The Frustration Circle Part II

I begin the day with hope and joy.  Bible study goes well, then we get into the nitty-gritty subjects that require something of the student.  Out of nowhere comes frustration, suddenly a perfectly happy child turns into a porcupine, all the quills are out.  He stabs his paper with a pencil, scribbles, rips, tears, throws and announces,
“I’m not going to do this!” or “I just don’t get it!”  or “This is stupid!”

The frustration cycle goes like this:
Child balks or becomes frustrated at task presented.
He refuses to cooperate.
Mom becomes frustrated.
Mom is at an impasse.
What does she do? Yell?

It’s easy to take offense and stay in the frustration circle for an hour, a day, a month, a year, always being at odds with a child because he doesn’t cooperate.

I’m going to approach this from the side of a parent first and the child’s in a later post.  It’s difficult not to take offense when a child repeatedly balks or talks back to Mom.  But, an offended Mom produces the following fruit:  hurt, anger, outrages, jealousy, resentment, strife, bitterness, hatred and envy (The Bait of Satan).

When Mom responds in the fruit of offense, she enters the frustration circle.  This makes the days hellish for the whole family.  I am not saying Mom should let offenses slide, give a logical consequence and forgive in order to produce the right environment for the rest of the family.

If you are reading this and you have never experienced any frustration in the arena of homeschooling, then you are blessed beyond measure.  If you, on the other hand, have experienced the frustration circle, feeling as if the child is in control and you are out of control, keep reading, you are not alone.  I am right there with you, sister.  This is not just a bunch of words on a blog, this is REAL.  Some parts of my life can get pretty stinky.  This is not pie in the sky advice because I am holier than thou and my homeschooling is perfect. This is warfare.  Forgiveness on a daily basis with a difficult child makes me feel like upchucking sometimes, but when I do it, I feel better.  The poison leaves through my pores like a vapor of steam. Peace like a river washes my soul.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]”  I Corinthians 13:7

Part III coming up soon!  Why it is difficult to forgive again and again.

The Frustration Circle Part I

Frustration is the unspoken temptation of homeschooling Moms.  The power of assumption is great.  Assumption that other homeschooling Moms have perfectly dressed, obedient, well- educated  children sets the bar high, so high that no one can leap over it, the pole and vaulter come crashing down.

Homeschooling a child with a learning challenge can lead to mountains of misunderstanding and frustration.   A child who feels he cannot succeed will “demonstrate his complete inadequacy” according to Rudolf Dreikurs in Children the Challenge.

The child will demonstrate his inability by saying things such as:
“I am stupid”
“This is stupid!”
“I am not doing this, you can’t make me!”

He uses stupidity to avoid any effort whatsoever. The mistaken concept the child believes is “I’m worthless and hopeless” (Children the Challenge).  At this point,  Mother is tempted to become frustrated and react and pile more expectations on the child or the opposite-expect nothing and there is no disappointment.

Watch for Part II of the Frustration Circle and some practical solutions and Biblical encouragement! 

The Will

The will is a powerful force. It leads the way, commands behavior, it makes kingdoms rise and fall.

A strong willed child is disobedient, hard to get along with, tries to take the reigns at every turn. At least that is the philosophy I learned in my early parenting, until I was introduced to Charlotte Mason’s writing. From her I learned that the child I just described is weak willed. He has difficulty directing his will. His flesh is in control. This is the child that cannot sit and stay on task, does not do what you ask immediately but instead argues and fusses at any request. His will is weak.

“The will is the controller of the passions and emotions, the
director of the desires, the ruler of the appetites” (Vol. 1, p. 319).- Charlotte Mason

Earlier today, I overheard one of my children instructing his father on how to discipline him.

“Dad, don’t do that! You can’t do that! So, what did I do? I don’t get it! What’s the big deal?” He did get it. He knew the what the problem was. He knew he had name called, been disrespectful and disobedient. He didn’t want to pay the piper. His will was weak. He challenged authority because he struggles with having authority over himself.

A child with a weak will is undisciplined. Outer discipline trains for inner discipline. An undisciplined child lives by the “pleasure principle”. He may be willing to do something if it is fun or immediately rewarding. This is exhausting and achieves no character or significant learning in the child. (Ruth Beechik)

A weak willed child only does a task if he feels like doing it. He is likely to freeze frame when the parent leaves the room because he has no inner resolution to complete the task. This a fifteen minute bedroom cleaning session can turn into hours of agony for the parent. This same child will give into his appetites- eating an entire bag of cookies, stealing sugary sweets from his siblings and lying about it, chowing down on a whole box of granola bars, etc…

“The passions, the desires, the appetites, are there
already, and the will gathers force and vigour only as it is
exercised in the repression and direction of these” (Vol. 1,
p. 319).- Charlotte Mason

So, what is to be done to strengthen resolve and point the will in the right direction?

Watch for Part II of The Will!

Inflexibility

Yesterday, I was making Rafal’s school-day schedule. His schedule is important. If he doesn’t have it, he freaks out, sometimes even with it, he does.
We planned to do some yard work. Jerry told the kids to work on some school work until he was ready to work outside.
Rafal took one look at his list and said, “What, I can’t do all of this today! I thought we were going to work outside. Why do I have to do all of this?”

“Because, it’s a good day,” replied Jerry.

“We’ll do some of the schoolwork after the yard work,” I said with a smile.

Rafal’s response? Anger. Indignation-one of his vocab words for this week.

He had finished his Bible study, so I got out his math. He suddenly forgot how to find common denominators, which we had been working on for two weeks. Not to mention, it is review from last year.

He slammed things around and said, “I have no clue how to do this!” He closed his math book and said, “I just won’t do it.”

Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, argues that outbursts “arise from developmental delays in three areas: flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving.” He calls them “lagging skills”. When a child doesn’t know how to be flexible, he cannot adjust to changes in schedule. A change can send him into an angry tizzy.

Rafal’s reaction to the schedule change (even though he had a blast raking/blowing leaves) was anger. The anger prevented him from remembering a math skill. What he really was saying through his outburst was, “I am not flexible. I don’t know how to handle this change in my schedule. I don’t know what to do.”

Many children have this inflexibility issue, some call it inability to change gears, or wanting to control the environment, whatever you call it, the anger can cause problems for the whole family. Children born prematurely, raised in an orphanage for a period of time, FAS or RAD children may have this “lagging skill”. It cannot be lectured out of existence. I know, I’ve tried logic, it doesn’t work.

The solution? Patience. I have to work on not getting frustrated myself-not being flexible to his inflexibility! Second, I have to help him work on this skill. He has made progress. Yesterday, he slammed shut a math book. A year ago, he would have run off into the woods behind our house and hid.

This afternoon, I talked to him about trying counting to five after he was asked a question that would alter his schedule. For instance,when we were out doing yard work, he had the broom. Hunter asked for it ‘for a sec’ to finish the remnant of a pile on the sidewalk. Rafal went crazy yelling “no” and he grabbed a log from the firewood stack and launched it at Hunter. Okay, not so great at the flexibility or the problem solving. After he calmed down, we talked about his exaggerated reaction and how the counting could help.

“Would letting Hunter use the broom for thirty seconds kill you or hurt you?”

*Pause*

“No.”

“Right, that it why it is better to count and think before hurling a log at someone.”

He laughed. Progress.