Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Losing Her Marbles - Part 2

Part 1

So just when we got Lily straightened out, Macey started having issues in school. This began when Macey got a new teacher. Well, technically it was an old teacher who had been on medical leave when we enrolled Macey in Pre-Kindergarten. Apparently the temporary teacher had let Macey do whatever she wanted to do in class, had let her be the "line leader" when it was time for lunch or time to go outside, and hadn't disciplined Macey at all. When the "real" teacher came back and started to reinstate the rules, and Macey didn't get whatever she wanted, things started to fall apart.

Macey can be very very cute and charming. I think this is part of the reason why she always got her way with the temporary teacher. Macey is very affectionate, loving, and knows how to turn that on in order to get her way. But a disappointed Macey is sight to behold. She throws fits. And they are impressive.

We started getting notes home about Macey. Macey wouldn't lie down at nap time, and continued to scream so none of the other kids could sleep. Macey didn't like the chair that was available to sit in at lunch time, so she stood on the carpet, stomped her feet, and cried. Macey was not happy that another child got a turn on the tricycle when they were outside, so she kicked wood chips at the teacher and screamed. Macey disrupted story time by crawling on the carpet and crying like a kitty.

Yeah. Nice.

Craig and I have said from the beginning that our kids will NOT be brats. We HATE it. So we were prepared for the school to go all out to stop this. The only problem is that the school has rules that they are unwilling to bend on.

Our idea - If Macey won't lie down at naptime, pick her up and put her on her cot.
Their response - We can only physically move children if they are in danger of being injured.

Our idea - If Macey has a fit, put her in time out.
Their response - We can't remove a child from the learning area.

Our idea - If Macey acts out during outside time, make her stay inside next time.
Their response - We cannot take things away from children as punishment.

Our idea - If Macey disrupts story time, tell her to go into another learning area of the classroom.
Their response - Macey refused to leave the carpet, and we can't pick her up and put her someplace else.

I'm sure these rules are a result of our society's love of litigation, but if Macey had no consequences for her actions then nothing was going to improve. We spoke at length with her teacher, who said that she loves Macey (in fact, despite her actions, Macey is her favorite) but recognizes that by not addressing this behavior we are not doing Macey any favors. She really wished she could have done some of the things we suggested, but that she would get fired. We appreciated this, and knew that we'd have to come up with another plan.

Fortunately, Lily's Kindergarten class gave us a great idea. In Lily's class, if you do something good, like following directions or being nice to others, you get a marble. When you get five marbles, you get to pick a toy from the toy box. The children will never lose marbles, but to get five and then be allowed to pick a 25 cent toy out of a box is like winning the lottery for them.

We modified the idea, and here is the system we came up with. Craig and I would institute a marble system at home by getting daily reports on her behavior. Macey's day would be described as one of the following -

A Fit Free Day - No fits all day long! - Macey gets one marble.
An Okay Day - Some fits, but at least 50% Fit Free - Macey doesn't get a marble, but she doesn't lose one either.
A Fit Full Day - Fits all day! - Macey loses one marble.

When Macey gets five marbles in her Marble Jar, she will get to pick one reward from a list. Things like -

She gets to bring a stuffed animal to school to sleep with at naptime for one day.
We'll get Slurpees after school (bonus for Mama too!)
She can have an extra dessert.
The girls have a Movie Night (complete with the lights off, popcorn, and soda) and Macey picks the movie.

We explained this to both Macey and her teacher. The first week went pretty well and Macey made it up to three marbles. Then she hit a snag. But it was an interesting change in her behavior. The teacher said that Macey wasn't having fits, but was now being aggressive to her classmates. She was shoving them, hitting them, scratching them. We counted these days as A Fit Full Day and Macey lost two marbles.

At this point I was beside myself. We had stopped the fits, but in a last ditch effort to show her displeasure she was now being violent. Really not what we wanted to accomplish. Not only that but her poor teacher had to deal with this kid, as well as the rest of the class, when there should be learning going on. In fact when Macey would act up the other students would say "She's doing it again!" I spoke with the school director and asked if we could have the teacher call us right when Macey was having a fit. Because then one of us would talk to her and we'd get to the bottom of this.

We told Macey that her teacher was going to call us if she had another fit or was mean to her classmates. I picked up my phone later that day and I had a voicemail from her teacher, saying that Macey would not wash her hands before lunch as she was told. I immediately called the school and was put on the phone with her teacher.

The great thing was, her teacher said that as soon as Macey heard that she was leaving me a voicemail she straightened up immediately. The teacher said "You should have seen her face. She didn't think I was really going to do it. When she heard me leaving that message she stopped her fit and said she'd go wash her hands."

Then I had them put Macey on the phone. I told her I was very upset that her teacher had to call me, and I didn't want to get any more phone calls from the school about her behavior. She said "Yes, I know Mama. I will be better, I promise."

She kept that promise. Since then we have had two Fit Free Days in a row. Macey has four marbles. If she holds it together all day today she will get marble #5, and will get to pick her reward from the list.

We're all rooting for her.


JJ said...

Go Macey, Go!

Achieve1dream said...

No wonder kids are so spoiled if schools have no consequences like that! I'm shocked to hear that. I mean I understand the legal issues if they were to put their hands on a child, but sheesh. I'm glad you seem to have found a system that works. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Go, Mom and Dad, go too! I love how you guys handled this. And despite not being engaged in the class activity, Macey is actually learning alot from this experience. I had to laugh at the beginning about her tantrums b/c my second child also worked it hard--like major overtime--in that department...his nickname was "The Screamer."

Rising Rainbow said...

Wow, this sounds like a great plan! You guys are creative. Macey might as well throw in the towel right now. lol

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