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Good at home, bad at school (7 year old)

(17 Posts)
user1495186063 Fri 19-May-17 11:15:03

My 7 year old and I moved here to the UK a year ago from the states to move in with my new husband (his step-father). He is still in contact with his father every single day (he skypes him). We made sure he moved over in the Summer holidays (June - school) so that he could get use to being here. He has been in his new school this whole time, but since January he's been exhibiting behavior that's not like him. We visited the States during Christmas holiday so that he could have Christmas with his Father.

From the beginning of school he was fine, polite and nice with no problems. Hurt himself a lot (he's very clumsy), there was so no suspecting of bullying or him bullying anyone.

Now, he punches his friends. He has to be first in line or he is angry/upset. He pushes people, shoves them. We've had problems where he's sat on a kid and yanked a football from his hands because he wanted it. He bosses them around and tells them what to do, tries to make them listen to him. Even the teachers are telling me he'd make a great drill sergeant at this rate (worrying for me really because he's so young).

A little about him previously
He's always been very independent, wanting to do everything himself. I keep him under a tight ship at home because he's an inch-mile kid. You give him an inch, he will wreck your whole world. He's always been that way from as soon as he could walk. Very independent and trying to get away with everything he can sneak past you. He's competitive by nature, everything seems to be a competition. We've tried to tell him it's not and he needs to calm down. It's not all about winning.

At home, he says please and thank you (I make sure of it). He never hits us, never talks back. He listens to authority and we have a schedule for everything at home. Bedtimes, food, skype, bath is all scheduled. He knows them pretty much by heart.

His grades are amazing, he's got an amazing brain and mind. They said he's an angel in class except for when he's on the playground or lining up.

My son is not autistic (They tested him for it), he has no behavioral issues. He isn't upset about the move (He loves his step-dad and he met him for two years before the move), he gets to go over to see his father and all grandparents in the summer. He isn't an only child (a 15 year old from his real father and a 4 year old from his step-dad).

When we discipline him, we always talk about what happened first. We express how upset we are, and ask him what he should do to fix it. We talk about how our brains work, how you're in control of your actions. Consequences if he keeps acting that way, schools he may have to go to if he keeps it up. Talk about how he'll have no friends, no one will play with him. None of it works. We've tried star charts, special gifts, praising good and ignoring bad. We've tried to let him be himself and let loose on the rules (that's a mistake for a child that wants to take everything he can). We've tried everything we can possibly think of and we still come to school and hear about how bad he's been. He's not ignored, we play with him frequently. Card games, board games, football, video games (Rarely). We read, we spend time, we play with lego. Some days we play more than others (as you do when you're a parent). He doesn't watch much TV and when he does I make sure it's nothing bad. He loves puzzle shows like Crystal Maze, The Chase, Tipping Point, Wipe out. I've since gotten him to stop watching Wipe Out and Power Rangers because of how he's acting. Sure he doesn't like it, but he listens. He loves puzzles and Trivial Pursuit, Beat the Parents and other quiz games, things that make his mind do things.

Most days are amazing, he's great no problems. He's nice, he's sweet. Some days teachers say he's over polite, listens and is the best in the class.
And then, out of the blue, we pick him up and he's punched, pushed, angry and had seen the headmaster.

When we take him out to parks and places, he's great. He loves kids and tries so hard to play with them. Always finding ones to hang out with and playing nicely with them. He even loves littler kids and instructs bigger ones to be careful around them.

I'm baffled and confused. What's going on?
I'm sorry it's so long, I'm very lost on what to do next.
Has anyone had this experience or have any advice? Anything?

user1495196949 Fri 19-May-17 13:58:13

I had this same thing and found the only solution was to do to my DS what he did to child, after that he never hit again : )

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 14:13:32

We've tried that, treating him the way he's treated others. He is sad for a day and then back to normal being polite. He continues the same behavior like a week later.

Kleinzeit Fri 19-May-17 16:11:28

When you say "they tested him for it" how old was he and exactly what tests did they do? Because autism isn't a single thing, it's a more like grab-bag of different things and if you have enough things strongly enough you get a diagnosis. Your DS's need for a strict schedule, his bossiness, extreme independence, even his need to win, sound very like my own DS at that age and my DS has an ASC diagnosis. But not from a single test, from a long complicated assessment done by professionals from different disciplines. And even if your DS doesn't get an autism diagnosis the assessments should give you some clear pointers to whatever difficulties he is having that are leading to these behaviours.

So I would see your GP and ask to get a complete set of assessments (not just for autism) done.

he's an angel in class except for when he's on the playground or lining up.

Oh yes.... My DS's teacher described him as "a joy to teach" most of the time - when he wasn't lashing out. His teacher actually re-scheduled playtime so a specialist who came in to observe him would see the difference between structured class time and unstructured play. DS ended up with one-to-one support in the playground (as well as in class because some of his lash-outs were during the more social parts of class time). He also got to stand slightly separately instead of lining up for a few years.

You may also need to slightly change some of your current approach to discipline at home. Talking to a seven year old about long term consequences such as not having any friends or about "schools he will have to go to" is too scary. Consequences should be small and immediate, with an immediate chance to try again and do better. Long-term threats will raise his anxiety, and anxiety fuels aggression. So go for positive parenting rather than punishment until you know what's going on with him. And try to avoid punishing him at home for things that happen in school (that's advice I was given at a parenting group while I was waiting for DS to be assessed, we didn't know he had a disability at the time); you may have to respond to physical aggression but keep it as short as possible until you know what's going on.


Kleinzeit Fri 19-May-17 16:19:57

Also - you might find the book The Unwritten Rules of Friendship helpful, especially e.g. the section on "The Born Leader" and "The Short Fused Child". The book has lots of very practical suggestions.

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 19:39:39

When we were back in the States, I had asked his kindergarten teacher if she was concerned he may have autism. She said he had no problems at all and saw nothing of the sort in him (she's been teaching 35 years).
Fast forward to this year, at the conference with the teacher here and she thinks he may have a minor one due to social and asks if it's okay if they test him and have an autism specialist teacher in the school observe him. Of course I accepted, and she calls me back in after the teacher has done it and says she says he's fine, she's seen nothing wrong and his social interaction is perfect and on par.
I did look at the ASC just now, curious of the symptoms to see how well he marched. I do understand that there are many, many different scales and diagnosis of the disease. My husband and I scaled them and he has about... Three of those symptoms.
It's weird because it's almost as if his maturity level as far as sarcasm and jokes is that of a 12 year old. Sometimes he talks and I swear he's an adult. It's shocking.
About the anxiety, I wish he had some. At one point in his life I was concerned he may be having mild brain seizures because sometimes when we talk to him he stares at us. Like we're a blank wall. He tunes us out and just stared into us like we're nothingness, and most of the time when we talk to him about what he does, he stares.
To be honest, he's so smart sometimes that I worry about him getting a diagnosis that something is wrong with him that he'll use it as a weapon. Like "Sorry I punched you, I have autism." Or "I didn't mean to push him over, it's my autism!"
The days he acts up the most is when he doesn't get enough sleep (his choice not mine), and then he blames all his actions on not enough sleep. Then we have to explain that sleep isn't what controls your actions, you do.
His aggression, when it does come up, is purely physical. He doesn't shout or curse, he punches or shoves. So it's something that has to be dealt with. The headmaster hasn't said anything directly to us, the teacher has to relay so I keep thinking it must not been so bad, but I want to stop it before it does get that bad.
I will check out that book and see what I can do from it. When he was younger, disciplining him was the worst. Nothing mattered enough to take away or happen. Corners he would play with, chairs and he didn't care how many toys or games I took away, he played with a piece of lint and was happy as ever! I tried the penny (get a penny when you do something good, lose when bad) thing, star charts, special spending money. Nothing, absolutely nothing worked. The penny thing was the worst, once he lost one he could care less if he lost every single one.

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 19:44:08

He's the type of child that once he receives his praise for the day, he's done. He doesn't need to be good anymore, he got what he wanted. We have to limit his praisings because he will be perfect, as soon as we tell him how good he's being it's the end of him being good.
It's terrible because I'd love for him to know that we're proud or he's doing amazing. :/

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 19:47:28

I'm sorry when I said "When we talk to him he stares at us" meant only in disciplining him. Normally talking he interacts just fine and the conversations are great.

Astro55 Fri 19-May-17 19:50:00

Does he play independently at home or amuse himself without full on one 2 one attention?

He has to share the attention at school and it seems that he finds this difficult

Also with junior school not everything is timetabled and things change - if you are very structured at home he may find the change difficult

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 20:05:06

Yes, he does. He even makes up people to play games with. Like he plays a game of chess with an invisible person (they have different names every time). Or disappears to his room and I'll go to tell him dinner is ready and he's built an entire Wipeout course (that was amazing, took pictures of that :D). He has no problems playing on his own and having fun.

Tbh, if I took the schedule away he'd probably love it. Lol! He doesn't truly like the schedule but it keeps him doing the things he should. Like a routine before bed so he remembers to use the bathroom or brush his teeth. A small routine on the weekends in the morning so he doesn't forget his light is on and makes his bed. It's never completely structured, the routines themselves take about 10 minutes tops.

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 20:07:48

The timed things are mostly to make sure and fit everything in. Dinner at 5ish, shower at 6:30, Skype at 7pm, bedtime is 8:30pm. Unless it's a weekend. Then the only thing we enforce is Skype and dinner.

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 20:40:31

I do want to thank all of you for replying! I purchased that book and will be checking it out as soon as it arrives! smile

Kleinzeit Fri 19-May-17 22:00:01

Sure, he might not have an ASC at all, he might have some other combination, or he might have an unusual presentation of an ASC. There's certainly something going on. I wouldn't just rely on a specialist teacher to be honest. They can spot the obvious ones but not the subtle or unusual ones. My DS had a proper multi-disciplinary assessment - developmental paediatritian, speech and language therapist, clinical psychologist, as well as reports from the school. In your place I would go to the GP and ask for an NHS referral.

What is your DS's emotional communication like? Does he talk about feelings? About how other people feel? Trying to talk about that to my DS was like talking to a wall. My DS's intellectual understanding was way ahead of his age but his emotional understanding was way behind. DS had a lovely conversation with the speech and language therapist until she started asking him about that. It was as if he was suddenly stunned into silence. And I had a sudden insight into what he lacked. DS is teenage now, and is now able to apply his intellect to reason about how other people think and feel. But because it's not instinctive it can sometimes be a bit weird.

And are your DS's imaginative games social ones? Do they have characters in, who interact? One of DS's most telling games was when he started school. He got out his coloured cotton reels and said "here's the blue table with six children" (and put out six blue reels) "and here's the red table with four children..." and so on. Now if I had had been playing that game I would have gone on "and here comes the teacher and she says..." But DS didn't. When he had put the cotton reels out for all the tables, that was it. Game over. No social imagination.

About the anxiety, I wish he had some.

Anxiety doesn't always look like anxiety though. Being bossy and controlling, getting very angry if things don't go exactly the way he thinks they should, those can also be a kind of anxiety. When people are under threat they do one of three things - fight, flight or freeze. My DS's first response was fight.

Like "Sorry I punched you, I have autism." Or "I didn't mean to push him over, it's my autism!"

My DS has tried that once or twice. I am just firm about it. "We don't hit. Yes, you have autism and that makes it harder for you. But you can learn." and apply the consequence. We have had conversations about things that are harder for some people than others - DS was good at reading and maths, but (as his teacher overheard him telling another child!) not so good at people. But he can learn smile

I had to learn a lot of different ways of discipline and mix and match them. I went to some specialist parenting classes, both autism-specialist ones and ones for kids with behaviour issues (because of DS's aggression). For consequences (punishments) you have to find the thing that stings (for my DS it was not getting dessert!) which varies from child to child; you have to not over-use punishments, if you are doing a lot of punishment then it's not working and you need to choose fewer misbehaviours to punish and more to ignore; it's important not to let a situation escalate and pile punishments up; and if you are doing rewards then you never take away a reward once it has been earned, you must have a separate punishment. Because if a reward can easily be lost then a child quickly learns not to care about the reward. There are also approaches to discipline which don't use reward/punishment at all and which suit some very difficult children better (Ross Greene's Explosive Child which saved our bacon in the months before DS was diagnosed, but may not be quite waht your DS needs if he's behaving OK at home).

Miakaru Fri 19-May-17 22:41:39

The hubby and I were just talking we should take him to be properly screened like you suggested, we'll see what the turn around time is (we'll be leaving to go back to the states in July so the timing will have to be looked at). But it's definitely something we're already discussing.
When his Characters interact, yes they do talk. He's put on little plays and things for us and even played puppets and things with use where the puppets make jokes. Just the other night we were playing with superheros and the bad guys were trying to be nice, the conversations between them were hilarious. Not just with my characters, but between his own two he was playing with.
He notices emotions and how people are feeling. One morning I was super tired and I think I had a bad dream so I was drowsy and a bit sad. He asked me if I was okay, I looked sad. He wanted to make me smile and told me a few jokes of course I smiled and laughed. A day after that he asked me if I felt better and if I was still sad. Of course I wasn't, but he did notice. Even tonight he told me he likes the Lego movie but the ending is kind of sad because the guys head comes off.
I'll have a look at that one too and I do understand what you're saying. I guess because we are all different, I went off my own experience as a child. When my dad threatened to take something away I loved, it would straighten me right up. I didn't want to lose it. But of course he isn't me and I'm not my dad.

Newtothis11 Sat 20-May-17 01:56:26

It sounds like you have a really great handle on him- have you scared your wisdom with school to ensure consistency.

You say he's not affected by the move but I'm sure he will be - it'll take a long time for him to adjust to the new culture in the uk. This will be more obvious in school rather than home as you can keep your routine similar to when you were in th US. Teaching styles and expectations are so different too.

Anxiety and asd can present quite similarly- keep a note of your observations but I wouldn't think anyone will assess at this stage due to the house move.

thethoughtfox Sat 20-May-17 08:37:41

A man moving into your home and having to share your mother is a huge difference from having spent time with a man that you like; as well as moving to a whole new country for a young child. Perhaps don't discount these as issues.

Miakaru Sun 21-May-17 09:46:04

I haven't written off the fact that we've moved here and the changes that came with it, I just didn't see the attitude change in the beginning when we first moved so I thought it may not be. I know he's adjusting and trying to make friends, trying to figure out his place in all these children who probably started making friendships at 3yo.
When it comes to how I spend time with him, I try my hardest so my husband and him don't compete for attention. I try to keep the same attention as I did in the States.
I know how it feels to be kinda pushed away, my father remarried when I was 9 and I was daddy's girl. I did not cope well at all. I clung to him like she was stealing him. I've tried very hard not to change much in the way I handle him and the way I treat him because of it.
For a year I was the only person disciplining him because I didn't want DS to feel like this person has entered my life now and tells me what to do?? Since we moved here, DH slowly moved into the role and as far as I can tell my son has taken it a lot better than I did.

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