It’s Saturday morning and I am driving Lillie to theater. I am still upset with her from the last couple days. Mondays and Tuesdays Lillie goes to school. Wednesdays is school via Zoom for half of the day and Thursdays and Fridays are “independent” schoolwork days at home. I have just spent the last two days with Lillie attempting to teach her.
Lillie is perplexed as to why I am still upset with her. I explain that I am not happy with her behavior from the last couple of days and she tells me she doesn’t want to talk about it. Of course she doesn’t want to talk about it. I let it go as I want her to have an enjoyable time at theater and not go in feeling upset but I table the conversation to have with her later.
I say that Thursday and Friday are, “Independent” work in quotes because Lillie can’t do it by herself. I am sure there are children who can. I block off Thursdays and Fridays for Lillie as I know she will need me to help her. I put my teacher hat on and always do my best to give her one on one attention and to be as sweet and patient as I can. I know that if I am sweet and don’t rush her it will go so much better. I try to be sweet and patient, but I can tell you that I am definitely not always successful. I find myself resetting many times throughout my time with her on Thursdays and Fridays.
Thursday starts out with Lillie telling me, “Go away. I will do this all by myself.” She wants so badly to be independent and have control. I wish she could do it herself, but she can’t. I don’t like the tone that she used and I’m already feeling myself get angry. I take a deep breath and watch her storm up the stairs with her Chromebook wanting to do all her work on her own. What she really is doing is prolonging the time that this will take.
Lillie disappears to watch a video and then comes downstairs ready to attempt the worksheets until she realizes that she needs my help. I watch the video and help her through the worksheets. If she had watched the video with me in the first place, we already would have saved a lot of time. I tell myself that there is no where I have to be and that there is no rush. I tend to be in a rush. I realize that part of the problem is me. I like to plow through things. Lillie and I have very different styles of doing things. Lillie’s most common line to me other than I love you is, “Don’t rush me.”
The pattern continues of Lillie attempting to do something herself and realizing she can’t and needs my help. I look behind us and see Max attempting to take a math test. He is sitting at the kitchen table all spread out taking a test. I ask Lillie to be quiet for Max and she gets more angry. Max tells her that she needs to learn to control her anger and I become frustrated with myself. I need to teach this kid some good coping strategies. This was a good moment to go grab a stress ball for her to squeeze, or for me to walk away for a little while and come back after we both cool down.
Max finishes his test and sees Lillie continuing to be in an unresourceful state. “Lillie, Mom just wants to help you,” he tries to help. I appreciate his calm energy and I continue to take deep breaths. She gets more and more upset and I ask her to go to her room. We both need a time out. She refuses and instead of getting angry I feel as though I’m going to cry. Why does she make this so hard? It doesn’t have to be so hard. Max carries her up to her room and I feel badly that he is helping me parent during his school day. Thankfully he is on a break, but this isn’t his job. He’s going to be a great daddy one day and he really is a wonderful big brother. I appreciate his help and realize that too much of parenting Lillie is just on me.
I call Seth (I never call Seth for parenting help during the day) practically in tears and ask him to talk to Lillie. She listens to him. I am so sad. I want to enjoy this experience with my daughter. I want to teach her. I want it to go well. I tell myself that I am home base. I tell myself that kids tend to treat their mothers (or fathers) the worst. She feels safe with me and she knows how much I love her. That doesn’t mean she can treat me poorly and this doesn’t mean that these days can go like this. Something needs to change.
Our dance continues throughout our Thursday and I begin to analyze it. Why is Lillie behaving like this? What are the reasons?
- Is the work too hard for her? Is she just really frustrated and down on herself?
- Ella says that this is just Lillie and her temperament, but I refuse to settle for that answer.
- Poor coping skills. I need to work on how she handles her anger.
- Feeling rushed. She likes to take her time. I need to go slowly and have her feel like there is no rush.
- Different styles. My type A style with her type B style for schoolwork tends to clash. I need to relax.
- Lack of structure. Lack of clear expectations. She needs to know exactly what the day will look like.
- Lack of breaks. I think both Lillie and I need breaks. Trying to plow through it doesn’t seem to work.
- How am I coming across? My stern “let’s get this done” attitude doesn’t seem to work at all. I need to be sweet and patient.
- Lillie is feeling powerless. I’m trying to strong arm her into doing the work and it’s not working.
- Lack of engagement. She isn’t engaged in doing the work at all. How can I make this exciting for her?
- Because she can. I’m letting her get away with this behavior.
- Lack of effective consequences and rewards. I didn’t let her have a play date on Thursday, Friday or Saturday that she wanted. I didn’t let her go get ice cream after dance like she loves to do. Hopefully these consequences sunk in. I don’t want it to come down to having to give her consequences. I want her to do the work easily because she knows she needs to. However, I have to figure out what works with Lillie. What I want and what the reality is are two very different things right now.
- She would be doing better with anyone except me. She doesn’t seem to like doing schoolwork with me. Seth, Max, Ella, a friend, a teacher, a tutor, etc. She would be doing better with anyone else. That isn’t acceptable to me. I am available Thursdays and Fridays for her to help her with her schoolwork and we need to make this work. I may just be a bad fit for her, but I refuse to accept that. I am stubborn too.
I’m a problem solver. I don’t stay stuck. If something isn’t working for me, I figure out how to do better. I don’t like feeling sad. I was feeling very sad. I tried to go into Friday with a much better attitude after Thursday went so poorly. It went a little better, but she was still battling for control the whole time. She wants to be in charge. She wants to do it herself. The dance of Lillie and school wasn’t working for me. I needed to talk to Seth and Lillie, and I needed this to go in a different direction before next Thursday. I needed to utilize Seth’s brain. I knew he could help me figure out Lillie. How can I make this go better and how can I make her feel in control?
Seth did a great job talking to Lillie on the way home from theater. He has a way of being firm that our kids seem to listen to. I don’t’ know that his talk will make a difference. We shall see. He needs to remind her every Thursday and Friday what his expectations of her are. He needs to back me up. I need him. I told him how rough the days teaching her are. He gets it. He knows Lillie very well.
I also want to tell Seth that he did a good job listening to me and my struggles teaching Lillie. He did a good job making me feel heard and understood and he gave me some good ideas to help make this go better. I was feeling more hopeful and optimistic. I wasn’t feeling alone. I felt like my partner in life was by my side to help me.
I’m going to go into every week with a better attitude. I’m hopeful that we will figure this out. I want it to be a good experience for both of us. I will never give up. Here is what I am going to do differently:
- Involving Seth more. I need him. I need his help. I need him to support me. I need him to enforce the expectations, consequences and rewards with me. Thankfully I am at school this Thursday so he will probably get some schoolwork done with Lillie. A break for me!
- Giving her choices. Making her feel she has more power. Do you want to start with math or science? Do you want to do this worksheet or IXL first?
- Designing a day with Lillie and how we would like it to look. What time do we start? When do we take breaks? Have structure to it. Design it together. Engage her in the process and make her feel like she has some control.
- Using my supports. I’m back to thinking that I have to do it all. I’m home Thursdays and Fridays with her so I feel like I have to do it all. I bet Seth and Max would work with her hours that they are available. I bet my Mom would enjoy it. I know my friends want to help. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing it all? To be determined!
- Ask Lillie for her input. Why isn’t it working? What needs to be different? What can she do differently? What can I do differently? I spoke to Lillie today. She told me it works for her when I am sweet. She told me she doesn’t want breaks, and that she likes to get it over with.
When there is a problem, I work to solve it. I get multiple perspectives, I gather information, and I work towards a solution. Just because something may work this week doesn’t mean it will work the following week. I will continue to evaluate this and continue to work on making schoolwork with Lillie a more pleasant experience. If school goes full remote, she may be on Zooms all day and that is a whole different issue.
I hope that things are going smoothly in your house. I hope that your kids are being successful in school no matter what school may look like for them. If it isn’t going well, I hope you will evaluate it like I am and work towards it moving in a better direction. I have faith in all of us. There are always solutions to problems.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R