I couldn’t but help include myself in a conversation I overheard between a friend and her husband discussing their three year old boy who just COULDN’T sit still. Definitely reform school for him further down the line. I mean, let’s face it, if he’s got ants in his pants now, what are we looking at ten years from now? Better nip it in the bud now before this dark streak is allowed to fester. With my ounce of experience of kindergarten teaching and fifteen years of parenting, including raising a male child of the same sub-species as the aforementioned (homio-can’tsitstill-sapien), I tried to assure them that all would be fine. The perpetrator of the crime was only three. Still, they were unconvinced of my suggestion of a little behavioral therapy and were choosing to go ahead with the director’s suggestion of GETTING HIM TESTED.
Listen, I have a psychology degree, my big sister is a children’s psych evaluator, and I truly love the subject. I even grew up with a wannabe psychologist dad, for whom psychology was his favorite dinner table discussion. But somewhere along the line, I’m convinced we’ve seriously lost perspective on child psychology. The whole subject has my mother-in-law shaking her head in horror (again). My friend recently had her 2 year old son tested as he wasn’t speaking much. He was a very clingy first child, whose parents had just gone through an acrimonious break-up. The therapist declared him to be speech delayed, and he even received a grant for a special preschool. Predictably, the grant was cancelled six months later as the child had started talking nineteen to the dozen like most children do. My son didn’t talk until he was three, and no, I wasn’t concerned. My second son also hardly talked until he was three and had many difficulties with typical problem letters such as R, L, V, and yes, he’s fine now.
Have You Considered Getting Him Tested?
My eldest son was the child at every single activity who refused to join in, listen to instructions, or sit still, and I was always the stressed out, exacerbated parent. He was a pinball in every room, rocked in his seat at the movie theater and jumped up and down while playing GameBoy, which progressed into a one-legged hop while playing PlayStation. This didn’t stop until he was about 11. In each new grade, I’d get the inevitable questions from his new teacher after a month of watching my son fidget in his seat and jiggle pencils and look out of windows: Have you had him tested? No. Have you considered it it? No. Are you concerned? No. Why not? I had the same answer to them all – he’s calmer every year. It started with never-ending somersaults and rib-punching in the womb, progressing to leg and arm bashing in the bouncy chair (really, never stopped). I told them I would never consider medication for a child who is hyperkinetic and is bored in school and was happy to talk with them about ways they could manage him in the classroom. After all, he had plenty of focus when it came to Spiderman. Now my son is fifteen, and I can’t get him out of bed or off the couch.
Use Your Instincts
If you have a child entering kindergarten, who you predict to be a little off-center, it might help to explain this to the teacher and let him or her know your child’s strengths and interests. Offer to work with them on ways in which they can be rewarded for cooperation required in the classroom. It’s amazing how effective an individual sticker chart can be, when reinforced consistently. Cooperation brings legos at playtime and being given special jobs leads to feeling special and important in a meaningful way. Just don’t take it all too seriously. Always question everything the so-called professionals tell you. Use your instincts, do your own research, follow progress in your child carefully and stand back and give things a little time, because after all, they can change overnight at this age. My twin boy went from tyrannical-toddler extraordinaire to calm, lego-building little boy, who says things like ‘mommy, it’s so special because of you loving me.’ Today the dentist refused to believe me that the little boy playing quietly for 45 minutes while my teeth and gums were being gouged out used to physically attack his twin sister.
Deviations from the Norm
None of this is to say that there isn’t a great need for early diagnosis and intervention for some real problems such as autism, genuine auditory or speech problems and real developmental delays. I just think we’ve lost sight of what constitutes a natural diversity between people and the interesting vagaries of small children. For some reason, we are a lot more understanding of individual differences in the adult population, but when it comes to that alien species known as the small child, we expect some conformist personality and any diversifications or deviations from the norm should lead to psychological evaluations!
It’ll All Come Out in the Wash
And my friends with the three year old homo-can’tsitstill-sapien? I pointed out that their son had two very intellectual parents and would doubtless follow suit. It is often intelligent children who are nonconformist. Bring it on, I say, and by the time we’re done discussing the problem, we’ll turn around and the child will have grown out of the problem.
About the Author
Christina Bennett moved to Malibu from London with her husband 16 years ago with a 6 month old baby boy in tow. Christina now lives in Pacific Palisades with husband, fifteen year old and boy/girl twin five year olds.
She loves being a stay-at-home mommy in southern California and her favorite pastimes are cycling on the beach path with Springsteen on her iPod and salsa dancing.
She worked in the movie industry in London for seven years and even worked on an American show Tales of the City (HBO) – remember that? It’s because of that show that she is here, since the British co-producer returned from the 11 month shoot raving about SoCal life. Christina and her husband decided to check it out for themselves with the mandatory San Fran to LA coastal road trip. Who could look back after that? With specialized skills in the movie industry her husband was able to secure a job with the LA partner to his London employers. Christina has since trained as an elementary school teacher and enjoys subbing at her local school, hoping for a full time job when the economy allows. Christina loves the American people, finding them friendly, warm, generous and wonderfully family and community orientated.