keep-calm

My only child is a perfectionist. Now that I have identified the reason for Joshua’s stress at school, it is time to learn about it and help him deal with it. I know I am not the only one who has experienced this and I also know this will apply to a lot of first born children too. I know because I am a first born child. I learned to moderate my perfectionist tendencies when I was in my twenties long before I had Joshua, but alas, it is in his genes.

Today was the orientation for middle school. He will be in 5th grade next year and was initially all excited because of the new things they will experience (iced tea at lunch and study hall before going home every day). Now that he has experienced a day-in-the-life, he is worried about the stress of it all. I anticipated his concern and stopped the head of the middle school after his presentation to ask for some pointers so I would know how to begin to prepare Joshua and also so I would know how to pray for him. He acknowledged the school tends to turn out overachievers because it is run by overachievers. LOL At any rate, he understands my dilemma and I think he will be a good resource for the future. He had 2 thoughts to get me started.

First, is to point out the differentiation between perfectionism and excellence. So what is the difference? Perfectionism is to be without fault or error. The only perfect person is God, so to try to be perfect is to set yourself up for failure…and nobody likes to fail (ESPECIALLY not a perfectionist!). Excellence means outstanding or extremely good. Excellence is something to strive for…it is continuous improvement. Doing your best and then raising the bar a little to be better next time.

Second, he used the analogy of someone hanging from a bar. A perfectionist is constantly holding on with both hands in a death grip. Afraid to let go…”I mean, what will happen if I let go?” He said it is ok to let go with one hand every once in a while. You will still be able to hang while holding on with one hand. You won’t drop to your death. And then if you decide you want to grab the bar with both hands at a later date, you can do that. After all, your other hand is right there.

These are definitely some good thoughts. I am sure I will have many conversations with him (and the school counselor) as we navigate middle school for the first time next year. On a side note, I am so thankful that Joshua has a great group of friends who know how to have fun and are supportive of each other. I know that is one of the struggles middle school children experience. I will continue to pray for his friends for this reason…they are an important part of his life.

Another school year and yet again I struggled with helping my only child adapt to going back to school. I try not to label, but let’s face the facts…he doesn’t do well with change. It isn’t just that he would rather be home with me (while that is the case). He just freaks out inside when he isn’t familiar with a new situation. Daddy does too, so he is in good company.

Every year, I try to talk myself out of speaking with the school counselor and I usually succeed, but this year was THE year…4th grade at Trinity Christian Academy. The year they get binders and learn responsibility and manage massive amounts of work. Add to that the fact that his teacher last year was as laid back as possible, and this year his teacher has very high expectations and you have a recipe for disaster.

In any case, when the tears started early on and restarted after I thought he had made progress, I broke down. I went in to let his teacher know what he was feeling. I learned a couple years ago not to worry about being “that mom”. You know the one that is always in there telling the teacher what to do and checking on their child to make sure they are ok. I am my child’s best advocate and if I don’t tell the teacher what he is thinking and feeling, she isn’t going to know. It’s a good thing I told her because she had no idea. He is apparently very good at putting on the appearance of being fine.

God bless her, Mrs. Miller is a gem. High expectations, yes. But she also clearly cares deeply for the children in her care and wants to know what is going on with them. She encouraged me to let her know when there are tears at home and I did. She suggested I wait for the first parent teacher conference before talking to the counselor.

I couldn’t resist, I stopped in to see the counselor to get her perspective on whether or not I should make an appointment. She told me the same thing…wait for conferences. Her experience is that 90% of students adapt in the first quarter without intervention. Then in 5 minutes she proceeded to make the most astute and obvious observation…he is stressed because he doesn’t KNOW Mrs. Miller. He doesn’t really understand her expectations and is afraid he is going to disappoint her. So I started encouraging Joshua to get to know her. To not stress when he didn’t know what she would do next and just rest in knowing she is super-pleased with him. When she admonishes the class to “get a move on”, she isn’t talking to him…just the ones who are daydreaming.

Fast-forward to parent conferences. He was one of the only ones to get all A’s and all “+” behavior grades in the class. Mrs. Miller couldn’t be happier…but Joshua was still stressed. He still didn’t want to go to school, so my husband and I made an appointment with the counselor. She listened to us and said she would talk to him in the coming weeks. She checked in with him a couple times, but finally I sat down and did some serious research online. What I found was so obvious, it was almost dumb. I already knew he wasn’t stressed about the work, he is stressed about disappointing his teacher. While it was not likely he WOULD disappoint her, I had to help him understand how to deal with his stress. The obvious discovery was that I have a little perfectionist on my hands. I was one when I was younger, so I guess it is in his genes. Now that I had a definitive reason for the stress, I could start to address the issue.

Take a walk with me down the halls of my son’s school. I want to introduce you to several children. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. LOL

Gabriel is mischievous and fun-loving. Always getting in trouble and adding grey hairs to his teachers head. He has lots of friends and does well at school. He’s rarely stressed and wonders why his name is always on the board (well, not enough to ask, mind you!).

Nicholas is silly with his friends and at home, but serious about school. He does all his assignments for the week on Monday even though they aren’t due until Friday. Tell him the rules so he can follow them. He is deathly afraid his name will show up on the board (but of course, it never will!). Plays football and soccer.

Ben is quiet and intelligent. He doesn’t like answering questions in class because he doesn’t like drawing attention to himself. He leaves all his assignments until Thursday because, well, they aren’t due until Friday!

Carter is the class clown. He loves the limelight and is always saying goofy things to make his friends laugh. He knows he is smart and leaves his assignments and studying until the last minute because, well, because he’s smart! He follows the rules at school but gives mom a run for her money at home. Swims and plays tennis.

What do all these boys have in common? Nothing, right? Actually, they are all 4th grade boys and they are all only children!!

My only child, Joshua is 9.  He is officially entering the “tween” years. God give me strength. LOL

Joshua has always told me everything…from what he had for lunch to what the kids on the playground did, said, etc. Other moms said their boys gave them monosyllables at the end of the day. “How was your day?” “Fine.” Meanwhile Joshua talked a blue streak.

joshua

Then about a month ago, his attitude started to deteriorate.  So I did what I thought I should do – cracked down.  Corrected every bad attitude, every roll of the eyes, every backtalk.  Those of you who have raised children into their teens know what I effectively did was alienate him.  He clammed up…stopped talking to me all together.  I was confused. I was doing the right thing – expecting him to be respectful to me and his dad…right?

Then I prayed.  I should have prayed long before I did, but I think God was letting me learn a hard lesson. Always pray first – not after you talk to friends, read books and research on the internet.  Pray first.

It wasn’t immediately apparent what I should do, then it struck me.  I was effectively telling him he wasn’t allowed to vent.  When he complained about his homework, I told him to stop being negative.  When he got overtired and didn’t want to get ready for bed, I told him to obey. No wonder he clammed up.  Jeez…I vent all the time!  About the cable guy, about the lady in front of me on the highway, you name it.

So I tried something new the next day after school.  I told him he could tell me anything he wanted to tell me in any tone of voice he wanted for 5 minutes. Guess what…after about 3 minutes, his whole demeanor changed he started telling me everything about his day and he was happy and animated again! Yay! It worked.

The following week, I mentioned it in passing to a wonderful friend who has older teens.  She said that her son used to get in the car after school so angry that he would be spitting nails.  She told him he had 10 minutes to spew and then he had to have a better attitude.  World.of.difference.  Apparently I am not the only mom to try and succeed in giving out the “vent” license!

So – if you are having trouble with bad attitudes in your tween – give them the opportunity to get stuff off their chest.  Don’t take it personally, don’t correct it, don’t tell them what the Bible says about it, just let them vent. You just might find that your child’s overall attitude will improve by leaps and bounds like Joshua’s did. : )

happy

jesus

I have seen and heard this in many different places over the years, so I don’t take credit for it. However, on the day after Christmas, I think it is a good time to consider how Jesus is more than just  “the reason for the Season”:

In GENESIS Jesus is the Ram of Abraham’s altar.
In EXODUS He is the Passover Lamb.
In LEVITICUS He is the High Priest.
In NUMBERS He is the Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night.
In DEUTERONOMY He is the City of our Refuge.
In JOSHUA He’s the Scarlet Thread out Rahab’s window.
In JUDGES He is our Judge.
In RUTH He is our Kinsman Redeemer.
In 1st and 2nd SAMUEL He’s our Trusted Prophet.
In KINGS and CHRONICLES He is our Reigning King.
In EZRA He is our Faithful Scribe.
In NEHEMIAH He is our Rebuilder of everything that is broken.
In ESTHER He is Mordecai sitting faithful at the gate.
In JOB He is our Redeemer that ever lives.
In PSALMS He is my Shepherd and I shall not want.
In PROVERBS and ECCLESIASTES He is our Wisdom.
In the SONG OF SOLOMON He is the Beautiful Bridegroom.
In ISAIAH He is the Suffering Servant.
In JEREMIAH and LAMENTATIONS it is Jesus that is the Weeping Prophet.
In EZEKIEL He’s the Wonderful Four-Faced Man.
In DANIEL He is the Fourth Man in the midst of the furnace.
In HOSEA He is my Love that is forever faithful.
In JOEL He Baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.
In AMOS He’s our Burden Bearer.
In OBADIAH He is our Savior.
In JONAH He is the Great Foreign Missionary that takes the Word of God into all the world.
In MICAH He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet.
In NAHUM He is the Avenger.
In HABAKKUK He is the Watchman that is ever praying for revival.
In ZEPHANIAH He is the Lord mighty to Save.
In HAGGAI He is the Restorer of our lost heritage.
In ZECHARIAH He is our Fountain.
In MALACHI He is the Son of of Righteousness with healing in His wings.
In MATTHEW He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
In MARK He is the Miracle Worker.
In LUKE He is the son of Man.
In JOHN He is the Door by which every one of us must enter.
In ACTS He is the Shining Light that appears to Saul on the road to Damascus.
In ROMANS He is the Justifier.
In 1st CORINTHIANS He is our Resurrection.
In 2nd CORINTHIANS Jesus is our Sin Bearer.
In GALATIANS He redeems us from the Law.
In EPHESIANS He is our Unsearchable Riches.
In PHILIPPIANS He Supplies our every need.
In COLOSSIANS He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily.
In 1st and 2nd THESSALONIANS He is our Soon Coming King.
In 1st and 2nd TIMOTHY He is the Mediator between God and man.
In TITUS He is our Blessed Hope.
In PHILEMON He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
In HEBREWS He is the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant.
In JAMES He is the Lord who Heals the sick.
In 1st and 2nd PETER He is the Christ Shepherd.
In 1st, 2nd and 3rd JOHN it is Jesus who has the Tenderness of Love.
In JUDE He is our Lord coming with 10,000 saints.
And in REVELATION, He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!!!”

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