Thursday, February 18, 2010
Attitude and Negativity-By-Association
WARNING: These photos are much cuter than the topic of today's post.
My 10-year-old CC is killing me lately.... He is still desperately unhappy with school most days and though I want to help and try to help him*, I also just flat-out want to lock him in his room some days because of his miserable, no-good, rotten attitude. An attitude that emanates from him and then washes over everyone in the vicinity.
We are an emotional lot in this house (hard to believe, right?) and some days it just seems like I am helpless against the onslaught of negativity and am instantly transformed into Mean Mommy, the one who yells and bosses and sighs and then throws her hands up in the air and retreats to her computer, hoping to fade into the plaster and not be seen or bothered. This is not, for many obvious reasons, a good way to deal with the problem.
His attitude manifests itself through smart-alecky comments, defiant disobedience, constant criticism or commentary on everything around him, i.e. dinner is served and is greeted with a grimace and barely stifled "Ew.", "I don't want to.", "Why do I have to?", "That's stupid.", "You're an idiot." and his personal favorite, "SHUT UP!"
These are all minor aggravations, however, when compared to his latest outlet for all his simmering rage and aggression and desire for control: He has assumed the role of mini-Daddy while Daddy-007 is out of the house and the role of his lieutenant when he is home. He is aggressive and bossy with his younger siblings and often downright mean-spirited. For example, I might ask the Animal if he will please go wash his hands, if he were to trot off and then sneak upstairs? CC would follow him and then strong arm into the bathroom yelling at him that he needs to wash his hands. The Animal starts to scream and cry because CC is hurting him and then I start yelling at CC to leave him alone. At which point, CC's brow lowers, his bottom lip goes out and he scowls his way around the house or to his room, complaining loudly that he hates his life. (Alright, he doesn't always say that, but he has said it, and definitely exudes that feeling through his glaring.) It gets even better when all this happens while 007 is home and he starts yelling, too, and then Destructo joins in, trying to explain why Theodore did what he did.
And the Animal uses this automated-family-chaos response to his advantage on a regular basis. And is also capable of turning it around and dishing out CC's moves to Destructo.
As they say, cuss rolls downhill.
So my new tact with CC has been to take him quietly aside when he starts to go into Enforcer-mode and tell him kindly that I love him for being my eldest son. I love him for being his sweet, silly self. I love him for a thousand reasons that make me honestly happy and proud that he is my son. And that I don't want him to be anything other than my eldest son. I don't need another daddy in the house, I don't need a policeman, I don't need or want him to worry about whether or not his brothers are doing as they are told. I only want him to worry about himself and whether or not he is doing what he can to be a good son. His father and I will take care of the other two boys.
So far, it kind of seems to be working. He is also working with an "emotional literacy" counselor at school, which is a great way for him to vent some of his frustrations about school to a school insider, rather than coming home and breaking down in rages, tears, and rants which make everyone upset for different reasons, depending on how they manifest.
Oddly enough, his new haircut (which prompted the mugging and posing above) seems to have made him happier. I also bought this ridiculously expensive Adidas sweat suit for him recently that makes him feel sportier and more happening.
It's odd that I've completely forgotten the feeling, as a child, of how good clothes can make you feel! I guess the feeling has been with me so long and is so ingrained in my personality that I am too consumed with my own current adult feelings on the subject that I just never thought that a boy would care about what he wore! (I just re-read that sentence and saw a Las Vegas-sized sign flashing:
Perhaps the apples don't fall far from the tree.
Well.... I see the error in my ways now, so we can move forward from here, right?
I've been muddling through the issues for years, asking for advice along the way, often and sincerely. So I am asking for help again: Does anyone else have a kid that was miserable at school and is STILL miserable? Or did they finally grow out of it? If you have a kid that has continued to dislike school, what have you done to counteract the constant battles? Is bribery the only answer? (So far, for us, it is the only thing that consistently gets results.)
*Thank you, twitter, for all your great suggestions on ways to help engage him in other activities and boost his self-esteem. Karate is going really well & hang-out times are being scheduled!
Thank you so much to the Fraught Mommy who presides over her young boys and pathologically hungry dog in her Brits In Bosnia blog: She awarded me with my choice of the Sunshine Award or the Cake Award yesterday and, being the greedy girl that I am and it being the darkest, dreariest part of winter right now, I am accepting BOTH. Thank you!