If you're following me on Instagram (And why aren't you? I'm a FREAKING DELIGHT.), you know that Melanie started kindergarten a few months ago and is struggling HARD. Like, every single day I'm getting massive behavioral reports from school and I'm just… having a hard time with it all.
I mean, my daughter sucks at Kindergarten.
I understand that all kids have a hard time adjusting to the schedules and constraints of kindergarten but, it seems like Melanie is just really, really having a difficult time.
Straight up, it's partially our fault.
This is her first time in a structured program of any kind. We're not religious so she's never been to church or a faith-based Mom's Day Out program. Preschool is really expensive so she never went to one. We didn't put her into any kind of group sports because those involve early mornings on the weekends.
The only kind of organized anything she did was Storytime at the library once a week. Otherwise, she was at home with me while I worked and so, she's really used to doing her own thing.
If she was hungry, she got food out of the fridge. If she wanted to play outside, she put on her shoes and went out. If she wanted to play with Legos, she played with Legos and then put them away when she was done.
Kindergarten has been, for her, just a lot of being told where to go and when and what to do every minute of every day. She's struggling a lot with that and has pretty spectacular meltdowns, including (but not limited to):
- screaming “NO”
- physically lashing out
- crying in the corner
- running away
- putting her hand over the mouth of teachers/administrators
- slapping/punching/kissing other kids
Literally every day – no really, LITERALLY EVERY DAY, I get a report from her teacher about all the things she did wrong that day (behaviorally).
It's demoralizing, guys.
My daughter is getting off the bus every single day and the first thing out of her mouth is “Was I good today?”. Not, “I sat with Jill at lunch” or “I learned a new song” – she asks if her teacher said whether or not she was good.
But here's the thing.
Now, I'm a realist here. I have been Melanie Jocelyn's mom for five years now and I'll be the first to tell you that she is a difficult kid. Like, she's an asshole.
She knows all about right and wrong and consequences and will still make bad choices (just to spite you). We discipline her and talk to her and parent her to the best of our abilities.
But she is still a rough, ROUGH kid.
I get that. I understand that. I support her teacher and the administration and we're trying to all figure this out together. But, my heart still aches for my little girl.
She wants to love her teacher and school SO MUCH. She wants to have friends and fun. She does her homework every night willingly and happily. She sings songs she's learning in music class. She tells me all about magnets since they learned about it during science skills.
So, she WANTS to do this. She WANTS to be in school and learn and participate. It's just that she can't seem to do it “right”. And that's so frustrating for all of us.
So, what do we do?
We got called in after three weeks to a conference with her teacher and the principal (WHICH WAS A SUPER FUN TIME AND NOT AT ALL STRESSFUL). This was after weeks of just awful behavior and a phone call from her teacher telling my husband that she “was not a babysitter”.
During the meeting, we acknowledged that Melanie is a tough kid and we supported the school in trying to work with her. I requested special time with the counselor to try to work on specific behavior. Her teacher asked permission to start doing a daily sticker/reward chart for reinforcing good choices and behaviors.
At home, we also started doing a reward sticker chart to encourage her to stop yelling “No” and transition from one thing to the next without melting down. When she fills up the chart, she gets an ice cream cone.
We started making mini goals each day for her to focus on (i.e. today we're going to stand in line and not run away, today we're not going to draw on our friend's paper, today we're going to do all our schoolwork when we're asked). If she doesn't accomplish that mini goal then she loses tablet privileges for that afternoon/evening.
We bought some books that focused on her behavior and have been reading them together with her and talking about the characters and choices.
Most importantly, I feel, we've been telling her we love her and reacting positively when she makes good choices.
Because y'all – she's literally not getting ANY good news from her school.
I have to look and see what bad thing she did the day before and then look to see if she did it that day. If she didn't then I tell her how proud I am of her for making that good choice.
This is all so exhausting and stressful. Every single day is like this heavy weight on our family. My husband is frustrated. I stopped going to the gym and I'm stress eating. Melanie comes home and hides on the couch while she waits for me to read the behavior report.
Meanwhile, we got her mid-term report card and she's under performing in everything. Which is strange because she's really smart. Not a genius but definitely above average.
Why is she not doing well academically? Is she actually not getting the curriculum or is she not doing the work due to behavioral issues?
And now, it's time to schedule our parent teacher conference. I had to make a note that since we're addressing her behavioral issues with the school counselor (who is starting a Friendship Skills group for her plus added her to a Big Buddy program through the high school) that we'd like to spend the majority of the time focusing on her academics.
I'm just feeling massively overwhelmed right now.
Honestly, y'all. ANY tips, help, or advice would be much appreciated. I'm not looking for any sanctimommies to tell me about essential fucking oils or how I just need to discipline her.
I'm reaching out for actionable advice and help.
Or for any other parents out there with a difficult kid who struggled with kindergarten to share their story with me. Because this? Right now? Feels really, really lonely.