When your child refuses to go to school

Astroboy didn’t go to school today. Well, more like he didn’t want to change his clothes and brush his teeth to get ready for school. So it came down to a battle of wills where I say “If you don’t brush your teeth and change your clothes you can’t go to school”, and he continues playing as if he didn’t hear me.  He stayed upstairs most of the 3 hours.

The battle of wills lasted the whole morning till lunch time. He came downstairs twice and each time I told him he had to leave because he wasn’t dressed and a crying fit ensues when I try to physically remove him from school.  Not my best moments in positive discipline.  I kept reminding him about this rule and also telling him he can’t eat lunch either since he’s not ready for the day.  But he kept ignoring me.

In the meantime, Thumper is dressed and prepped for the day and waiting by the door by 9:40am with her new pet dog.  It’s a mechanical little dog which barks and walks back and forth.  She put a leash on it made out of string and also sewed a patched hoodie for it made out of felt.  I love the things she dreams up and the fact that there are no real materials are no deterrent.  She will make things out of paper if she needs to.

Thumper started the morning cutting some origami papers. While she worked, I organized my math and language boxes and dug out my Chinese calligraphy set finally. She immediately dropped what she was doing and tried that for an hour. I moved upstairs to organize my suitcase of Montessori math materials I got from Alison’s Montessori and she followed me.  She played piano for half an hour or so, ate snack for another half, then cleaned up her calligraphy after I asked her to. We ran out of things to do by this point and so I read to her a bunch of questions from the “100,000 Why” book.

As you can see, all in all not a very self-directed morning.  Astroboy has whined about keeping me company as I go up and down the stairs organizing my boxes and we’ve had several battles of will as Thumper worked.  She actually felt really bad for him and wanted to console him.

I decided to make sushi for lunch.  When Astroboy came over to the dining room table, I told him he couldn’t make it as he didn’t change out of his pajamas. He insisted he was just watching and will not join us in the activity.  At this point I finally gave up trying to get him to do the right thing.  I knew I will just calmly enforce my rules but otherwise he’s fine to do other things. And of course, after a few minutes into our sushi making, he declares, “Mama, I want to brush my teeth.” Hallelujah.

Our first sushi lunch didn’t turn out too badly. A 7 year old is really at a whole different level of skills. I showed Thumper once and she got it, including how to hold her fingers in correctly while using a knife. They wolfed down their lunch, she put her dishes away while Astroboy refused. I prepped dinner and then we rushed out the door at 2:15pm to go recycle, and pick up Baba. Of course Astroboy decides right before we leave he’s going to cleanup the table and wipe his table.

What I learned today:
Today was obviously one of those “Nothing is going right and the kids and I will keep butting heads” day.

From a Positive Discipline standpoint, I really just failed.  I failed the moment I tried to make Astroboy do something.  I’ve been trying the “Follow through without making it an battle of wills”.  I give myself a little pat because I followed through at least.  Thank goodness we’re homeschooling.  If we had to go to school I would either have to force him to dress or let him go in his pajamas. BUT, I didn’t really do it the right way.

It’s clear that Astroboy is really entering a stage of asserting his independence. Just a month ago he was quite willing to put dishes away and dress himself when asked and now he shows his stubborn personality (way more stubborn than his sister) when it comes not wanting to do something.  One thing I should have done was to just make clear to him the rules of the house and leave it at that. Rather than repeating things over and over again.  The repetition made it a battle of wills and what he can’t do if he doesn’t follow my desires becomes a punishment.

The other thing I should have done was to just take a step back and be really mindful of the situation.  These things gradually escalates because I’m not getting my way and I’m getting more and more annoyed at the fact someone is not doing what I want and I get more and more insistent on getting MY WAY and inventing new ways to getting my way.  If I stepped back a bit, I will remember what my goal is, which is really having the child independently change clothes and prep for the day, not having a compliant child.  With a clearer mind I might have come up with better ways to achieve that goal.

The thing is, Astroboy didn’t get enough sleep last night and noone was in the mood.  He moped in the room for 30 minutes at a time today, just laying in bed. Clearly he was hungry and sleepy.  So I also need to make sure he gets enough sleep.  I think some of my friends think I obsess too much about sleep and link misbehavior with it too often.  But it is always very clear to me when a child wakes up and isn’t happy go lucky he is lacking sleep. I feel really bad for teachers facing roomful of children who lack sleep and having to entice them to work.

What I need to try:
These two weeks have turned out to be observation week.  I notice the kids and I naturally want to stop about 1.5 hours into work and get a snack.  We get hungry by that time.  I also notice that that last hour has been a wash because snack happens upstairs and they don’t actually do much work after that before it’s lunch.  However, they will then play really well together for about 1-1.5 hours after lunch.  I’ve always been of the opinion that what Montessori observed about concentration and work is related to hunger and food.  So I need to figure out a way for the children to have a bigger breakfast so they last longer and need a smaller snack.


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