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View Full Version : My lieing, thieving kid.... and homeschooling



mjzzyzoff
09-24-2010, 09:15 AM
We started "officially" at the end of August. Our first year homeschooling. Would have been his 4th grade year in ps. Pretty unschooly except a little math curriculum every day or two. It's been rough. Takes about 1-2 hours (sometimes more) to get ONE PAGE OF MATH REVIEW done. So, it's not the work, it's the attitude. Same with the one or two chores he needs to complete every day or two. I guess the unschooly summer we spent with very few limits on things like video games wasn't quite right for us.

To be fair, there's a lot going on in his little 9-yr-old life; I married just over a year ago and my husband adopted him so suddenly he has a dad where one never existed before. We moved an hour away from my parents where he'd pretty much grown up to this point. We're in the city now as opposed to the country. I'm having a baby in about a month. He has a whole new set of friends, relatives, and even two new dogs.

I guess I pretty much know why he's acting out, I'm just not sure what to do about it. This week my mom took him on vacation to the Outer Banks and in a covert phone call at the beginning confirmed he is indeed being "a horrible little snot". Told you, mom. But then things seemed to mellow out. Husband and I have just been trucking along, missing him, but kind of happy for the break from all the tantrums and drama and working on getting the nursery ready for the baby. Yesterday my mom calls in the middle of the day, which I took to be a bad sign from the start. (Who calls in the middle of the day in the middle of a vacation? Shouldn't she have been out on the beach?)

Turns out the little snot stole our cousin's ipod. Then lied about stealing it. Apparently he was VERY disagreeable about the whole thing and when I talked to mom later that night (to see how things were going) she just sounded exhausted from dealing with him.

Now I'm sure the proper punishments were dealt out at the beach, but he'll be home tomorrow and I'm sort of at a loss as to what to do now. Something needs to happen, I'm sure, but I don't want to do too much or too little. Husband seems to think for a first major offense probation is appropriate and if he whines, cries, tantrum throws or otherwise causes a disruption in our zen, he loses all his privileges. I'm starting to think maybe we need to step up the structure with our schooling.

I think I still believe in unschooling as the best means to learn, but I'm afraid I might be holding on a bit too tightly to the ideal. Regardless, it doesn't seem to be working right now. Husband told me to give it a month, which I have, and the behavior has only gotten worse.

Which I guess leads to my question: What would YOU do if you were me? Would you start something more structured? Immediately? Slowly ramp it up? Hide under a pillow and cry all day (this option makes the most sense to me at the moment, pregnancy hormones and all). I guess another issue I'm having is healthwise, this pregnancy has been hard on me. I'm not up to visiting the zoo or building tree houses all day, in fact it's tough most nights to just make dinner. So while I feel like I'm not doing enough, other than sitting down with worksheets (in a comfy chair!) I'm not sure what more I can do to provide structure.

Any other ideas about any of it?

StartingOver
09-24-2010, 10:02 AM
I don't have an answer, but I have tons of hugs for you !! I went through the same kind of thing, my youngest of the oldest set. I spent 12 years single. He could just not tolerate my husband. I didn't even bring little ones into the mix. He told me last year, that he felt like he was swept to the back of the room. ( I still don't feel like that at all, I know I did all I could to include him in anything we did, to the exclusion of my husband many times. ) It is hard on them, when your time is split. We started Mom days, where there was a day where I just went out with each child for a bit, it helped a lot. That one on one time.

Maybe you can sit down and ask him, or all some counseling? I would for sure include him in anything and everything baby related. A new baby is a huge source of stress for most children, from 2 to 20. No one wants to be replaced, I know that isn't how you feel it is, but to a child it seems that way. Let him help decorate the nursery, pick out clothes. Let him hold the new baby, feed, change, etc. Anything he wants to be involved in, make a big deal about him being a big brother. That is is a huge job, and he has to help !!

I may be totally off base, but it is just my experience ! HTH

mjzzyzoff
09-24-2010, 11:17 AM
Thanks Jana, we are trying to include him in everything but I see what you mean, he still probably feels replaced or something similar. I think we are going to talk to him some, counseling might be too big a step for right now (although if he won't talk to us about it may be necessary!) but we really have never honestly asked him how he feels about all this.

Teri
09-24-2010, 01:10 PM
I have an older son, was single for a long time and then remarried when he was 10 and had the first of three babies when he was 11.

It is a HUGE change.

We included my son in everything. We were married at the courthouse, just the three of us. ;)
He was in the delivery room for the births of all three of his siblings.

One of the biggest things we did was to make sure he spent a lot of time with my husband, doing "man" stuff. Going to Home Depot, playing chess, going to boy scouts (once he was out of cub scouts and I was married, my husband took over all of the scout stuff), going camping, home repair projects.

Alex was (is!) and huge help with the younger kids. I would be COMPLETELY insane if it weren't for him. ;)

For my younger three, we HAVE to have structure. It doesn't have to be tight, but having a time set aside for certain things helps keep everyone feeling better.
We have our routines that we go through in the morning and the evening and even weekly and they all need that. They tend to fall apart without it.
I do think you could unschool within a structure though. Y

Busygoddess
09-24-2010, 01:18 PM
I really think you may need to get some counseling for him.

I was a single working mom for over 5 years. Then, during Dea's Kinder year, I got pregnant, married, had problems in the pregnancy & was in the hospital on bedrest for a month, Jay came 12 weeks premature, Dea lived with my dad & stepmom while I was in the hospital, and she was dealing with being bored at school & being bullied for being smart. That was a really hard year for her. We started homeschooling that summer. I tried to include her as much as possible in things with Jay, and my hubby had no problem stepping in as dad. She still felt replaced. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much time I spent with her, she never got over feeling like she wasn't loved as much. The lies & stealing started during Kinder. I was hoping they would end after we started homeschooling, but they got worse. She also gets really violent with Jay sometimes, though that's more likely due to her anger managment issues & her Bipolar.

We're now in our 7th year of homeschooling. Dea is in 7th grade. Jay is in 1st & will be 7 this December. Dea is finally making progress with the stealing. She still lies, but it's less than before. She has fought about school almost every single day we've homeschooled. She HATES Math, so that is the biggest fight. However, if there is somethig she doesn't think will interest her, she will fight about learning about it. Our current battle is that she doesn't want to really study the Theory of Evolution. She's decided that what little she really knows about it is enough. She has no reason learn more about it. She doesn't care about it. She is convinced it is boring and is fighting tooth & nail about having to study it. However, she's finally making progress with not fighting about Math so much this year. So, it's kind of a trade off.
She's been in therapy for years about her behavior problems - lieing, stealing, violent tantrums (I used to have to physically restrain her so she didn't hurt someone or break things when she had tantrums), fighting & lack of effort with school, fighting & lack of effort with chores, etc. She's gone through several therapists, has been in anger management classes, and misdiagnosed. She is, however, finally making progress.

Now, I don't think your son would need therapy for as long. Dea has juvenile-onset Bipolar, perfectionist issues (which cause part of her fighting in school), and combination-type ADHD. That's why it has taken so long for there to be progress with her - they've had a lot to work on & no true progress was made until they finally got a correct diagnosis, which was about 1 1/2 yrs ago. Your son's had a stressful year & is likely experiencing some sibling rivalry. He probably needs someone to talk to - a disinterested third party. Plus, a therapist would be able to help him build the coping mechanisms he needs to better deal with his frustrations & emotions.

For his tantrums - teach him some more appropriate ways to deal with anger & frustration and consider giving him an anger journal (somewhere to write his feelings without fear of judgement). Keep a journal of everything he steals & every time he lies. This will help determine if there is a pattern, plus it will help you hold him accountable for his actions. Talk to him about trust - how it has to be earned, how easily it can be lost, and how hard it is to earn back after being lost. Talk about how it feels to have something stolen from you, if he's never been stolen from he might not realize the affect it has on the owner of the stolen item. Make sure you make some time for him & you alone and do something fun. He needs reassurance that you're still there for him.

HTH. If nothing else, at least you know you're not alone.

dbmamaz
09-24-2010, 01:21 PM
Yup - i remarried when my older kids were 6 and 10, and had a baby when they were 7 and 11. My daughter went nuts at 11, and we assumed it was hormones . . . it wasnt until 5 years and some therapy later that she was finally able to tell me she didnt feel needed any more. But I'd responded to her rudeness by ignoring it, which made her feel totally rejected. In retrospect, I can see that my relationship with my older kids really changed, but I was blind to it at the time - i was SO happy, so in love, so excited about the baby, that I just assumed I was being a better mom because I was happy.

I would try a few things. First of all, i would get him in some sort of sport - we're doing martail arts - where he can get rid of some of his energy that you cant help with right now. I would find things you can handle that he likes. I hate to be a broken record here, but math story books or playing games with dice are a fine way to learn new math concepts and practice math facts. Make sure you spend time reading books to him that he likes, while he cuddles or plays around the living room, whichever he likes better. Make sure you are having POSTIIVE educational interactions.

Finally - talk to him about it! Start by talking about how so much has changed, and how mom is SO excited about everything that sometimes she forgets it might not be as fun for him. See if he can talk about changes he likes and doesnt like - maybe you could even say what you like and dont like first. If you can get him to feel comfortable talking about his feelings, then you can start a conversation about how to get his bad feelings out without breaking rules. Talk to him about different things you could try to do for school, and see what sounds good to him. I'd be careful about starting a new structure right before the baby, tho, because you are not likely to be able to keep it consistantly for the first few months.

I really feel for you - its hard to be in so many transitions at once AND homeschooling! Oh, one more thing - is your son happy to be homeschooling? Because honestly, if he'd rather be in school - you might seriously consider it for the baby's first year. It might do him some good to have baby-free time every day, esp if he really wants it.

Melissa541
09-24-2010, 01:27 PM
There is a Yahoo Group called Unschooling Basics with some really good advice for anything, really, from an unschooling perspective; not just education, but unschooling as a lifestyle. There are very often questions from new-to-unschooling parents regarding behavior issues; the old hats are very thorough in explaining how they do it & why. Sometimes they can get a bit in your face about it, but they do have what they feel are childrens' best interests at heart.

I really appreciate the group for helping me to be a more gentle, respectful mother. When I find myself raising my voice a bit too much, I go read there & feel more able to take a deep breath & be the momma my kids needs me to be.

I'm positive that if you describe what's going on with your son, you'll receive some helpful tips.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unschoolingbasics/?yguid=321488386

Topsy
09-24-2010, 02:23 PM
Sounds like you need the Zenschooling book, pronto!! ;) I'm so sorry your family is struggling right now and especially your son. My guess is that unschooling (and keep in mind that I am a big fan!) might not be the very best right now for him. Why? Because it might seem like just another area where you are "not giving him attention." Unschooling is such a child-led philosophy which is so awesome in the right situation, but for a boy who is going through so many changes and fluctuations in his life, he might actually be craving the attention, time, and structure that unschooling doesn't necessarily provide. He might be direly in need of mom to be there with him, guiding him through at least a couple hours of fun, educational instruction for a little while. (Although keep in mind, he isn't going to immediately REALIZE this is what he is craving and may balk in the beginning) When his life has settled into a new rhythm, and he sees that neither the baby or anything else is going to usurp his place in the family, then it might be time to revisit a full unschooling approach again.

Best of luck to you...with everything!!

Firefly_Mom
09-24-2010, 06:59 PM
{{{HUGS}}} Wow, it sounds like you all have had some pretty big changes! And double congrats for the new marriage and new baby!

I agree with what Topsy said regarding the schooling aspect, I just want to add my 2 cents regarding the counseling. Instead of just thinking of it for your son, I would suggest family counseling. I know when I was a kid, our family was going through a lot of changes and we had family counseling sessions first (later on we had individual counseling). But the family doing it together was imperative because as a family unit, we ALL needed to learn to work together and communicate with each other productively. I'm just thinking that if he's the only one who's going, he may perceive it as "There's something wrong with me", whereas I'm sure that what you'd like is "We're all going to work together." Then if he still needs one-on-one sessions, he'll be more comfortable. Just a thought. :)

Pefa
09-25-2010, 11:22 AM
What a hard place to be in! It's so heartbreaking to watch our children struggle.

You've gotten so much great advice already that I don't know how much I can add. I will recommend Alan Kazdin's book "Raising your Defiant Child" (which I think is a much more inflammatory title than it needs to be). If DBmamaz is a broken record about playing math games, which I whole heartedly support, I'm on loop about Kazdin. He's a researcher out of Yale, totally low key, practical and do-able. Basically his thoughts are that you have to be very specific about the behaviors you want create a plan with the child and reward the changes in behavior over time.
He also writes for Slate quite regularly so you could take a look at his style before investing in the book.

Keep us posted.

Berta
09-25-2010, 12:17 PM
What I am going to say is not going to be very popular. I know it wont because I have been there to some extent with my daughter and had a LOT of unsupportive people around me that thought I was crazy.

My daughter came to live with me at age 7 after her mother died from drug overdose. She had a VERY disfunctional life. She ran the show, she was in control and what she wanted she got. She lied, she manipulated, she stole, she was rude... I can go on and on. She was beyond being a little snot, she was a major con-artist, taught by the best.

I took her to counseling, we went to family counseling and finally after two useless counselors, we found one that clicked. The counselor suggested we basically turn her world upside down. We need to do the exact opposite of what she was expecting. She needed to learn there is structure, responsibility and mutual respect within a family. I too am not against unschooling at all ... I love it ...but in this case and what I suspect in your sons case, its not going to work in the early stages.

The first thing we did was have a family meeting. Prior to that meeting my husband and I came up with a list of consequenses for her not doing what was expected of her. The list was very detailed, and very thorough. Example.. If she argues AT ALL about getting work done, the consequense was she had to do two math sheets insetead of one... and she was put on a timer.

We started off by taking away everything of value to her. Tv time, phone time, videos... even her ipod with music on it. She had to earn them back. We came up with a timeline. If she did X, then she would get her choice of X or X back within X timeframe. Everything was earned, nothing was just given. This was very hard, but it worked. As the saying goes, the proof is in the puddin'. My daughter is now 15, she is a respectful, pleasant (for the most part) young adult. She does all of her schoolwork on her own. She is as close to being unschooled as we can get while still having a set curriculum. She works at her own pace, doing what she wants, when she wants.

I know a lot of people do not agree with this method, but it worked for us.

dbmamaz
09-25-2010, 12:30 PM
Berta, I want to point out that there is a difference between a child who has had no structure her entire life, and one who is just having a negative reaction to sudden life changes. It sounded like there was consequences given for the theft and lying (by the adult who was in charge at the time). I have heard of your method working for a lot of people who are dealing with serious problems with a child who is non-compliant and seems not to care about approval. But it really depends on the child.

On a much smaller scale, my older son, when we point out he did something wrong, will immediately appoligize and, before being on meds, would say he didnt deserve to live. If I punished him he would cry for a long time and then ask for DAYS afterwards if I really loved him. He WANTED my approval so badly, but was often incapable of controlling his behavoirs. Now, at 14 and on meds for bipolar, he is capable of exerting self-control in ways he was not when younger.

My youngest child is a whole different animal. He would laugh at dissaproval and purposefully disobey right in front of me. The ONLY thing which will get compliance out of him is immediate consequences. When I suggest a consequence, he visibly grits his teeth and clenches his fists and fights tears, and if given a few minutes to calm down, will comply. My older son would accept consequences with the understanding that the punishment was fair, but it never helped him control himself.

and then there was my daughter - at a warning of a consequence if behavoir continued, she would immediately apply the consequence herself - the behavoir we were trying to stop didnt really matter to her at all, being the master of her own destiny did. but for the most part, she was harder on herself than I ever would have been.

Busygoddess
09-25-2010, 01:14 PM
Berta, while I don't disagree with the method you used with your daughter, I don't think they need to start at such extremes in this case. As Cara said, there is a difference between what your daughter had been through & this boy having trouble dealing with many changes at once. I think it would be best, in this case, to start off smaller & work towards the extremes, if needed.

As I said, I don't disagree with your method. I have had to go to extreme measures with my daughter, as well. We've had to take away everything & she had to earn it back (still hasn't earned it all back, yet). We had to lock up tons of stuff, due to her stealing. I have more keys for the inside of my house than the average person has total. Sometimes, extreme measures are all that will work. However, I don't think someone should start at the extremes if something smaller will work. In this case, I don't think they need to go to major extremes to get results. Extreme measures are best saved for extreme cases.

InstinctiveMom
09-25-2010, 11:14 PM
We started "officially" at the end of August. Our first year homeschooling. Would have been his 4th grade year in ps. Pretty unschooly except a little math curriculum every day or two. It's been rough. Takes about 1-2 hours (sometimes more) to get ONE PAGE OF MATH REVIEW done. So, it's not the work, it's the attitude. Same with the one or two chores he needs to complete every day or two. I guess the unschooly summer we spent with very few limits on things like video games wasn't quite right for us.<SNIP>
I'm starting to think maybe we need to step up the structure with our schooling.

I think I still believe in unschooling as the best means to learn, but I'm afraid I might be holding on a bit too tightly to the ideal. Regardless, it doesn't seem to be working right now. Husband told me to give it a month, which I have, and the behavior has only gotten worse.

Which I guess leads to my question: What would YOU do if you were me? Would you start something more structured? Immediately? Slowly ramp it up? Hide under a pillow and cry all day (this option makes the most sense to me at the moment, pregnancy hormones and all). I guess another issue I'm having is healthwise, this pregnancy has been hard on me. I'm not up to visiting the zoo or building tree houses all day, in fact it's tough most nights to just make dinner. So while I feel like I'm not doing enough, other than sitting down with worksheets (in a comfy chair!) I'm not sure what more I can do to provide structure.

Any other ideas about any of it?

Wow, mama - what a lot of big changes in your life, and his!

A couple of things...
Is he struggling with ADHD or other attention type difficulties? Your description of taking SO long to do work is very similar to our experience. It's not that he can't do the work, or necessarily that he 'won't' - it's that he CANNOT do it by himself in that manner (i.e.: sitting at a desk and working the page all on his own). We counteract that by letting him stand and bounce as needed, calling his answers out to me, or working them on the chalkboard or using manips - anything but having to sit and write...

If this is you first few months - have you guys done any deschooling? With all those changes, it might help him get centered again without the pressure of 'school' over him.

If you're really looking to add more structure, I might pick one or three basic, core subjects and start with an everyday of that - short and sweet - and gradually add more to your day.

I can't imagine how much work you all are doing to adjust! Hang in there!! :)
~h

mommykicksbutt
09-26-2010, 10:48 AM
I'm sorry to hear of your troubles with your child. I can relate (story for another time). I'm a firm believer that all misconduct, bad behavior, and acting out all ultimately have to do with changes or loss of the relationships the child has with others (based on prior experience with our then troubled child/teen now well adjusted adult daughter). He does not know what is wrong, he just feels that something is and acting badly gets him attention (relationship contact). A close and/or loving relationship of importance to him has been altered or lost. He does not know how to adjust to this change and is frustrated and unhappy. He is hurting and is yelling for help, so help him not just punish him (yes, do serve up consequences for his wrong actions).

Find an environment that the child is comfortable in. While the child is in that environment mom should have a pleasant toned conversation with him about how he feels about each change he has experienced recently: the marriage of mom (does he now feel like she (or her time for him) has been stolen from him?); his new dad (was he an adult playmate and is now an authority figure?); new home (liked the old one better?); new friends (home sick for his old friends?); dogs (possible nuisance?); new school situation (don't understand what is expected or liked structure and schedules before?); new sibling (doesn't know what a big brother does or what a new baby really means for him - the unknown); etc. Let him do the talking. Do not lead him to answers. Be objective in your inquiry. Listen to him, be sympathetic and not judgemental. He maybe acting badly because the relationship he had with you which he liked just the way it was is not the same anymore and it is beyond his control to get it back and he is frustrated and angry and this is exhibited in his behavior and in his relationships with others. Find out how his relationship with other people are going. Is there a change in how he responds to them, a personality change? Do not discount his fears or rationale, try to sympathise with him, see it from his point of view to understand him and his actions better. Relate to him that you do see what he sees and how you would have responded to the same situations (thereby giving him behavior options to choose from in the future). Repair the altered relationship(s), it does not need to be what he imagined it to be before just get the quality of the relationship back for him. Dialogue with the child will go a long way to let him know that you are still his mom no matter what, that he has not lost anything but has gained a great deal more, that he is loved not only by you but by his new dad, the new pets, and his soon to be little sibling.

mjzzyzoff
09-27-2010, 01:18 PM
Wow, thank you everyone. This is a lot to read through and think about so I'm not going to try to respond to everyone right now, but I will say we've had some success with our consequences and he has been very polite and helpful the past few days. We also went through all his toys and found some things he had borrowed, some he had stolen, and some his friends had just left here and it's all going back with apologies. He was very honest (we think!) about what was actually taken without permission and what was borrowed, so I am hopeful.

Also, I do not think he has ADHD issues. He actually seems to do okay with the worksheets on his own, sometimes even better than when we are around, and I don't see signs of it anywhere else. If it's an enjoyable activity for him (such as building legos) he will sit happily for hours. I truly believe it's not that he can't do the work, it's that he just won't.

archibael
09-27-2010, 01:28 PM
My sympathies on the worst of the behavioral stuff, mjzzyzoff, and my empathy on the "can do the work, but won't". My eldest had/still has focus issues on work she didn't find thrilling. Some of this improved after we sent her to neurofeedback training, but she's still a dreamer and needs external (i.e. us) refocusing from time to time. The good news is that it does get better-- I'm still trying to puzzle out whether it's maturity or that her original dislike of the physical act of writing/typing was getting in the way-- but as a parent it's a struggle to watch. And sometimes it's a struggle not to shake them! ;)