Week 2 – Buttons?

Homework Strikes Again!

My blood pressure skyrockets as soon as I hear the word ‘homework’.  Pretty sure it’s going to be the death of me.  And no, I don’t have homework, but my son does.  It’s not hard homework.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even a lot of homework.  But it is homework, and it’s homework that isn’t getting done.  That statement right there has me getting anxious.

Homework has been a struggle since day 1 of Rip’s school career – all of 1.5 years now.  Yes, every week in kindergarten there was homework.  Every week Kirk and I, the very responsible parents that we are, fought with Rip about getting the homework done.  And we did this most, if not all, of last year.

This year, I started out the same way.  “Yes Rip, you can have a snack, as soon as you get your homework done”  “All you have to do is 2 pages of homework each night and you are good to go”  “Playtime is for after homework time” I even started recruiting Rip’s friends to tell him that he had to do his homework.  No matter what, it inevitably ended up in some kind of a fight.

Finally a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine about homework.  In my head I know what I want to do:  let Rip figure this out.  It’s his homework, he gets to figure out when/how he wants to do it.  He’s in first grade…it’s not about the homework, but about what it’s going to take for Rip to want to participate fully in his learning experience.  We need to get this right now so when he hits the tougher years, this won’t be a struggle.  Got it.  Sounds so good in theory.  So frickin’ hard in practice.

My friend, who has gone through this exact same thing with her son, reminded me about the ABCDE exercise.  Quite a simple name, but not a simple matter.  Basically, I have beliefs about doing homework. And I DO!  Based on my experience, I believe that if Rip doesn’t start doing his homework now, he’s going to do exactly what I did – cheat my way through high school, have not idea what to do with a college education, be rather unfocused and scattered with regards to a career.

What the ABCDE exercise does is take all those beliefs I have (based on my experiences) and rewrite the story into one that makes more sense, something that is more reasonable, something that will let me focus on observing Rip and figuring out what it will take for Rip to want to participate more fully in his education.

Serious Irresponsibility


So my old story is all about Rip not learning or taking advantage of school and just being mediocre at whatever he ends up doing.  Being unfocused in life. Being irresponsible.  Being lazy.  Feeling like he could have done more with his life if his parents had just shown him the way.



My new story goes a little like this:

  • Rip, smarty pants that he is, does not like to do his homework after school because he is dog tired.
  • He really needs some down time to play and get re-energized after a long day of hard learning.
  • I know he is learning at school because of everything he tells us.  As a matter of fact, he is learning stuff that we didn’t even know about!
  • Who knows what he will do for a career but Rip LOVES to learn so I’m sure he will be successful at whatever he decides to do.

Now my next step is to really absorb this new story and start noticing:  what he does really well, what is his learning style.  Once I can really take hold of the new story,  I believe that we may be able to move forward and I can stop worrying about whether or not homework is going to kill me.


It’s been a few days since posting because, well, to be quite honest, we’ve been afraid to update everyone with what’s been going on.  However, we have managed to calm down a bit with some help on our perspective and are moving forward full steam.

Ok, so the big things that happened this week are Rip hitting his teacher and on a separate day being sent to the office for not listening to the teacher and talking back.  (family members, DO NOT freak out!)

Yes, Kirk and I were freaking out a little bit when we received the reports because this really is not typically how Rip would act at school.  As a matter of fact, in the past his teachers have very much enjoyed and gotten along with Rip famously.

So the first incident (the kicking/hitting – we’re getting conflicting stories so we’re not completely sure what happened) happened on the one and only day Rip forgot his backpack – don’t forget this means he forgot his snack and lunch.  Turns out Rip is extremely resourceful when he’s hungry.  Again we’re not exactly sure what happened because we’re getting conflicting stories but we do know that at some point Rip’s teacher prevented him from getting food from other students.  This essentially pissed Rip off and he hit (or kicked) the teacher.   By the way, Rip only forgot his backpack the one day and has come a very long way in taking on this responsibility in a very short 2 weeks.  We’re really hoping he gets the backpack all 5 days this week…go Rip!!

The second incident took place 2 days later.  I received a call from the office saying Rip was eating lunch in the office because he was in time out for not listening to the teacher and talking back.  The reason they were calling me was to let me know he was refusing to eat his lunch and they REALLY wanted him to eat (past experience has indicated everyone is much happier if Rip does not have low blood sugar).  So after talking with the office I immediately hang up and get Kirk on the phone so I can freak out with someone else.  Now I have Kirk freaking out with me and we still have no idea what to do.  I reach out to the absolutely fabulous Vicki Hoefle (mastermind behind the Parenting On Track Program) and within 30 seconds am at ease.

Vicki has many years of experience and has an amazing way of helping the person freaking out to put things into perspective and be able to address the issue calm and logically.  So, basically what Rip is doing is testing his boundaries.  Since we began this program we have stopped controlling Rip and started teaching him and treating him with the respect he deserves.  Unfortunately, this new behavior that he is used to at home hasn’t necessarily transferred over to the classroom.  So he is back in a controlling (probably un-respectful) environment…and in this position without any clue how to handle himself..since Kirk and I have neglected to teach him.  Rip is in process of learning what his new boundaries are and how to have self control.  Basically he’s still going through de-tox.

Now Vicki provided us with more thoughts/insight and our freaking out perspective is a bit more calm and rational.  My favorite thought Vicki provided us with was that it’s GOOD that Rip is saying ‘No’ or talking back.  I know, first time I head that, I thought, “What???”  But it makes sense.  Rip is having the courage to not be a puppet; to not let just anyone manipulate him; but to think for himself!  How amazing is that…especially at 5!  This kid is strong and going to be a leader!

One very important thing we are learning early on in this program is that what Rip does now is just practice.  We’re thankful that he has the time to practice getting these skills right now so when the really tough stuff comes at him (puberty, drugs, drinking, etc…) he will have the self control, skills, resources to handle it and handle it well.

I know this blog is supposed to be about our journey, but we have to give our thanks to Vicki and Parenting On Track for helping us through it.  Parenting is so much harder than anyone can ever explain to you until you are in the middle of it.  And by then, we are so blinded by love for our kids we can’t think rationally!  After just two weeks of this Program, Kirk and I are feeling more confident as parents and are seeing amazing results in just a short amount of time.  Don’t get me wrong, we have a long ways to go (another 13 years for Rip) but for the first time in 5 years, we feel like we are moving in the right direction.

Ok, time to go watch Week 3 video (Timeline For Training – you can watch it here).  This is going to be a really good one…can’t wait!!

Well, I knew there would be peaks and valleys as we progressed through the program.   Yesterday morning was definitely a peak, while last night was definitely a valley…although not as deep of a valley as we have seen before.

Both Rip and I were tired yesterday and it definitely showed by late afternoon.  Rip started getting a little more physical (pushing, play hitting, etc..) and I had little patience for it.  Although I did not revert back to any interfering strategies, I’m sure my body language and facial expressions were less than enhancing.

Dinner time was just ok.  Rip was very fidgity and wanting to bother Riley while she was eating.  Rip didn’t want to eat any of his dinner so he kindly removed himself and his dishes after just a few minutes of pushing the food around.  The real trouble began after bath time.  Rip decided he wanted to watch an episode of Arthur and we had run out of time to do that (kids have to have their toys picked up by 6:15 in order to watch TV before bed).  Now, on Rip’s defense, I didn’t give a reminder (interfering strategy) but he doesn’t know how to tell time and we haven’t implemented a system to let him know it’s toy pick up time.  So, after being disappointed about the TV, Rip starts hitting me.  Riley and I retreat to the locked bathroom (only room with a lock) and hide out for a few minutes.  Ok, so here’s some progress…Rip would normally be banging on the door and screaming.  This time, he just went to his room.  I actually was only in the bathroom a few minutes and when I came out, Rip said he was ready for books.

It was about that time that Kirk came home to help manage our somewhat rocky evening.  Thank goodness, because I was done…exhausted…in need of some down time.  And really, the evening wasn’t that bad, it was more of me being awfully tired.

Ok, so we all sleep through the night, get some good rest and wake up.  Morning goes just ok.  Rip is taking a little longer to get ready and ended up forgetting his backpack (with lunch, snack and folder).  He also decided to wear his spiderman snow boots (which have to be at least 1 size too small) to school.  Despite the no backpack, Kirk said the drop off at school went rather well.  They walked a lap together, had a nice conversation and Rip introduced his girlfriend to Kirk.  Not once did Rip remember that he had forgotten his backpack so that made it easy on Kirk – no melt downs.  Will be interesting to see if Rip has anything to say about that this afternoon.  So far he hasn’t really been wanting to open up about what goes on at school or talk about what would work for him in getting ready for school – or anything else for that matter.

Riley is still in training mode.  Today as we were playing, she voluntarily put away each toy when she was done playing with it…that was nice!  She still doesn’t have any interest in taking her dishes from the table to the kitchen.  She used to do this but is pretty against it right now.

Another relatively smooth morning today.   Ripken and I did our new wake up to reading books routine, then he went out to play with Riley in the playroom until Kristin started the music at 7:15.  He zoomed back to his room and came out 10 minutes later fully dressed asking for breakfast.  I reminded him where his cereal was and then went into the office to get my stuff ready for work.  When I came back out, he was sitting at the table having a big bowl of honey nut cheerios.   At 7:30, I told him I was ready to go and would be waiting for him in the car.  He started heading over towards the garage door, then stopped and said “hey, I need my backpack”.  Kristin gave him a high five for remembering and then it was off to school.  

And the dropoff at school went incredibly smooth as well.  We had a nice conversation walking from the car (he was telling me about the homework he had last night).  We crossed the street to his school just as the first bell rang, and stood patiently in line until the second bell rang.  When we got to his classroom, he hung his backpack up, took his folder and snack out, and went in to his class – without even stopping to say goodbye.   I took a peek in the window and he was sitting at his desk with his folder open, ready to start his day.  Nice!

We tried something new with Ripken this morning.  Instead of waking him up by carrying him out to the living room and putting him in front of the television, I went into his room at 6:30, sat on his bed, and started reading books.   He kind of woke up and looked at me very groggily, probably trying to figure out what I was doing.  When I finished the first book (it was a short one), I was about to start another one – but he was awake enough at that point to tell me he wanted me to read a different one.  So we read a Halloween story book together, and took time to remember things we’ve done in the past at Halloween time.   Definitely a much better way to get started in the morning…

So Friday night, Kirk and I spent quite some time going through all the stuff we learned, boning up on lesson/week two and planning our next steps.

Our plan was to have a quick meeting letting the kids know what we learned, celebrate some accomplishments and then have the entire family contribute to cleaning up the absolutely AMAZING mess that had been created over the past week.  Well, the meeting started off a little rough – Rip wasn’t too interested in participating and Riley only lasted 30 seconds.  The wheels fell off the cart when we brought up cleaning up toys 5 days in a row in order to earn TV time.  Rip wanted NOTHING to do with that and after a week of almost no hitting on Rip’s part, he started pummeling my poor left shoulder and then left the room.  Kirk and I thought about what we said from his perspective and decide we should invite him into the process…maybe he had a better suggestion on how to tackle the clean up.  He didn’t have any suggestions and wanted nothing to do “with the silly meeting, or silly contributions!”

Kirk and I let it go with that.  We did welcome the kids to help us pick up and let them know that we were going to go celebrate our successes over the past week with some ice cream and that if we all chipped in together, the clean up would go faster and we could get ice cream faster.  Apparently our kids have the patience of saints and decided that they would gladly wait until Kirk and I had completed ALL of the clean up before getting treated to ice cream.  We spent a good 3 hours getting our house back in order.

After a little more thought, I asked Rip if he thought cleaning up toys right before watching tv was fair.  He seemed amenable to that so our new goal is to have toys/dishes put away in order for the tv to get turned on.  Results for day 1:  dinner dishes were taken to the kitchen by Rip (Riley elected not to).  Toys, not put away.  Zero tv.

Our other thing we implemented was bedtime.  Kirk and I will make ourselves available for books/songs from 7 – 7:15.  In order for us to be available, Rip must have on pull ups, PJs and have brushed his teeth. Day 1 with this was mostly a success.  He was ready to go, we did books and then he wanted to play games.  I reminded him that my time was up and was leaving.  Unfortunately, after I left Rip’s room, so did he.  I’m thinking he just wasn’t tired enough…he didn’t get much exercise today as Kirk and I spent so much time cleaning the house.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow night after a day of school – that seems to tire him out pretty quickly.

What we aren’t clear on is how to deal with the no picking up.  We haven’t reverted back to our interfering strategies (reminding, nagging, etc..) but we’re not really sure where to go with this.  Next week’s lesson is timeline for training so maybe that will help us figure out what to do.

Meanwhile, this week Kirk and I are focusing on identifying our activating events – things that make our blood pressure go from zero to 100 in a heart beat. We’ve already identified a few but I’m sure more will pop up this week.