Last week I found myself sitting in the principal's office. Of Maya's school. Because she's acting naughty.
Well, not naughty exactly. Manipulative. Stubborn. Flightly. Indifferent. (Those are all my words.) In preschool language, she is what you would call self-directed, which kind of sounds like a nice thing. She knows what she would like to do, and will go do it. Issues arise, however, when her plan doesn't line up with her class's plan. They're supposed to walk down the hall and she doesn't want to? Well, maybe she'll just have a seat in the hallway. She's supposed to practice climbing stairs in physical therapy, and that's not her idea of a good time? Perhaps she'll just go all limp-noodle on the poor therapist. She has to take sips from a cup before getting her water bottle? Well, that's fine, she just won't drink at all, then.
I mentioned these issues last week (after speaking with her teacher) but I was kind of startled by the chat with the principal. I mean, it's the principal, you know?
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this, as I have a killer stubborn streak. I was always very compliant and pleasant at school, though, and while Maya has a handle on pleasant, the compliance isn't following along.
Interestingly, through the conversations with the teacher, therapists, and principal, I realized that Maya is more obedient at home than she is at school. I have some theories as to why this is: there are less distractions at home, for one. Secondly, she only deals with two adults at home, and our expectations have been clear for years. At school there are many adults (regular teacher, music teacher, 4 therapists, 5 one-on-ones that rotate, depending on the day, the administration, etc). Maya is sly-if one person handles her slightly differently than the others, she will keep wiggling and pushing and looking for ways to get around rules. Add to all of this the fact that she's cutting a molar and her sleep hasn't been great since the big girl bed switch, and we've got a smorsgabord of possible causes for her recent increase in semi-defiant behavior.
But that doesn't make it ok.
So we're taking some steps. And, in case anyone else out there is in need of some pro-compliance activities (it can't just be us, right?) here's what we've got going on:
1. For the cup drinking (or, really, and targeted skill that your child is fighting): I dug into the blog archives (they can be handy) and re-discovered this chart. Maya's teacher modified it for drinking from the cup (the pictures are now drinking instead of eating, and the star is the same). She has to take a certain number of sips from the cup before she gets the star--in this case, the water bottle. It's working well.
2. For general lolligagging: We got the Time Timer. She doesn't fully understand it yet, but I can see a million uses for it. For example, when she is refusing to take off her coat I can just set it for three minutes. If her coat isn't off before it beeps, then I'll do something. What? Um . . . I'm not sure yet. Maybe put her bag of stickers in time out. She loves her stickers.
3. For combatting total self-directed-ness: I'm going to be choosing some of our activities each afternoon. The timer is going to help me out by showing her that there is a limit to my activity choice, but we will do the full time before we move on. My choices will be functional---OT and/or academic in nature. We're referring to my time as "Learning Time."
Learning Time started today. Over the weekend we had a session with an OT that I love (wish we could just have her come by a few times a week, but we don't have the funds). Luckily, she loves us too, and we did a session in which she primarily trained me on a pre-writing program that I can do at home. We did 4 minutes today (which she thought would be an appropriate jumping off point, attention-span wise). When she got distracted (only twice) I paused the timer, and when we were done I felt super accomplished--and Maya was proud, too :)
If you're thinking that you don't have a pre-writing program to try, don't worry. I emailed the teacher explaining my Learning Time plan and she was all for it. I asked her to keep an eye out for skills that I would be able to help reinforce at home and she's already sent me one idea. Between your child's therapists, teacher(s), and Pinterest*, there are a million fun projects to do.
There are probably people who think "Eesh---therapy and academic stuff should be left for the therapists and teachers." I just don't feel like that's the case for us. I came away from today really enjoying the (tiny) session we had, working on a goal together, and Maya really liked it, too. And since we can't afford unlimited therapy, and I feel like I'm smart and capable, I'm glad to jump in and fill some of those gaps.
If you've got any other tips or tricks, feel free to share them in the comments . . .
*FYI, I've heard that Pinterest is full of ideas. I still haven't figured out Pinterest.