Pulling Ben Out of School, Again

His first day of school. Who knew it would end up like this that day?

His first day of school. Who knew it would end up like this that day?

As unfathomable as that title is, it’s true. Ben has managed to get pushed out of another pre-school.

It happened in a very similar way as it did last year, with the teachers daily complaints about his behavior, and many parent teacher meetings.

It took me longer to recognized the signs, since 2 out of 3 of his teachers last year were the same ones who used to greet me every day after school with another funny Benism.

This year, they couldn’t find the humor.

It started with me receiving the same survey I was given at his last pre-school. It was not my first time to the rodeo, so I knew what it meant. This time I wasn’t going to make the mistake of signing any piece of paper that might get my kid a record that was going to follow him for the next 16 years.

Luckily I was much more familiar with these teachers. I was able to ask, point blank, where were they were going with this and could we cut to the chase?

It was suggested we get a behavioral therapist. I called one right away. We would pay for it, but we did not want these observations on his record. We were worried he would be pigeon holed if he got a bad report. However, after hearing his first observation, I kind of think we should add it now.

On Monday she observed. On Wednesday we heard back. It was surprising after hearing so many complaints about Ben for so long that the therapist did not point the finger at Ben, but in fact pointed it the other way completely.

It made me realize that when a small child misbehaves, it is our job as adults to figure out the best way to get through to him. Ben does not respond to normal cues and commands. It is our job to change, not his. If we change the way we relate to him, we have a better chance of getting him to understand and therefore behave.

Later, when I told his teacher we were leaving, she explained to me that she purposely was less attentive to Ben then usual during the observation so the therapist we hired would be able to see his behavior problems a bit more clearly. I’m not sure if that made it better or worse. A lot of the comments from the therapist hinted that being more attentive would have helped. But if Ben still doesn’t conform even when the teachers are more attentive, then I’m not sure what the solution is.

I still believe Ben’s teachers are very good, but I just don’t think they have the understanding or skills to deal with him. And he can be a handful. He definitely is more work than any of my other children. But he is also the one with the funniest sense of humor, and the biggest joie de vivre.

So this morning I found myself standing before this woman that I had trusted with one or another of my kids for over 3 years now. Having to pull the plug like this felt like I was going through a divorce. We were both crying.

My little snuggler.

My little snuggler.

After realizing the adults were to blame, I wondered how much of it is my fault? I’m the kind of mother who, when I see Ben has gnawed the straws off all his water bottles, instead of scolding him I buy camelbak water bottles, which where made to be bitten. Last night when he was crying because Jack got out of the tub first and he didn’t want to be the last one out, instead of yanking him out or yelling, I rolled my pants up, then stood in the tub and let him get out first so he wasn’t the last one. Then we had a giggle about it. Almost everything we do at home has a choice. Bath now or in five minutes? This top or the other one?

I don’t think our system at home of independent play, lots of choices, and out of the box nurturing is helping all these teachers we are sending him to. We either need a very nurturing, high energy pre-school or we need to stop trying to push him into something he’s not ready or capable of conforming to.

For a while we were asking his teachers if he was good or bad that day and punishing or rewarding him accordingly. They were mostly all bad days, with a few good in between.

How can you stay angry at a face like this?

How can you stay angry at a face like this?

About a month ago on the playground after school I hugged him on the playground. I told him I loved him. He asked, “Do you only love me when I’m good?”

I wanted to cry. “No Ben, I love you unconditionally. I love you when you are good or bad.”

I stopped asking if he was good or bad. He was starting to believe he was a bad person. That can become a self fulfilling prophesy.

So we have officially pulled him out of school. It wasn’t a fit this year, for either side. For a while I thought we would have the therapist work with the school but it seems silly for us to pay all this money to educate an entire group of teachers who may or may not even catch on or be willing to change.

We will research new schools. Or maybe just some ad hoc classes. We will most likely continue to work with the therapist. But I told Adam already unless we find something brilliant that he absolutely loves, I’m happy to just wait until kindergarden. Hopefully he will have matured enough by then to tolerate it.

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