Let’s review the past few days of our discussion on Teaching the Difficult Child:
Do you remember the Acronym? S-T-O-P?
S-Stop the sarcasm, joking, and belittling of my child
T-truth- I became convinced that from that day forward, I would try to speak only the absolute truth from God’s word over her.
O- Overhaul your mind to a new way of thinking and acting.
Yesterday I shared about
- Break down tasks into the smallest possible pieces.
- Remember that the child is not his or her behavior.
- Help her learn to cope better with others.
- Train on behaviors during times of non-conflict in a calm and systematic way.
Now I would love for you to think about these other things we did and see if any would be helpful:
- Work in short time bursts
I learned to work in short time bursts on anything that required intense concentration. We learned reading and math this way. I would set a timer and have her work on a subject with me for just ten minutes. Often we started the ten minutes by quickly repeating the lesson from earlier. In fact, using this method was so successful with ths child, that I still teach basic reading and math skills this way with all my children. We cover and retain so much more in these short time bursts than we could in one 30 minute segment, and the children seem to enjoy it more.
- Look for helpful tools
I also looked for tools that would help my child focus. I found these cardboard stand things for your books so that she could prop her book up while she did school work. I cannot tell you how many times a day before that when I was constantly having to correct her for fidgeting, sliding the book around, dropping the book, retrieving the book, etc. I bought an Exercise Disk at a sporting goods store that work your core muscles while you sit in it. Even while sitting still, this allows them to move their bodies around a bit more, but still stay at the table.
- Give tactile stimulation when it is pleasant
When she was doing activities that required longer periods of listening or sitting, I let her do tactile things with her hands. We have a small box that we filled with aquarium rocks and small digging trucks and such, and a small box filled with several kinds of dried beans. During lessons or drills, she could dig her hands into these boxes and enjoy the tactile feelings of them which she really seemed to love.
- Consider your child’s natural inclinations when possible.
Children who learn well with auditory stimulation love books on tape, history on tape, memory facts set to music. You can find these easily at the library. I try to mix these things into the curriculum as much as possible.
- Set incentives for long term goals
I often set incentives for her for long term growth in skills. For example, we made a school work chart and for each time she completed all her schoolwork for a given day, she got a star. 30 stars meant a special treat or privilege. Because she had such a long history of being very inconsistent, I did not require that these 30 days be in a row, so that if she missed a day here or there, it did not count against her. As she got closer and closer to her goal, she got excited and I noticed she missed fewer and fewer days.
- Teach consideration.
Very quickly I came to realize what a distraction the other children were to her concentration. Some people can work well amongst a lot of confusion, and some people cannot. Some children will always find a reason to be engaged with her siblings. So, I worked on training them to be considerate of their sister. For loud or engaging play, I let them be in a different part of the house. I taught them to use quiet feet and quiet voices during some school time. I used a time when they were napping or watching a short video to do the more difficult lessons. I also eliminated some of the “busywork” so that my easily distracted child did not have to waste her precious highly concentrated time on trivial work. She could buckle down and concentrate when it was really necessary.
- Find a way to make the school work itself a reward.
Over the years I learned to allow certain school work to be a privilege. If the day goes well, the children earn reading time to use at bedtime. Obviously reading is limited to things that I choose and approve, so these were often part of her school learning.
Educational computer games were also an incentive and she could use those to enjoy learning basic facts or deductive reasoning skills, while at the same time feeling awarded.
- Consistent Discipline and Simple Consequences
I am a very firm, but very fair disciplinarian. If you have a “difficult” child, I would challenge you to let your rules be consistent and your discipline very simple. Our children know that the rules are the rules, and they did not change based on whether or not I am in a good mood, or having a good or bad day. There is nothing worse to a child than never knowing when and where the line is in the sand on any given day. It is painful when discipline and rules seem arbitrary. It is even worse when a child believes that the rules are applied differently to them than they are to others. I heard a speaker once talk about having a child whose name always seems to have an explanation point at the end. I work very hard to keep that out of my manner of speech, but I must confess I still struggle with this one a little bit.
I could go on all day telling you all the tips and tricks we have learned over the years that helped make teaching a difficult child more bearable. I do want to give you hope and let you know that as my child matured, she is able to focus for longer time periods and work diligently, but this really did not come to her for several years.
But all the tips and tricks in the world were not the thing that made the biggest difference. More on that tomorrow!
Ok, tomorrow we are going to discuss the P in Stop – The Philippians 4:8 test.
If you are in need of additional resources on this topic, I have the following suggestions:
Teaching the Difficult Child MP3-audio recording of the workshop
Teaching the Difficult Child CD-audio recording of the workshop