As you probably already know, Baxter’s always been physical. He’s been on the high end of normal when it comes to his need for proprioceptive input, and sometimes I think he would’ve been diagnosed with a mild sensory processing disorder had I not intervened very early, consulting with OT colleagues at various junctures.
We were pleasantly surprised by his ability to sustain attention and self-control in kindergarten; in part, I suspect this was due to the three recesses they got in his full-day kindergarten. Still, we were impressed.
There are always minor comments from his teachers about these things, but it’s never too big a deal. Considering he gets 10 minutes of movement a day, I’m amazed at how well he does.
But I think all that holding it together at school comes with its price. The price is a lot of need for movement and input the rest of the time. I can understand this and sympathize with it. It’s why we go to playgrounds after school rather than many after school clubs, and why we value his twice weekly soccer experience so highly. And it’s why we have a gym mat and sensory equipment in our playroom that come out on cold or rainy days, or when he has friends over. He is so happy when he’s had lots of movement time that he catalogs each event for me before bed some nights, grinning. It’s important for him.
I feel like his need for movement and input is over the top right now. Significantly. He’s excited about summer vacation and I know that all of the endings and schedule changes that occur at this time of year can really throw kids off. But at some point he does have to learn better impulse control. If I see him walk up to one more friend and flick the kid’s hat off his head or slam into him sideways, I’m going to lose it. I try to watch the other boys, to see where the norm is, and to watch their reactions: some of them are getting downright irritated.
One lesson Matt and I learned this year has been that, quite often, if you just find a way to let Baxter know how important something is (say, writing down all of those homework assignments or listening to all of the steps in his teacher’s directions), he rarely needs another reminder. But I feel like I’ve talked about this with him enough times in the past week without any results. I know he’s impulsive, I know he can’t always help it, but it’s time for him to start trying and my intuition is, he is ready to start helping it. I believe in my heart that he can control himself more than he used to, some of it has just become a habit.
I tried to decide what to use for this particular parenting job, and finally chose a strategy that goes against my normal aversion to negative feedback. Baxter will be given two dollars in quarters at the beginning of each week. Every time we see him being physical in an out-of-bounds way (which has been – and will continue to be – defined clearly for him), he loses a quarter. Whatever money is left at the end of the week is his to keep.
I asked him about this idea after dinner tonight. He loves it, mainly because he’s imagining that in just a few weeks he’ll be out shopping for Pokemon cards or a new Webkinz pet. I warned him, however, that this won’t be easy. I told him that he probably won’t end his first week with $2.00 in quarters, much as I’d like him to. But I also said that I know he can do it, and a week will come when he will have his $2.00 and it will add up for him. Of course this won’t go on indefinitely, but I find with these things that once the child has met the goal and “cashed out” (literally, in this case), it’s easy to drop the motivator. And if he proves me wrong and starts controlling those poking, hat-slapping hands and constantly moving feet right away and begins robbing us blind? More power to him. His friends and his brother will thank me.
And if I’m wrong? Then we go to Plan B. Which you will be required to help me with.