I wonder how many people have tried to learn something or improve themselves and had immediate success? It takes years to earn a degree and at least 21 days to form a simple habit. One of the lessons my husband is applying as a coach is that a coach (or teacher or parent) needs to give five positive comments for every one negative one. 5:1. The great basketall coach Phil Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordon using the 5:1 philosophy. How many of us actually parent like that?
So it's not surprising that as a child is learning something - like the appropriate way to deal with competition, frustration or normal banter/taunting - it would take time to master. I wrote in December that I was really impressed by my son's rapid adaptation to the accomodations offered to him in the classroom. We met today with his teacher and learned that those adaptations continue to work and that he, with a few of his classmates, successfully created and introduced tile-math for the first grade (when they had completed their third grade math work) as well as creating (with other classmates) a lesson on the science of crayfish for the kindergarten. Engaged, appropriate and striving.
But he is not perfect and hasn't mastered everything in regard to his behavior. During unstructuring times like recess and transitions, it's still hard for him to override his reflexes. With the coaching and support of his teachers, he's asked to become conscious of every choice he makes - physical and verbal - understand the implications, take responsibility, and learn to make another choice. I'm thankful that his school believes in supporting children as they learn and teaches children how to resolve conflict and reflect on their choices. He gets to practice as he's learning. The extensive testing he did showed that his impulses are not a choice - they are a reflex. So while he knows the rules and expectations, he's learning to react in new ways. It's quite a lot for an eight-year-old boy, but he keeps trying to get it right. For him, a day when he was successful in class and there are no (or very minor) scuffles at recess or in transitions is a big success. And we celebrate it. He's improving - according to the school.
It's probably challenging for anyone who isn't in the conversations with him, the school and us to know how much effort my husband and I spend with our son working to refocus his impulses and retrain his reflexes. We're lucky - he's neither mean nor insecure but he is competitive and impulsive. Advantages in sports, but challenging at school. As a friend said - he was born to be on a farm where he'd be working hard, outside, for hours before school. But in spite of our four chickens, we just don't have any hay to bale in the morning. He's eight and learning to control his impulses. Something most people I know still strive to do.
5:1 - I'm trying to praise his efforts 5x for every 1x he struggles. He radiates with pride when he succeeds. My impulse is to react when he doesn't and he certainly knows we are disappointed at those times. His struggles are embarrassing and frustrating. They don't happen when I'm present (I'm a calming influence on him). He's not a remote-control robot we can control, nor would we want to. When he is unsuccessful, he knows that he needs to try harder because he is accountable for it at home as well as at school. And every day we have improvement is a success to celebrate.