Monday, September 18, 2006

Parenting failure #48675423575

So we have hit the first roadblock that I am completely and totally stumped as to how to get around. My son refuses to write. Absolutely, flat-out, bribery doesn't work, won't even pick up a pen, would rather spend TWO HOURS screaming and crying...refuses to write.

Preschool has begun. Sam's having to adjust to a schedule of "appropriate behavior" and "school time" where he had previously enjoyed a rather unstructured and free atmosphere. And I don't mind saying, he's not doing well with it. He says it's boring. He says he doesn't know how to write. He says he is not going to do it ever, ever again.


To be fair, he did try writing. He tried, made a small mistake, and went ballistic because it was not perfect. He is harder on himself than we could ever possibly be. So the perfect solution is not to try at all. You can't fail if you don't even try.

Beautiful. I have apparently taught my son that it is better to sit there and cry than it is to give it your best attempt and make a little mistake here and there.

We have always said, "As long as you try," and, "Nobody is perfect," and, "Accidents happen." He never got this upset over potty training failures or any of the other potentially psyche-damaging mistakes he made along the path of his four short years. So why writing? What is it about writing that makes it better to refuse than to fail? And where do I go from here?

The thing is, I can't say that I don't know how I did this to him. There DOES come a point where you give up trying. Where you realize that failing brings too much pain and sadness, so you give up hope and don't even risk trying.

But that doesn't apply to writing a letter on a piece of paper.

Now how do I make him understand that?


Kathy McC said...

It must be an age thing. Aaron forgot to take off his socks at Tae Kwon Do class the other day and when the instructor simply said, "Aaron, don't forget socks off.", He flew into an embarrasment induced snit. He sulked and refused to go back in.

I think failure (however they define it in their little brains) is so devastating at this age and it causes them to shut down...

I hope he comes around for you soon. Just know that it isn't failure on your part...and you're not alone!

vixanne wigg said...

Maybe it's because he's around the other kids and/or the teacher? I know that when I was little I got very upset and embarrassed whenever someone other than my parents would correct me. I felt like I had done something wrong and I was bad.

Hmmm....insights into my adult insecurities...this might be something for therapy.

Is there a way to turn it into a game, or is it too late for that?

Sherry (Hallesmom) said...

Can you back off on writing for a bit - just not even mention it? When Zoe was little, even as far as into second grade actually, she would get SO upset if her letters weren't perfect that she would erase EVERYTHING each time she messed up and start all over. Not just erase the one letter - all of it! She was always so far behind in her work because she also wrote more than any other kid, but she had definite OCD tendencies.

Sam's insistance on not writing may be more over control than anything?

Penultimatina said...

Kate, I think it's the age. You may try it again (or a teacher at school might) and he'll be totally gung-ho. Gabi has just started taking an interest in this.

Does he like to draw? That might be a natural segue.

Yesterday Gabi had a total shit fit and refused the super cute Gymbo watch that my mom bought her because...the numbers didn't face up when she had her arm straight out in front of her. Four is a crazy, crazy time, and I am glad that I don't remember it.

Megan said...

Kate, does Sam only refuse to write for you, or for the teacher as well? Cassidy will not do ANYTHING for me, only for my husband and her teachers at school. Remember when pre-school and K were just for fun :( I'd try not to worry about it and hope he picks it up in his own time. Easier said than done though I know!

Catherine said...

He refuses to write for anyone. He apparently had a similar meltdown in school on Friday. He couldn't get his 0's and 1's exactly right (they were tracing them), so he freaked and refused to participate further. I thought, "Peer pressure...embarassment...etc." But then the same thing happened last night at home. I don't mind saying that it worries me.

Treggles said...


Does he draw?

Catherine said...

Not so much drawing as scribbling.

Treggles said...

I wouldn't be too worried. Mrs T teaches a reception class (ages 4-5) and many of them start school barely writing, some not at all. I'm sure I've heard some in education prefer pupils not to be writing too much when they start school as they can easily pick up bad habits if not coached in the best way.

Scribbling's good. The connection between the marks on the page and the words he hears and says is a pretty abstract concept to grasp. It'll come soon enough.

kate said...

Ummm....good luck. Alexander is like that, with the perfectionism. We had the same kind of scenes. It was very difficult to get him to write, to read, anything that didn't come 100% easily on the first try.

On the other hand, now that he is 13 he can write (sloppily as hell) and reads beautifully, so they do learn eventually.

Ok, Chloe is eating styrofoam, i have to go...

(so, don't take parenting advice from me)

kate said...

She stopped with the styrofoam so i can continue my comment. I would say -- don't worry about it too much, but you might consider, if it is possible, to put him in a school which has less emphasis on 'school time' and group activities. Montessori? Just a thought.