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Son struggling with reception class confidence

(45 Posts)
Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 10:13:07

Hey everybody. I've just joined as I was hoping for some advice regarding DS. He started reception this September and he has some character traits that are making it really difficult for him to settle at school.

Generally he's a wonderful, fun, confident and polite little boy, at home that is. But he suffers from a debilitating confidence issue around other people and groups. He has a big issue with clothing, at the start of term we had serious problems with school uniform, as DS didn't want anybody to see him in these new clothes and he begged to be allowed to wear his day to day clothes instead. He makes a lot of fuss even regarding which pants and socks to wear in the morning. Last week he freaked out as his Nan was round quite late and he didnt want her to see him in his pj's. New clothes are a big no no and its a real test of stamina to get him to feel comfortable wearing new stuff. Change seems to really unsettle him and the unknown puts him on edge, he doesnt like to receive gifts or be made centre of attention one little bit.

At school yesterday he was sent to time out (which involves sitting on a large turtle shaped seat thingy) because he didnt want to sing out numbers as a group in class. We were told he just sat there on the turtle and sobbed his little heart out. When we got him home he was in bits because he associates the turtle with the 'naughty children' and now believes he himself is naughty. Because of this he's now scared that anytime he is asked to sing or speak out in a group he will be sent to time out (which equates to being punished in his eyes)

My partner explained this to the teacher who replied by saying "its in the school rules that children need to participate and he needs to understand he is here to learn" This made my partner furious as he understands that and learns well on his own, he is just terrified of making himself heard or seen in front of groups of people. Its so frustrating as he's a really intelligent,eloquent little boy but due to his shyness he's coming across as stand offish and stubborn.

Now we are both really concerned as parents that these school disciplines will destroy what little confidence DS has to the point where his behaviour becomes unmanageable. Does anybody else have similar issues or experiences as any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance smile

TheTroubleWithAngels Fri 16-Oct-15 10:31:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Stompylongnose Fri 16-Oct-15 10:55:43

Your reasoning doesn't make sense. Why would your partner be furious?

The teacher needs the cooperation of all the children if she is to teach them. If your son won't sing then making him sit on the turtle while she sings with the others seems fair to me. She can't assess his capabilities or progress if he doesn't talk to her.

My sons were very shy at your son's age. They hate singing (so mouth the words while others sing) and didn't put their hands up when the teacher asked a question. They wouldn't dream of refusing to cooperate with the teacher when asked to. They have become better as they get older. Having lower expectations of them because they are shy wouldn't have done them any favours.

I would be asking for help with his anxiety- maybe some sort of nurture group or social speech therapy?

Lurkedforever1 Fri 16-Oct-15 11:02:54

I really can't see many reception teachers punishing a child just for not singing. It's unlikely a child stood/ sat with the rest but just not vocally joining in would be sent for time out. I would guess it's more likely to be more than that, like refusing to sit/ stand with the class, or listen to what was being asked. And then ignoring a warning. I'd want to know the full story before deciding he's being punished for being shy.

TheTroubleWithAngels Fri 16-Oct-15 11:09:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:11:44

I'm honestly not sure how to take that? "cant see the wood for the trees"? how is that comment helpful in any way? I fail to see how sticking him in a corner will help overcome his anxiety. As opposed to encouraging him and reassuring him that its okay to speak up? He wasn't in a sulk at all he sat there quietly. In week 3 of reception I dont see how that could be a reasonable tactic for dealing with a shy child? We are proactively dealing with it, I wouldnt be asking for advice otherwise. I've spoken to the teacher to discuss ways of bringing his confidence levels up, and I honestly don't think seeing a GP will help, its a confidence issue around large groups and strangers. He copes perfectly fine 1 on 1 or in smaller groups. In day to day life he's just like any other boy, with the exception of the clothing issue on school mornings.

P. E is a concern as once again it will be different clothing. But at the moment they havent included a kit change into sports activities.

AbeSaidYes Fri 16-Oct-15 11:17:41

Wow, they use a naughty step in schools?


Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:18:56

I understand where your coming from but it was definitely not a case of him flat out refusing or acting out. We spoke to the TA and she agreed that it was harsh to send him to the corner and that it upset her to see him sobbing in the corner. He was sitting quietly, arms crossed and just watching. Thats all. I'm all for taking a tough approach and making the child understand they need to join in, and i'm definitely not having a dig at the teacher. The schools very good, but for my partner as a mum, its hard for her to see him in a mess simply because he hasnt built up his confidence enough to participate in a group

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:21:41

We were looking into some kind of social speech therapy. DS definitely doesnt have an issue with talking in general. He does warm to some people and open up a bit. His teaching assistant is very good with him and he has formed quite a positive relationship with her.. Its just a painfully slow process.

TheTroubleWithAngels Fri 16-Oct-15 11:22:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:32:30

Okay technically he was refusing, but its not simply a case of "come on buck up boy" he's terrififed to sing out or even mouth the words. Removing him from the situation (which in his eyes equates to him being naughty) will only exacerbate the problem. As apposed to allowing him to take it all in first and work on bringing him out of his shell, therefore laying the foundation for him to gain confidence in himself.

You are right about the clothes anxiety though, that does need to be sorted!

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:39:11

Class is 30 children, and no I wouldnt expect the teacher to focus on a single child when they all need to be taught in a group. Nor am I holding my sons issues higher than any of the issues the other children may have. My issue is with being sent away for lacking the confidence to happily participate in what is essentially quite an extrovert activity. And I worry for the future if the school keeps using this as a method to get him to participate.. Thats all

Lurkedforever1 Fri 16-Oct-15 11:41:12

On the other hand, you've got children like my dd who left to their discretion, would happily climb on a table and drown out everyone else in their enthusiasm to sing. And in the same way you can't expect a teacher to just go with that in a group situation, they also can't just allow children who don't come over as shy to refuse to join in. Or that if children cry they are excused doing something that another child wouldn't.
I'm not saying he isn't just shy btw, but from what you say it probably doesn't come over as typical shy child.

Pancakeflipper Fri 16-Oct-15 11:45:53

Poor child. He needs confidence building and not knocking down. Although his behaviour may look like stubbornness it's more likely because he's scared.

Have you spoken to the teacher and the school SEN leader about him inc his clothing issues? If not bullet point down in writing his issues/ behaviour traits you are concerned about. Also think about your strategies that you use at home - you might do them automatically and adapt to fit his behaviour subconsciously. Talk to the staff. They can help you access external help to support him (or go to your GP).

Keep a daily diary of behaviour including good behavior, there maybe a pattern.

What he needs is to feel safe and trust someone at school. Then he will learn. Unhappy scared children don't learn very well.

It could be a control thing - so much has changed for him and he's crept into his shell to protect himself. Some children merrily skip along with change. Some don't.

Does he respond to praise? And rewards bribery! ? Maybe a reward chart and the teacher could have one too in class.

The teachers will want him to settle too and will know some children need different techniques. I think team work will help him settle and grow in confidence.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:46:39

I wish my DS had that confidence. I do understand that but that method may work with a more confident child who understands that the "turtle method" is like a time out for the child to calm themselves. And a more confident child probably has a thicker skin and wouldnt be fazed by being sent away. My DD is the complete opposite to DS and she woukd just take it in her stride. Some methods to help bring out his confidence would be really helpful. He participates in swimming lessons brilliantly now as we thought some organised sport would help, but this was another odd case of DS taking quite well to the teacher

Pancakeflipper Fri 16-Oct-15 11:47:14

Oops sorry such a slow typer - crossed posts.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 11:56:02

Thank you pancake I think you can see where i'm coming from, your posts got some great ideas smile It's upsetting to see a child you know is a bubbly outgoing person, then turn into a terrified emotional wreck. And he is really is scared. I honestly think he wants to learn as he comes out of school so exited for me to see what he's done in the day. And the moment he gets out of school he's a different person entirely.

I spoke to the teacher on the phone a while ago as yesterday I suggested asking DS to help with tasks as he loves to feel like he is helping out. Teacher said this morning she asked him to stand with her up front and turn the pages of the storybook they were reading. She said it made him really smile to contribute in his own quiet little way. The difficulty is trying to understand the underlying issues, I think it could be a controll issue. A new situation which DS feels he needs to have some kind of control over, in his case by clamming up.

A diary could be a real help too. Thank you

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 12:16:52

Apologies for the grammar mistakes, thumbs too big for the phone keyboard!

He responds pretty well to rewards as long as it isnt turnt into an "event" a quiet positive comment will definitely help him.

But to be honest at home we have no problems whatsoever with his behaviour. He isnt a difficult child at home or with family, and he will happily go places like soft play and talk with other children there. The problems begin the minute he has to walk through the door and hang up his coat.

After the teachers phone call earlier it makes me believe that the teacher addressed our concerns but i think a one on one chat will be helpful.

I just hope that this will pass and that they will see DS for who he really is.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 12:38:47

@Stompy I agree that exceptions shouldn't be made simply because of how a child will react, and I definitely don't have lower expectations of DS at all. I encourage my kids to work hard and always do that little bit extra and I want him to progress. But with DS this is a hardwired emotional response to his situation.

He wasn't refusing on purpose just because he could, he's scared to make himself heard in class, punishing a child for that will surely have a negative effect and if it continues over time he's going to associate what should be a fun activity, with a feeling of anxiousness that he will be singled out every time and be punished over something he cannot control. Especially when dealing with a class of 4 year olds.

TheTroubleWithAngels Fri 16-Oct-15 12:54:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

givemesomewineplease Fri 16-Oct-15 13:01:29

Your son sounds very similar to my dd1. Please don't alarm yourself that there is anything wrong with you ds - he sounds a wonderful talented child with many gifts. In fact he is probably very special. My dd1 had similar problems - she took a while to cope with new clothes, she was v uncomfortable in most clothes & self-conscious & I had to cut out labels in all clothes as they'd scratch her etc. She was a nightmare in new situations or crowds and I don't think spoke for her 1st year of school. I thought she was just shy & being difficult about certain things but it all made sense when I stumbled across the book 'Highly Sensitive Child' in Waterstones. Literally all the things that I thought made my dd odd, shy, difficult etc were explained in this book - 10-20% of the population have this trait to a greater or lesser extent. There is nothing 'wrong' with them - in fact people with this trait are usually highly intelligent people. They are just hyper sensitive - that is to noises, crowds, new environments, clothes, pain, whatever it may be. Some may be sensitive in just 1 or 2 of these areas, others in all (my dd almost all hence why it was quite hard work). The book will help you embrace this trait & give you strategies for how to cope in scenarios. It was a lightbulb moment and even now when I get cross with her for being so upset for hours after hurting herself, she says 'but mummy you told me I'm special that's why I feel pain more than other people'! So yes it still annoys me that she can't react 'normally' yo situations and it takes her so much longer than other kids to settle anywhere or speak to people but she is the kindest, most intelligent & well behaved, creative little person. HSCs as the book calls them usually love being good & obeying rules, so for your son not to do as he was told about singing probably pained him very much but his fear was so great that it overrode that. The book talks about these kids getting overwhelmed and that punishment for them is taken so badly that the shame they feel is very great. So for him to be 'punished' for something that was effectively out of his control saddens me greatly and I think is appealing. I get that parents & teachers who haven't experienced this trait personally will think these are excuses but they really aren't. The teacher needs to gain your ds's trust and to understand that he will need special attention to get involved with group activities for a while - but that in the long run he will probably be one of the most helpful & well behaved kids in the class. Punishment is certainly not the answer and will damage him more. I urge you to buy this book ASAP to put your mind at rest & let speak to the teacher. Good luck and sorry for long post!!

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 13:03:47

This is my issue, its so confusing as he does show signs that he wants to be noticed and when he's home with his sis he acts like a loon. I think he takes comfort in the teacher being next to him, he would never do it alone. Maybe he's aware he has a bad singing voice.... confused

Yeah he went to nursery and it only took a week to settle well. He played in groups but again he wouldnt call out/ use hand actions/ sing etc. The class was a lot smaller too, plus he could wear the clothes he was comfortable in. I'd say it got a lot worse over the summer holidays.

A prime example was his first swimming lesson, he has to wear a swimming hat and that upset him, but i managed to get it on him. Then as we were walking to poolside he saw an adult we know and got so embarrassed, he took the hat off and was upset that someone he knew had seen him and it completely messed up his lesson.

However his swimming teacher was awesome with him and a couple of lessons later he had accepted it. I still make him wear the clothes, I refuse to let him have his own way, but it is always a battle. A strange strange battle..

TheTroubleWithAngels Fri 16-Oct-15 13:11:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Chrisandlauren Fri 16-Oct-15 13:13:37

@Givemesomewine You've pretty much just summed him up there! He is so so polite and helpful and happy. But in new situations can come across like a right grump. Like you said he is so aware of how he's being perceived by others that its almost paralyzing sometimes, like you can see his little brain trying to figure it all out. Its crazy how similar your DD is, I think i'll definitely pick that book up, it may help me shed some light on why DS is how he is. Thank you so much smile

givemesomewineplease Fri 16-Oct-15 13:34:59

I hope the book helps. If you get it and it does fit with your son then you could offer it to the teacher to read - there is a chapter written for teachers. It certainly helped me to stop getting angry with her for things that I now realise are innate to her personality. And by being open with her about it and more patient about new things we work together much more to find what will make her comfortable. I always explain everything in detail before we go/do something, I also just ignore other people when they look at her with a 'why is your child so upset/anxious' stare. She is very special and I wouldn't have all her beautiful gifts if I didn't also have her high sensitivity. So acceptance has been a massive help. I would also say that age helped greatly. She has just started yr 2 and being given more independence has suited her because she is so responsible; and her greater understanding of the world and school etc has helped her cope with things as she can understand and predict what will happen. Outside of school things are harder as there is not the familiarity or same set school routine but that's just how things are. Also, because she's bright she's doing very well academically so that is helping her self esteem too. They are often perfectionists so you may have found that too. Your choice of the word 'paralysing' is so right - she has had many of those when she cannot cope or gets overwhelmed. We also had the swimming cap situation!!! It was honestly the most omg moment going through the questionnaire in the book ... each question I read I thought, 'what?? How does the author know she does that??' so all the little things that I thought no other kid did were listed in the questionnaire as key pointers to an HSC.

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