When I read Liam’s report card, I immediately thought of Marcia and this post.
One of the problem areas identified in Liam’s midyear school review is that he is a fire starter. Those are my words.
Their words were:
Liam can be quite noisy and talkative during work times and he tends to distract his friends. This is due to his social nature but it does sometimes prevent him from producing the level of work he is capable of. Please also bear in mind this is common with boys as they like to make their friends laugh in order to ensure popularity.
The above paragraph was sent to me by the principal after I queried a few things in his report card. Just to fill you in, the report card is four pages long, the fourth page is for general comments and the first three pages are broken up into categories ranging from personal development, english, afrikaans, maths, life skills and so on. Those categories are further broken down into subcategories. They are graded for each sub category with a number. One being very good and five being not so good. So next to the block which read “exercises self control and good behaviour” Liam was graded with a number three. Three stands for “partially achieved requirement.” Pretty much a fail in my books. Before you judge, I base my high standard on what I know my children are capable of. And partially achieving good behaviour is not going to cut it with me, sorry.
Hmm. Now I know my son, I know that that number three is probably spot on. Because that is my son. The fire starter. He gets overly excited, he loves to be the centre of attention and if I don’t channel that energy positively, it gets out of hand. How this is the same kid who is terrified of dogs and who cries the loudest when he gets a fright or who is actually secretly afraid to try new things, and who can sit for hours playing quietly in his room or spend hours holed up reading every single book on his book shelf, is beyond me. Perhaps his bravado covers up his real insecurities, perhaps he’s just a little boy being a little boy for goodness sake and it doesn’t need to be over analysed by his crazy mother, but I don’t want my child to be THAT child who disrupts the class, who has to overdo EVERYTHING because he thinks it’s funny when really it becomes irritating for those around him. I want him to understand that there is a time and place for everything. And I want to do all of this without crushing his spirit which yearns to run free without any limitations or restrictions or rules. But that’s life kiddo: rules, etiquette and basically boring.
So when I addressed the issue with the school, it wasn’t because I was unhappy with the number three, it was because I wanted to know how to help fix this and hopefully turn that number three into a number one by year end. I seriously think that left unchecked, it could become a problem. If he was the class clown and still reaching his potential then I would maybe overlook it, but when his “behaviour is sometimes preventing him from producing the level of work he is capable of” then I need to check that. Stat.
One suggestion from my sister is a rewards system of sorts. Now I know everyone has their own ideas about rewards systems and the actual impact they have on children, but I know they work quite well for my kids, I’ve used them for potty training and chores around the house and they have helped tremendously. And nothing hectic. A simple star chart for good behaviour. Liam, Teacher and I will work together to help him earn stars. And Teacher doesn’t have to do anything, I will enquire about his behaviour everyday and depending on Teacher’s report, he’ll earn merits or demerits. And be rewarded accordingly after an agreed period.. a week at a time maybe. We’ll talk through what good behaviour in the classroom is about and I’ll make it simple enough for him to “get it.”
So that’s where we are with our fire starter. Anybody else with excitable little puppies boys out there? Anyone else with advice on how to tame this tiger without crushing his spirit?
Today he has a play date with one of his school friends, and while getting dressed I gave him a long lecture on how to behave and how to mind his manners, afterwards he says “so I should just be a good boy then?” And I felt sad because I don’t want him to think it’s an issue of being good or bad. I love that he is boisterous, energetic and for the most part a real clown, but because it’s difficult to have these conversations with a 4 year old while trying to make sure his underpants is on the right way and the milk isn’t boiling over in the microwave and Hannah hasn’t put her slops on her feet on the coldest morning of the year so far (our morning routine) I just said “yes, be a good boy.”