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Son Socializes Too Much
Q: My first-grader has been having notes sent home from his teacher regarding his behavior during school hours. He has to be told numerous times to sit, do his work, etc.
He gets his work done, is a very bright child, began reading long before kindergarten, doesn't have any trouble concentrating, likes to read, color, build. He doesn't have an attention problem; i.e., he can sit for long periods of time doing the same thing, and is not violent. Because of the concern the teacher had for his behavior at school, I approached her about whether she felt he has a learning disability. She adamantly said no, but to take him to the pediatrician for examination. The doctor's opinion was that he is fine, but referred us for testing to eliminate any possibility . On the assumption that the testing comes back negative for learning disability or hyperactivity, etc., what recommendations would you make for me to help my son overcome his tendencies to talk to others during school? According to the teacher, it is a matter of self-control. I have initiated a list of duties that my son is to perform daily, and I try to make it a fun process.
He is not spanked much; I believe in spanking only for certain things--certainly not because he talks in school. Also, our home life is busy, as most are, but there is routine regarding dinner, bedtime, etc. Please help me. The teacher is threatening that she may not promote my son to second grade if he cannot get himself under control. He is not failing! Academically, he is doing great. What should I do? I feel as though I've tried everything possible.
A: Your son should not be held back a grade because he lacks currently the ability to restrict his natural desire to socialize. Please don't let this escalate into some doctor recommending Ritalin so he'll sit still and be a "good boy" for this teacher. The teacher's threatening not to advance him is NOT the way for her to solicit better social compliance from him or get you to "make him" behave.
Perhaps more focus and praise should accompany your son's successes in school and less negative focus should occur surrounding his social problems. Perhaps you, his teacher and your son should sit down and work out a "star system" whereby he would be rewarded for attending to his work and not talking with other kids when he shouldn't be. He could receive a star every hour, if that sounds appealing to him. I would also suggest that you ask a guidance counselor from his school (or another in the school system) to observe your son's class and comment on what she sees as his "problem". One hopes she won't just mouth what his teacher says. I know this may seem a harsh statement but I find it is much more often the teacher who has a "teaching disability" than a child who has a "learning disability." We don't tolerate kids who don't sit still and remain quiet, even when they are doing well academically. History is flush with men and women of great achievement who were not accepted or appreciated by their teachers because they didn't "behave".
Don't let your boy be branded in his first year of elementary public school education. And certainly don't let him believe he is being a "bad boy" in school. Good luck.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.