Stress and Type A Boys

The Boy missed two questions on a math test today and had a complete meltdown in class.

Serious meltdown -- his teacher said you would have thought the world was coming to an end.

He whacked himself on the head.

He said he was stupid.

He said he couldn't do anything right.

And he cried.

The incident upset the entire class, who were torn between rubbing it in that he had not received the highest grade and comforting him.

I am fairly driven and very hard on myself, but that's me. I don't discuss it with The Boy, and I go to great lengths to be mellow and laid back when it comes to his grades.

Bad grades, I tell him -- often, which may be a hint that all is not quite right -- are usually a sign that someone (we discuss random third parties a lot) either wasn't paying attention and was careless or didn't fully understand the instructions.

A lot of bad grades means someone needs some extra help because they don't understand what is going on and they need to be taught a different way.

Someone can usually be sure he will do better next time, I say.

Obviously I do not condone bad grades, but I do not penalize The Boy for them, either. I do offer performance bonuses for making the Honor Roll, but the bonus is the same for both the A and B levels specifically so that he doesn't drive himself nuts trying to be perfect. I praise him often, without being excessive, and emphasize the positive in any situation.

I don't know where this is coming from at all.

Coming so soon after Easter, when he made himself sick staying with his cousins,) I wonder if he is unable to either process stress on his own or express unquantified emotion.

Here at home, things are peaceful. The Husband and I have slightly overlapping work schedules, so usually only one of us is around during the week.

There is a great deal of incense, books and classical and New Age music. The Boy still does not believe he can sleep without his cable radio symphonies station (he is not a fan of light classical). From what I see, he uses video games to decompress in addition to his primary entertainment (shooters when he is upset; RPGs, action/strategy and puzzles for fun).

As a possible solution, we are going to take up music.

The recorder first, of course, because it integrates learning to read music and he will have to do that before he can do anything else.

The Husband is an enormous fan of piano lessons, but The Boy has expressed interest in the violin. I had violin lessons until I was 11 and my family moved to West Virginia,) so I am leaning in that direction.

Perhaps we will do both; we'll have to see what appeals to The Boy.

Any other insights or suggestions would be appreciated.
) The cousins' home thrives on chaos -- there's three of them, under the age of 7, and homeschooled. Nice kids, but a very good argument for the social environment of the school system. The Boy's biggest problem there is that he is treated like a child, rather than whatever he thinks he is treated as at home. Also, it is a video game-free home, because, of course, video games are bad and rot your brain. No explanation is offered for The Boy's interest in reading as opposed to Oldest Cousin, who has to be bribed and forced to read at a significantly lower level.

) Trust me when I say it is impossible to transition from an Italian classical violin master to a West Virginia fiddler. The two styles do not mix, and any kid involved will completely shut down.


Anonymous said...

You may have already done this, but get rid of the words good and bad from your vocabulary. Particularly when it involves personal traits. There is no good and bad. There is only useful and not useful. I have found this is extraordinarily helpful in avoiding the All or Nothing Lizards which wait for a sign of "weakness" and punch the "I suck" buttons in my brain.

Changing your terminology in this way may allow you to directly address his concerns, instead of referencing vague third persons. Perhaps this will lead to him feeling more in control of his actions? I'm not sure.

I'm now going to turn to Seth Godin, a marketing expert I actually respect. Here's a couple of his concepts I think are appropriate to the situation:

1: A lot of people give up when they hit The Dip. They just quit. This is unfortunate, because true success lies just on the other side of The Dip. So, instead of being frustrated and feeling like a failure... figure out how to get through The Dip and out the other side to the success that awaits you.

2: Perfection is the enemy of growth. If something is "perfect" there's no need to work on it anymore and it stagnates. Strive to be great and recognize that 'great' often means 'good enough'. Being 'great' does not mean being perfect, it means always growing and learning.

3: Failure is the most valuable tool for personal growth. If we always succeed, we're not trying hard enough. Failure leads to learning and understanding your limits.

And (this is me here, not Seth) only through acknowledging your limits and working to compensate for them can you truly become limitless.

Also let him know that he's, what? Eight? Nine? I'm turning forty this year and sometimes I still have to fight the temptation to hit myself in the head and call myself an idiot when I drop the ball.

Anne said...

He's picked up most of the "good" and "bad" from school.

I have tried to push the idea that being perfect is pretty boring because you're stuck. People who aren't perfect get to try new things, experiment and grow, etc.

Around the house he seems fine.

It's when he is out and about that he morphs into Type A Boy. I just hear stories after the fact . . .

On a positive note, I caught the librarian alone and convinced her to let him take a test on one of his books, which turned out to be a Level 5.3. He took the test cold and passed, and earned 8 points, so he doesn't have to worry about his Reading grade anymore.

It is going to be an interesting summer.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had some sort of magic school solution for you. Every time you post about his experiences there I flash back to my public "education" days in Texas.

It's hard to drown out the messages you pick up there, no matter how well put together your family.

Good news about the reading comprehension test, though!

Anne said...

Today he took first place in his entire grade for the Science/Social Studies UIL exam.

He says he got lucky, and didn't ask him about customs, culture and rituals.

Not "Yay! I did really well!" but "I got lucky."

I don't know.

I am beginning to have flashbacks to the WV and NJ public school systems, too. Not very pleasant, to say the least.

bod said...

i wish there was something i could say to help anne. i'm just glad he has the parents he does. x