Daniel. For months we've been struggling through a back-arching, boundary testing tantrum phase. And 'phase' I declare it to be. Phases pass. He's three. But there seems to be more to this than just defiance and anger. Frustration, maybe? Independence? Attention seeking?... (he did just become a middle child)
Someone with much more mothering experience than me, once advised that I become a student of each kid. That I study them and know what makes them tick. By doing so, I could reinforce their strengths and improve their weak areas.
With Brenna this meant feeding her brain constantly. She is a knowledge sponge and I just followed her lead. We learned about opera, Eleanor Roosevelt, double digit addition, and farmer's almanacs. Most of the nuts and bolts of learning - the letters, colors, letter sounds, numbers, writing, reading, etc. - were done with workbooks at the dining room table. She loved it.
Daniel begs to do 'school' as well. But doing a workbook with him isn't as...shall we say...effective as it was with Brenna. For example, a few weeks ago we had a page on opposites:
Me: Daniel, what the opposite of hot?
Daniel: I don't know. Not hot.
(Later that afternoon - after I've poured out my frustration to Michael. We're in the living room and Daniel is playing with his cars on the floor.)
Michael: Hey Daniel?
Daniel: What? (still playing)
Michael: What's the opposite of hot?
Michael: What's the opposite of open?
Michael: What's the opposite of up?
And so it goes.....
Day after day. He wants to do the workbooks, but I find it an aggravating process. He memorizes like crazy. He knows his letters, letter sounds, more than thirty sight words, the Lord's prayer, the fruits of the spirit, plus the repetitive parts of his favorite books. But he plays me. He fidgets. He works too fast. He's impulsive.
Become a student of your child....
So I set out to read how boys learn. I started online and then moved to books. I have no idea if this information is controversial. I just know it seems to ring true in my own experience. Here are a few highlights from my research:
1. Boys brains seem to like pictures or diagrams that are moving rather than words. Their bodies have more dopamine in the blood which apparently increases impulsive behaviors - making it harder to learn by sitting still. (umm...workbook at the dining room table?)
2. Boys have less blood flow to their brains than girls which has something to do with them not being able to multi-task as well, or move quickly from task to task.
3. This I thought was fascinating: If a boy is overstimulated, doing too many things at once and getting frustrated, a part of his brain called the amygdala swells. Apparently that's the center for anger and aggression. Higher frustration leads to higher stress and adrenalin which comes out as anger and aggression. (And probably on occasion back arching temper tantrums.)
4. Male brains go into something called a 'neural rest state' between tasks. It self charges or renews. In classrooms, sometimes boys get wiggly or tap pencils to try to keep themselves engaged.
5. It was suggested in one book that little boys can get antsy and frustrated in smaller spaces. They need a big play space to spread out. (We cleared all the toys to the upstairs and moved our living room couch back. That allows Daniel to bring his cars downstairs and have entire open space to play.)
6. Boys see better in a brighter light. Boys don't hear as well as girls.
7. One quote I wrote down, boys tend "to learn by innovating in risk taking ways" with "physical movement and manipulation of physical objects". (explains the 'why-on-earth-did-you-do-that? stuff)
In addition to clearing a bigger play space, I've severely limited his tv time, given him more independence, sent him outside to play more often, and stopped insisting we work at the dining room table. Maybe it's coincidental, but the tantrums and back arching have subsided significantly. I have lots of ideas for working on the same 'workbook' material in a more physical way, too. It's called 'action response learning', and I'm going to see how it works.
I like learning my kids. And I can't help but wonder what challenges Carrie will bring...
(much of the information listed above came from Michael Gurian's book, The Minds of Boys.)