...

Lori said...

I have to comment on two things here.
1. Teagan was not blind sided. Lindsey said to her "when you wash your hands, you get to join the others in centers. If you don't, you'll have to stay on your coy because it's not healthy or safe for you to be in centers with germy hands.". T's answer? "I'm not washing them."
2. We have more than one bathroom, but one per classroom. For us to get the otherchild to another bathroom would have had him going into the hall unsupervised...not an option.
3. The chart isn't a responsibility chart. It's a way for teagan to track her day and be able share it with her parents when they come in the evenings. It also allows her a moment with me (her director) a few times throughout the day to chat, which seems to help keep her on track with choices.

Plain and simple? Teagan was putting a staff member to the test. Lindsey very calmly and appropriately
let teagan know that the rules stand as always.
Consequences were clearly set, explained, and followed through. While teagan is very strong willed and will continue to test us, we love her and will continue to help her find ways to manage her desire to find areas in her life where she can have control and areas in her life where
flexibility isn't an option (washing your hands after restroom time). Alls well that ends well and she will continue to do well as she makes her way into kindergarten in the next few weeks...

kbiermom said...

Lori, your school sounds like a wonderful place to be --where everyone is as clear, direct, and calm as humanly possible :) I'd want my kids there if they were still that age.

Mrs4444 said...

I agree with kbiermom! Your dedication, professionalism, and love shines through every post Liz writes about school :)

Liz, does this mean that Teagan will be going to a different school in a few weeks?