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Naughty at School

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I've noticed a trend of late; I write about a problem I am experiencing at home and a week or two later it no longer exists. Things move on so quickly indoors that you don't actually realise the issues creeping up on you, but then you don't then see them drift away either. Right now I am experiencing a feeling that I hope disappears rather quickly for I feel like I am somehow failing the children, I must be, or why would they both be misbehaving so much at school?

I'm a big believer that we as parents are always responsible for our children's behaviour: at school, in the supermarket, in the park, everywhere. I don't tell the children this but if everything was how it should be they would go into school confident, happy and willing wouldn't they? So I have to look at what's going wrong at home in order to improve their situation in the classroom. Am I too soft, too strict? Do I mention mum enough? There are so many factors to consider in order to strike the right balance.

Bobby is nine now, he has always been the one that gives me a hard time, after all he is definitely his mother's son, strong willed, stubborn and argumentative, but never has he set a foot out of place at school which is the way round that I prefer it. Fred on the other hand has always been wonderful at home, the only one of us not to be a Gemini (including mum) but would unfortunately take out his frustrations on his teachers, causing me to have to endure a chat with the staff on a regular basis - although last year I felt we had turned a corner because he was wonderful in Year 2 for Mrs Wigston.

So does the teacher really make all of the difference? I mean all of a sudden Bobby is being sat on his own in front of the teacher's desk, apparently distracting others at every opportunity. Is this the Bobby that has always pleased his teachers with his sensibility and attitude towards others? Clearly something is up and I need to come up with the solution quickly before he settles into this new role of class clown and falls behind with his work.

I sat down with his teacher this week and explained her new and 'not so desirable' pupil to her. I admitted that he is a very angry child due to his loss and in the past I have seen it expressed in my direction but never before to anyone else. I appealed to her not to take it personally because this is of course the golden rule of parenting and something that presents me with my biggest challenge.

I was shocked and upset that Bobby had behaved as badly as she stated, it's really not like him, and this is where I go back to my initial comment about failing him. Because if it is the anger and frustration of his loss that fuels this rebellious streak, which in my view is more of a cry for help than any long term intent to be disruptive, then I am not doing enough to disperse these emotions so that they don't affect him or hold him back elsewhere.

Freddy has started the year a little hot and cold, he seems to be great for half the day and then he gets tired, loses focus and then the calling out begins and seemingly doesn't stop. He too is sitting on a desk on his own at the moment which makes me feel guilty, guilty because I put a lot of pressure on myself to steer these children through their education, managing their grief as we go so that they go on to great things as great people. Exclusion from the class as a whole isn't part of that blueprint.

Back to teachers. I am grateful that both Bob and Fred's teachers are communicating with me and like the fact that some of this is being done by e-mail. This works best in my opinion then I don't feel like I have to be stern faced daddy the whole way home from school because it can set a tone that lasts the rest of the evening. If I'm aware of the problems I can talk to him about it later and set him targets when he is relaxed because when the defences are up you might as well be talking to yourself.

I hope the teachers see that there are two little boys who are not setting out to misbehave intentionally, but simply expressing that which they feel inside without actually understanding what that is. I hope they both know that there is nothing more important to me than working with them to repair the poor start that both of them have made to the year, but they should not see them as a lost cause nor bad eggs because that wouldn't be fair or appropriate.

So what do I plan to do about it? Well Bob needs to start seeing Grief Encounter again, he stopped some time ago because he appeared to be doing well but mainly because he felt so self conscious about being pulled out of class on a Friday afternoon because he knew everyone knew the reason for it. I have arranged for the counsellor to come to our home after school next week and we are going to go on a nice walk to see if he wants to volunteer anything and more importantly see if there is the desire there for him to start seeing Julie frequently again.

Grief Encounter are such a big help, they certainly know what's best for a bereaved child, they have a residential weekend coming up at the end of the month so for the first time the boys can meet other children who have shared their experiences, this is something I think and hope will be of great use to their development.

That aside, slightly less modern approach, I'm going to get the boys doing some boxing on a Thursday night simply so they can physically let go of some of their anger. I try to identify what I can do more at home but they get so much of my attention, I read to them every night, we do homework together, we eat at the table together and we play games together, I'm far from absent in any sense of the word.

My worst habit by far, I let Bobby get to me too easily. He can say some very cutting remarks and knows only too well how to get a reaction from me. I need to work harder on ignoring this, staying calm as I tell him what the punishment is and why he's getting it and ignoring the verbal abuse that comes off the back of it. I must simply switch off from what I know he doesn't mean and hear only the things that he does.

I remind myself the importance of bedtime, not just being punctual to their routine but to use it as the calmest time of the day when questions like 'how do you feel' are best received and the cuddle you give before you tuck them in is grabbed with both arms and felt long after I've walked out the room.

I don't pretend to have all the answers - I welcome advice from all - sometimes it's the kind tweets that give me the boost I need to stay strong and focused. I stop myself from being too negative by reminding myself that love will prevail and as long as they know I'm there for them we will come through this okay.

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