Those of you who have followed The MAD White Woman and TBK Designs know that my eldest son, J., has ADHD and has struggled for many years with issues in school and at home due to this disorder. We have tried several different options, some of which have worked, others which have not. The one constant that we have learned however is that no two children react the same way.
ADHD is a common behavior disorder that affects an estimated 8% to 10% of school-age children, with boys seeming more susceptible to be diagnosed with it, though physicians are unclear as to why boys are affected more than girls are.
J. began to show signs when he was just two years old. He would tear through the house like the Tasmanian Devil, shouting, jumping on furniture, bouncing off the walls (literally), roughhousing with his sister, nothing could hold his attention for more than a minute or two and he'd be off and running again. The older he became, the worse it got. It is a constant struggle to get him to settle down and focus on even the simplest task. It is seriously beginning to affect his ability to function socially, academically, and even at home. There are constant fights and arguments with his younger brother – constant harassment to where T. is in tears from the horrible mean things that J. is saying to him – which J. thinks is just hilarious. Not cool dude.
I have noticed a pattern with J. At the beginning of each school year, he is *on his game* and does exceptionally well the first month of school. Once the routine settles in, however, and he becomes comfortable in his surroundings and with his peers and instructors, that is when the trouble begins. It tends to escalate slowly and then culminates in a string of detentions, in-school suspensions, and out-of-school suspensions.
His father and I try to be understanding and mindful of his condition, however, I sometimes think that we do more harm than good by giving him leeway with his behavior because of his condition. I am beginning to think that we need to be stricter with our handling of the consequences he needs to define that a particular action he has taken is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Over the past month, the detentions have increased and resulted in two in-school suspensions. Today I received a phone call from the assistant principal informing me of an incident that occurred today with J. in school that has resulted in him receiving an out-of-school suspension for three days. The sad part is, this will not bother J. in the least because he believes that he will be able to sit at home and watch television, play video games, create videos on his netbook and generally just goof off and do whatever he likes for those three days and then return to school as though nothing were the matter.
If the consequences were left to just me to decide, there would be no computer, no television, no video games, no visitors for the duration of his suspension. He would spend his time reading, studying, and cleaning his room (which is a constant battle in and of itself) and he would also write a 500-word essay apologizing to his teacher for his actions and his behavior and detail the reasons why interrupting class and being disruptive during a testing period is not acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, it is not up to me alone – and therein lies another issue – having The Man Thing and I on the same page when it comes to dealing out punishments and consequences. While he is the one that they fear when it comes to punishments – he is the one who is the most lenient with them most times. I am waiting, however, to pass judgment at the moment until he has a time to think about the earful that I gave him on the phone this afternoon when I hung up with J.'s assistant principal...I told him in no uncertain terms just exactly what I expected him to do when J. got home from school this afternoon. He needs to pick him up from school after band practice, so I'm waiting to see what the "verdict" is when they arrive home this evening.