Please help me before I lose my mind....

Belinda - posted on 10/15/2010 ( 7 moms have responded )

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Hi everyone. My name is Bella (or Belinda but I prefer Bella). I have a gifted 8 year old and a most likely gifted 3 yr old. My 8 year old is difficult to live with and I am going to lose it.

I don't know anyone with gifted children and I want to cry. Damian switched into a new school this year. The school he came from was letting him ignore all the rules of the classroom because he was "so smart" and while I begged them not to do it, they continued. This new school is tough. He is in the gifted class, but here that basically means more flexible lessons. But structure wise, the school is really tough for a child who has never previously been in a school that was this structured. He is so disorganized....doing his homework but not turning it in, not bringing his homework home, not paying attention and not finishing classwork. He does the bare minimum thinking he can just skate right through as he always has and now, they expect him to do his best and he thinks he is stupid if he has to work for a grade because in the other school he got all A's all the time for mediocre work. I am at my end and I need support, suggestions for dealing with the arguing, fresh mouth and manipulation. I need parents who deal with this because I feel like I am failing Damian and this is so upsetting! If you have more questions I would gladly answer them but this post would end up being a book if i described everything here....Please help me...

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Laura - posted on 10/15/2010

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First, take a deep breath for yourself, Bella! Relax a little, it will help you think more clearly about the problem at hand. What you discribe with your son is not uncommon with gifted students so your concerns are not neccessarily unique! You and your son CAN get through this transition period! And most definitely "NO!", you are not failing your son with this!

I'm going to walk you through a few suggestions, mostly aquired through experience and a bit of professional training, B.C. (Before Ceridwyn, my gifted daughter!).
First thing's first: I mentioned "transition period"--this is that confusing time that you are going through right now. Your son is transitioning from one school experience to a very different one that has much different expectations. His old behaviors are not working for him because the expectations are different and he may actually not know how to change those behaviors! Gifted kids may be really smart intellectually but they are still kids learning how the world works and they still need to be taught how to do stuff. Understanding this concept can help you create an "action plan" for your son.

Before you begin an action plan, you need a few allies to help you, and ultimately, your son. Start with his teacher! Schedule a meeting and have an in-depth conversation with his teacher (or teachers if he has more than one). You need to hear their point-of-view about school work expectations, behavioral expectations and anything else that might be important to working with your son. This will give you an oportunity to share your concerns and ask for suggestions from them as to what you might try. Do not take any criticism personally! This is not an attack on you or your son but a means to hear about the problem from a different angle. This is probably not the first time that the teacher has dealt with a student like your son and that teacher's experience can provide some valuable information for you. Also consider enlisting the help of friends and family--they can provide "tutoring", if needed, and encouragment to your son to make better choices regarding school. Most importantly they can provide YOU with a support system. Many school systems that have gifted programs for students also have a parent support group--check to see if this is the case for your school and consider joining. You might meet parents that have had a similar experience and can share suggestions with you.

One quick point, having a "tough" structure as your son's new school has is important! Do not use the toughness of the structure as an excuse! This structure is in place to help the kids and your son will need to learn it. Again, you can seek advice from his teacher(s) to help him adjust, but he ultimately he will need to learn and choose to use that structure if he wishes to succeed in class.

You are going to need to change your expectations about your son's behavior, in school and out. This is not an option! The teachers expect him to do his best in school, you need to be on the same page as the teachers! My daughter, from day one of school, understood that the teachers were "the boss" of her while there and her dad and I would side with the teachers on most everything. You are acknowledging their authority in the classroom; what they expect from your son needs to be what you expect too. When you and the teachers are working as a team, it becomes harder for your son to try and manipulate them or you. Open, honest communication will serve you well here. You need to get a hold on his negative, rude behavior outside of school as well. Make it clear that in no uncertain terms behavior such as back-talking and arguing will not be tolerated. There needs to be clear consequences for his choosing to engage in these behaviors, too. Consistency is a valuable parenting tool to use in this case. Time-outs can still work; loss of toys or loss of priveleges (video games, computer time, etc.) and having to do extra chores are some good consequences for negative behavior. Communication is another very important parenting tool that will be helpful in this situation. Communicate these "rules" and consequences to your son, then be consistent with the enforcement. You are providing structure for him at home by doing this and it can make the school structure easier to handle as well.

Finally (I didn't forget!) the "action plan": Using the information from the teachers and creating structure in the home, you can now sit down with your son and come up with an action plan for school work! This action plan should contain a list of expectations of his behavior, a schedule for doing homework and incentives (rewards to encourage positive behavior/choices). While your son may not have much say in the expectations, he should help craft his daily schedule (homework time, chores, etc) and will definitely need input into the incentive part. This last part can be a very useful tool in getting kids to make better choices about their behavior. Set a goal that he can achieve related to school. This should involve school tasks, homework completion AND turning it in, grades, etc. and a time frame in which to complete this plan (I suggest following the grading periods of his school). Create a way to keep track of those actions towards his goal. A school planner (or some sort of planning organizer) can be a useful tool for him in keeping track of his school work while a "star chart" (or something similar) at home can be a useful way for you to keep track of him. Remember, this incentive plan is a tool to encourage him to make better choices regarding school. Write his action plan down and have both of you sign it--this is a "contract" that he has agreed to follow. Once he acheives his goal, he has earned his reward! This needs to be something that is special and that he really wants. I would clarify the reward however: I recommend staying away from material objects and focus rather on a special event or activity of his choosing. That's just my preference though; if it's a new gaming system or video game that he wants and you are agreeable to it, then it could be considered! Always encourage him to make good choices about his behavior if he seems to be waffling and pretty soon he should be making good choices on his own. I hope these suggestion help you and your son! Good Luck!

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7 Comments

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Madame - posted on 12/16/2012

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Ever consider homeschooling? Many communities have homeschooling networks to help with social activities, lesson plans and field trips. May be a good option for your son.

Tracy - posted on 10/23/2010

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As to rewards, they need to be small. He should not be expecting a prize for every thing he does!

Tracy - posted on 10/23/2010

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Bella, I too have been blessed with a gifted child. He showed early signs of this type of intelligence, so I definitely know how you are feeling. Bad news, though, you & your spouse & family are going to have to take the reins in his education. Even though he seems to be so smart that he could take care of all the work by himself, he can't or won't. It's not your fault! It's just a condition of teaching responsibility. His last school failed him, and culture shock from his new school is obvious. You have to provide that structure, meaning checking homework every night, communicating with his teachers weekly, make sure that he is fueled for learning. I also discovered that he needs a protein snack around 10 am. Gifted learners use far more glucose while in school, so that needs to be replenished more than just breakfast, lunch & dinner. There's more, let me know if you have other questions. As to the talking back, etc. you have to demand respect, and ensure that there are significant consequences for acting out. Be strong and stick to your guns. I got my first "I hate you" last year, and honestly it made me feel good about the work I've done :)

Laura - posted on 10/16/2010

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You are most definitely on the right track, Bella, keep it up!

The teacher has certain expectations for her students and to make exceptions for one student can undermine her authority with the other students and their parents. You are asking for the teacher to change her expectations to accomidate your son, correct? This is what I was getting to by saying that you need to change YOUR expectations of your son's school behavior so that it more closely matches the teacher's expectations. She is tough and has high expectations for her gifted students; that is how she teaches. Using what you already have in place with your son, teach him how to organize his time and schoolwork so that he can meet those higher expectations. Granted, your son isn't used to this, but he can learn. When my daughter switched to the gifted program she had to learn how to be organized and keep track of her classwork. The teacher expected her students to learn how to do this. Though this is hard, I let my daughter "fail" so that she could learn to do what the teacher required. I did not come to her rescue! I reminded her that this organization was what the teacher expected of her and she needed to do what the teacher wanted, not what I (or she) wanted. This is tough, but you and your son can make it through this transition! Hang in there!

Theresa - posted on 10/16/2010

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Good luck, keep your chin up. Keep talking to your son, help him be organize. My daughter is 32, she was in some of the first classes for gifted kids. She is working on her PHD. at this point she has 2 incompletes to finish in order to get her course work done. I think being disorganized come with being gifted, try to help him out the night before just to make sure he has all his school work ready for the next day. simple I know but when your mind is always thinking of the next best thing tomorrow's school work is pretty low on the list of things to do. ''''''''''''good luck

Belinda - posted on 10/15/2010

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Thank you for all the suggestions. We have a written contract that includes behavior in school and at home as well as chores (which are only on weekends because I think school is more important on the weekdays.).

I requested that the teacher try small reminders but she won't do it. She says Damian needs to learn responsibility but I say he needs to learn responsibility but obviously, he also needs guidance and support while he transitions. Am I wrong?

I am just so frustrated. I have a sticker program where Damian gets a sticker in his agenda if he comes home on green and a sticker on his homework folder if he completes all his homework without issues. I do not have any incentive attached to the stickers, but I can make that part of it, and thank you for the suggestion.

I guess I feel like I am trying to communicate and work with the teacher, but she really refuses to bend at all. I don't want my son to be exempt from the rules but I would like if she would offer at least one reminder as far as turning homework in, packing homework to go home and instead of waiting until his time to complete a certain task is over, and telling him to move his color...I wish she would at least point out to him that he is off task once, so that he could redirect himself. Instead, the other day during math review, he was searching for 20 minutes for his math papers in his desk, and instead of approaching him and asking him what he was doing or telling him what he should be doing, she waited until he was out of time, and then told him to move his color. But Damian distracts easily, and one reminder hellps. What do you think?

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