My mind never really ran to numbers. In math class, I understood the concepts readily enough. I'd just get bored easily, and make careless errors. I was that weird kid in class who actually liked the word problems. Those always made more sense to me. I made A's in organic chemistry in college, yet struggled to pull a B in freshman chemistry, simply because of the math. Calculus and physics were two big reasons the name of this blog isn't A Day In The Life Of An Emergency Physician.
Likewise, KatyBeth has never been great at math. She's been good, but like her dad, she lacks the discipline to really excel.
Or I should say, lacked the discipline.
A few weeks back, one of her teachers approached me, concerned about KatyBeth's behavior over the previous couple of weeks. Seems Katy had been a bit churlish with her teachers on several occasions, even to the point of snapping at them and raising her voice a couple of times, even telling her personal aide, "Shut up."
And because her aide loves KatyBeth dearly, she had kept it quiet, chalking it up to frustration rather than bad manners. But the teacher witnessed it, and combined with the other episodes, felt it worthy of my attention.
In almost the same breath as telling me about my child's misbehavior, she was quick to remind me that KatyBeth was one of her star pupils, and not a disciplinary problem at all. She simply felt that these episodes were not in character for KatyBeth, and wanted to bring them to her parents' attention.
Well, it got my attention, all right. My kid just does not do misbehavior. Yeah, she's a bit spoiled, and I say yes to her more readily than I should sometimes, but she knows that when Mom or Dad say the negotiation is over, it is O-V-E-R. She's one of the politest kids you'll ever meet, and a great student, and kindhearted to the point that I worry about her ever being able to defend herself.
And she got that way because her mother and I have made it clear all her life that we will not tolerate otherwise.
So naturally, when I asked her about it, she dissolved into a blubbering, remorseful tub of sobbing goo for a solid hour, unable to even talk. I can count the spankings Katy has had one hand, and she'll be 10 in a couple of weeks*. For her, my disapproval is far more crushing than corporal punishment could ever be.
For my part, I was less angry than concerned. Katy's been through some major adjustments as of late. In the last two months, her mother has moved to a new house, I've been traveling incessantly and missing time with her, and her IEP at school was changed to remove her personal classroom aide. She's been through a lot, and I was concerned that the disruption in her routine was the culprit behind this change in her behavior.
Well, the removal of her aide wasn't the problem. Her teachers report Katy's independence and personal initiative has grown by leaps and bounds, now that her aide is gone. The aide is still available to help her with certain physical tasks, but the things Katy used to have to be reminded and prodded to do in the classroom, she now does on her own. She even asks for help far less often.
It was the "asking for help" part that was the root of the matter.
One thing you have to know about my kid is that, despite her physical limitations and softhearted demeanor, she hates failure. She cannot stand trying, and failing, at a task she sets for herself. And if she's convinced she can do it, she resents any suggestions or assistance, to the point of even telling a woman who would fight a bear with a switch to defend my daughter, to "Shut up."
We saw the same thing when she was an infant and toddler. Her therapists would painstakingly, methodically put her through physical exercises, and they constantly pushed Katy to her limits. And when she failed to master the new task, she'd arch her back and kick her legs spasmodically and scream in frustration, thus negating an hour's worth of therapy to get her to that point.
And so, her therapists taught her a more productive outlet for her anger. When she felt frustrated or overwhelmed, she was simply to say, "I'm mad," and she'd get a break. It worked like a charm.
It also created a master manipulator, because nothing makes Daddy want to buy her a pony more than a quavering, breathy, "I'm sad," delivered with a quivering lower lip and tear-filled eyes.
So, with that in mind, I extracted a promise from KatyBeth. Whenever she became frustrated in class, she was to push the paper away, announce, "I'm frustrated," and count slowly to 10, eyes closed. And when she opened her eyes, she was to pick up where she left off, and go slowly and methodically this time around.
Not only that, she was to personally apologize to her teachers and her aide, and tell them her strategy for dealing with frustration in the future. I wanted to walk her to class and personally see to it that she delivered the apology I required, but she begged me to allow her to do it on her own. I relented, with the understanding that if the apology was not delivered, or her teachers reported even one more instance of unacceptable behavior, Horrendous Parental Wrath would ensue.
Today I spoke to her teachers, and not only did they give glowing reports on her behavior, but her common assessments (the BIG tests) included the first A's in math she has received all year. Consequently, when she gets her report card tomorrow, it will be straight A's, and not the lonely B in math we've come to expect.
The topper was that Katy herself marveled, "Dad, that count to 10 and slow down stuff really worked!"
And that, my friends, is yet another reason my daughter kicks nine kinds of ass.
I'm so proud of her, I might just go buy her a pony.
*Spare me your editorializing on corporal punishment, please. I don't believe in spanking as a primary form of discipline, but I believe other forms of discipline are more effective if the prospect of spanking is kept on the table. It also has not escaped my notice that, invariably, the parents I have met who are vehemently opposed to spanking their children are raising unruly, disrespectful little monsters I would gladly urge to go play in traffic.