Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
- D continues his streak of being potty-trained on the road.
- We stayed downtown at the Crockett Hotel (one of a number built in 1909), right across from the walls of the Alamo. Breakfasts (including fluffy Texas-shaped waffles) were fantastic at the complimentary buffet.
- My husband was tied up at a conference Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday, but the kids and I managed pretty well, especially with the help of a hotel room to return to for cartoons. The kids are good for about three blocks one-way and then back, but are not up for long, leisurely rambles, which is what you need to cover the Riverwalk properly. At street level, we saw groups of Segwayers. The Riverwalk, my guidebook informs me, was a WPA project.
- The kids only watch videos at home (no TV), so it was interesting to see them deal with television. First of all, they didn't realize that if they went away, the show went on without them, even if the TV was off, and C initially didn't understand that we couldn't fast forward the TV. Secondly, D didn't know what ads were, and he couldn't tell the difference between ads and programming.
- The kids (especially C) LOVED the Rainforest Cafe. We had dinner there twice. I had delusional thoughts earlier that we would have amazing Mexican food in San Antonio, but that will have to wait.
- On Saturday morning, the kids and I visited the Alamo. We caught nearly all of a long talk covering the early European settlement of the region, US migration to Texas, the Alamo, and Texas's eventual fight for independence.
- On Saturday afternoon, the kids and I went to the San Antonio Children's Museum, which is very nice. It reminds me of the old Capitol Hill Children's Museum in DC. There was a set of large foam blocks there that you could form an arch with. "I have an idea," said D. "We can build the Alamo." C and another girl were tusssling over the blocks. Each girl had her own artistic conception, there were limited blocks, and the projects were going nowhere. Fortunately, I was able to broker a settlement, and the two girls (with the help of the other girl's daddy) eventually built an arch.
- Saturday night after dinner, we rode in a horse carriage decorated with blue Christmas lights through downtown.
- This morning, we went to mass at Mission San Jose (one of the five Spanish missions of San Antonio). It is both a National Park and a working Roman Catholic parish, presided over by real live Franciscans.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Even as he urged against demonizing the business class, Obama made clear that he thinks affluent Americans have not been doing their fair share as he defended his plan to shrink tax deductions for wealthy taxpayers' charitable contributions and mortgage interest payments.
"If it's really a charitable contribution, I'm assuming that [smaller tax savings] shouldn't be a determining factor as to whether you're giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street," he said. "I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefited enormously over the last several years. It's not going to cripple them; they'll still be well-to-do. And ultimately, if we're going to tackle the serious problems that we've got, then in some cases those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more."
I don't do a lot of politics around here, but I think that Obama's example of a $100 donation for a homeless shelter is very revealing.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that C is very excited that we are scheduled to go to San Antonio soon, since thanks to her Spanish class, she has learned that San Antonio means St. Anthony. We did a quick internet cheat search for St. Anthony last night, and were pleased to learn that he was a 13th century contemporary of St. Francis and was one of the Friars Minor. He's traditionally pictured with baby Jesus because of a legend that says that he had a vision of the infant Jesus.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
- You may have noticed that this list [the ALSUP] contains no diagnoses. That's because diagnoses don't give us any information about the cognitive skills a child may be lacking.
- While diagnoses do tend to make adults take a kid's difficulties more seriously, a kid doesn't need a diagnosis, or a special education designation, to have a problem. He just needs a problem to have a problem.
- Medicine is effective at reducing hyperactivity and poor impulse control, improving attention span, enhancing mood, reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors and general anxiety, reducing tics, inducing sleep, and helping volatile, aggressive kids be less reactive. Medicine does not teach skills.
- In the research literature (and in real life) cognitive skills training has often been conducted outside the environments in which a kid is having the greatest difficulty and by people the kid isn't having difficulty with--for example, in the office of a guidance counselor, principal, or mental health professional or in a researcher's lab. Skills taught in these artificial environments often haven't generalized to the environments in which the kid was having difficulty.
- Greene is down on incentive programs, pointing out that the rewards and punishments are often flash-points for conflict.
- Naivete occasionally makes an appearance in Greene's fictional dialogues. "I think some people just like being mean," said Duane. "Interesting possibility," Duane," said Mrs. Woods. "But why would someone like being mean?" "I don't know," responded Duane. "Maybe they don't know how to be nice." "Ah, so maybe they don't like being mean, they just don't know how to be nice." I feel that Duane and Mrs. Woods' answer is incomplete, and they are ignoring the joys of bullying and its material and psychic compensations. This reminds me of that excellent book on male abusers Why Does He Do That? In that book, Lundy Bancroft argues that almost invariably, the reason an abuser chooses abuse is that it works for him and that it is a convenient shortcut to getting what he wants.
- Lastly, I note that within the fictional school that Greene creates, problem children earn warm interest, one-on-one time, and heart-to-hearts by having problems. Meanwhile, Joey fades from view as soon as he starts getting his act together.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
- Difficulty seeing the "grays"/concrete, literal, black-and-white thinking
- Inflexible, inaccurate interpretations/cognitive distortions of biases (e.g., "Everyone's out to get me," "Nobody likes me," "You always blame me," "It's not fair," "I'm stupid," "Things will never work out for me")
- Difficulty attending to and/or accurately interpreting social cues/poor perception of social nuances
- Difficulty empathizing with others, appreciating another person's perspective or point of view
Maybe I am underestimating the magical powers of Plan B, but it seems to me unlikely that heart-to-heart talks with this kind of difficult child is going to solve these difficulties, since the essence of this child's difficulties is his lack of self-awareness and inability to correctly interpret the world around him.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The first chapter is entitled "Kids Do Well if They Can." "Kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges lack important thinking skills," writes Greene. He believes that behavior problems are caused purely by lack of skill, rather than by a lack of desire to behave well. I'm somewhat puzzled by this black-and-white thinking. Why can't it be both lack of skill and lack of desire to behave well? Later in the chapter, Greene critiques some favorite lines that people use when talking about problem children:
"He just wants attention." We all want attention, so this explanation isn't very useful for helping us understand why a kid is struggling to do well. And if a kid is seeking attention in a maladaptive way, doesn't that suggest that he lacks the skills to seek attention in an adaptive way?
Certainly. Another option is that attention isn't readily available for good or neutral behavior, so he's got to go with bad behavior if he wants to stop being invisible.
There was also some unauthorized garden hose play.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
After we came home, the kids joyously frolicked with the boots, the hat, and their old stick horse.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
- Use simple and clear requests to create five to 10 "successes" per day.
- Glasser suggests being generous with credits, but says that the credit system needs to encompass many privileges which the child used to get for free. Parents can be very creative with their list of privileges available for purchase. One possibility is the Pythonesque option of buying a 5-minute argument. The first mother who was creative enough to design this privilege...made the cost of an argument high for each five-minute interval. She found that, instead of getting drawn into the fray, she was simply able to stay aloof and say, "your five minutes are up, would you like to buy another argument." The child said, "No, that's okay" and walked away calmly. This mother was able to compliment her son for handling the situation and his strong feelings well, as well as for numerous thoughtful statements he made in arguing his case.
- Even natural and logical consequences, the Rolls-Royces of techniques that work very nicely with the average child, seem to consistently backfire with the intense child and sometimes seem to maintain the addictive quality of pushing the limit.
- For older children who are too big to escort or hold in time-out, the following alternative intervention has worked beautifully: "If you don't go to time-out when you are told, then this is what will happen until you decide to do it: I will continue to give you credits for all your good behaviors. However, your credits will be frozen until the time-out is completed..." This removes the power struggle.
It's going to be really tempting to quote huge chunks of Howard Glasser's Transforming the Difficult Child, but I will try to restrain myself. Here we go:
- It is not an accident that these children do not readily progress in individual treatment or that they progress temporarily and then slide back. They quickly assess that all the special attention they desperately seek would cease if they were to do more than give lip service to improvements.
- Glasser recommends what he calls "video moments." It means just warmly telling a child what they're doing right now (when they happening to be engaged in a positive or neutral activity), without evaluating, just describing. Being noticed or recognized is much more powerful than one may initially imagine...This technique is a remarkable way of showing your child that you notice and care about many aspects of her life...It is not only a way of feeding her emotional reservoir, but of proving that she is not invisible. Indeed, many children feel they are invisible unless they are either going to the trouble of acting out or doing something exceptionally well. Glasser wants parents to try to give 10-20 video moments per day.
- We typically attempt to give a lesson on responsibility or self-control when the child is not using responsibility or self-control. We tend to give lessons on not whining or not hitting when the child is performing the misdeed. The receptivity to the lesson is low at these moments.
- Some children come to believe, on the basis of our actions, that they can get the best quality time when they are misbehaving. Some children feel those are the only times when they can get solid one on one, heart to heart, emotional exchange.
- Glasser suggests using old school Don'ts with difficult children. Somewhere along the line since the time of the Ten Commandments, we've somehow gotten the notion that the rules need to be framed in a positive context. this notion is rampant in mainstream classrooms. Positively framed rules such as "Be responsible" make it much harder for challenging children to function. These children do not have a clear sense of when they are out of bounds and when they are in.
- Glasser wants parents to applaud and affirm difficult children when they are not breaking rules, rather than ignoring them when they are good and dramatically laying down the law when they are bad. Try to "beat your child to the punch." Notice the early stages of problem behavior and praise and appreciate the self-control being used "before" the rule is actually being broken. Once a rule is broken, your choices are limited.
- Glasser suggests "creating successes that would not otherwise exist." This closely resembles the technique of putting the rope at the bottom of the tank and rewarding Shamu every time he accidentally swims over it. Glasser's example involves a defiant six-year-old whose parents despaired of getting him to do anything they asked for. One day at school pick-up, the boy's father had an inspiration. With great pride he reported that David had gotten in the car and was in the act of closing the door when his father requested: "I need you to close the door." It was, of course, already a done deal and all that was left was to congratulate David for following directions, which was done in excellent fashion. Several other exceedingly doable requests yielded the same kind of outcome. The family was on its way.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Glasser is a somewhat New Age-y guy in a turtleneck, but thanks perhaps to all his experience dealing with truly desperate situations, he has his feet on the ground. His principles are not novel (reinforce good behavior, don't reinforce bad behavior). What is unusual is how well-worked out his system is and how well he walks his readers and viewers through the pitfalls of parenting and teaching difficult children. Glasser thinks that difficult children need different handling from ordinary children. He puts "catch them being good" on steroids. If Jonah isn't hitting his sister, say something like "Jonah, you are doing a really good job of not hitting Emily!" Glasser thinks that even five minutes total of enthusiastic and detailed praise sprinkled throughout the day can help transform a difficult child. That's phase one of his plan. Phase two is to institute a credit system to reward good behavior. Phase three is consequences for bad behavior. Phase three is somewhat fuzzier than phases one and two, in my opinion. To be fair, by the time you get to phase three, a lot of bad behavior will already have disappeared.
I'm going to be pulling out quotes and perhaps sharing some of my thoughts. Text in bold is from Transforming the Difficult Child. Here we go:
- Some "enlightened" approaches recommend explicitly telling your children how you feel when they act out. "It hurts my feelings when you hurt your sister." "It makes me sad when your teacher tells me that you were not paying attention in school." These approaches, although potentially effective for the average child, backfire with the intense child. Not only are you displaying where the buttons are for future use by the difficult child, but you wind up giving payoff: your energy and attention to the problem behavior. Other approaches call for lengthy discussions or discourses in relation to the problem behaviors. Any way you slice it, it adds up to more energetic payoffs for exactly the behaviors that you least want to reinforce. Why water weeds?
- ...If a child has a pre-existing perception that she gets more out of life by acting negatively, and we take only the stand of intensifying the rules or the harshness of the consequences, we will actually make things worse. A child in this situation will size up the new circumstances and conclude that, by breaking the new rules, she can now get a new array of reactions and payoffs. This can pique her interest and she will often surmise that she and her parents now are simply playing for bigger and more interesting stakes. She will not be doing this on purpose, but the addictive side of the habit will draw her toward the prospect of a larger response.
Bravo, Mr. Delpusio!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
My husband and I are now using the following method: we have informed D that he is potty-trained.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
On the flight home, they announced that the plane would be passing over Mt. St. Helens. D closed his window and couldn't understand why the pilot would do such a reckless thing.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
A couple days ago, C was finishing up a cute gold, red, fuchsia, and coral pink potholder when it suddenly leaped off the loom and came apart. As we have discovered, this is not uncommon behavior in the final stages of work on a potholder. C reminded me of the situation this evening and I set to work salvaging the potholder. I am pleased to announce that the potholder is done. It is C's second successful potholder. The first one has been sent to her grandparents in Canada.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The book Cheaper by the Dozen was one of my childhood favorites, but I'm not sure how much of the old film I've seen before. I appreciated the family meeting scene where we see Frank Gilbreth (the father) bidding out the whitewashing of the fence to his kids. I also liked the scene with Gilbreth descending on the principal of his kids' new school and persuading her that his kids should be placed in grades by academic level rather than by chronological age.
The appropriate time came this morning. We used Pillsbury ready-made sugar cookie dough, ready-made frosting, black licorice, and Skittles. The ready-made dough baked up beautifully, and then I handed over the decorating to C. She frosted and decorated a plate-full of cookies and I wrapped them up and froze them. We have lots of decorating supplies left as well as a sheet of undecorated cookies, so C can continue working later.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
She spent all day reading Harry Potter and finished the seventh volume this afternoon. D was briefly in bed, but eventually jumped out to use the potty, then decided he wasn't sleepy. He's playing dominos with his dad right now.
One pleasant side effect of watching Barack Obama "rescue" us from an unstable and inegalitarian 21st-century prosperity and deliver us to a sustainable and renewable 13th-century model is that Americans will focus on the important things, like family and faith, and the smaller pleasures of life, such as meals around the table and the joy of hunting and killing squirrels and other local, hitherto overlooked comestibles.
...Who can do anything but rejoice at the news that people who, just months ago, could never afford to be your neighbors can now purchase the most expensive home on the block for half of what you paid for yours?