Worst School Tantrum EVER

Earlier this week, Mushroom had the most epic, most off the wall, most out of control school tantrum of all time.  I dare you to put this tantrum to shame.  At one point, my eight year old was actually on the sofa kicking and screaming, tears streaming, arms flailing and he looked like some cartoon of what a tantrum should be.  Something I haven’t seen in ages.

What spurred this tantrum, you ask?  Proper letter formation.

Look.  I’m not a stickler about these things most of the time.  But when your handwriting starts to interfere with your ability to convey meaning, then you’ve got to stop and rethink.  You know, before you’re in high school and it’s way too late.  So I asked him to write a few lines correctly, really focused on it, with me sitting there helping him.  And all h-e-double hockey sticks broke loose.  And then something that should have taken less than ten minutes ended up taking all morning.

Then we went to co-op.  And he looked like this.  That’s him, right in front.  In case you can’t see it, he has a gleefully happy expression on his face.  So at least the day wasn’t all bad.

And then we got home and the tantrum resumed for the rest of the afternoon.  I try not to photograph the tantrums.

I still can’t say if I did the right thing by digging in and making him do it anyway.  I often just happily go sideways with things like this.  Drop it and pick it up again later when it’s less threatening.  I don’t usually get so entrenched.  That usually works.  We did that with math and now he really likes math (he in fact stopped crying for a minute mid-tantrum to solve BalletBoy’s Singapore Challenging Word Problems assignment!).  We did that with phonics and now he’s come along and reads very well.  Slowly and steadily, we changed the format, we dropped things and came back to them until the skill found its right moment.

But I’ve been dropping this mixed up “n” and “h” thing and the wrongly scaled letters thing and the letters floating off their lines and the lack of spacing and picking it back up again for nearly a year.  And it just hasn’t changed.  If anything, it’s worse now.  He wrote a densely packed page of story of his own accord the other day and many of the letters were stranger than usual.  I didn’t say a word (other than to gush over the story, which was really very cool – my kid is totally writing steampunk with big clock gears that transport you to other planets), but when we sat down to do Monday copywork, I was determined to make him get it just right.

When it was finally done, there were lots of hugs and apologies on both sides for the torment caused to us both.  He agreed, with extra tears, that he needs to work a little extra on his letters.  I’ve always thought that as a parent and a teacher, you have to know when to back off and when to push forward.  Let’s hope I got it right this time.

8 thoughts on “Worst School Tantrum EVER

  1. This post totally resonated with me! His handwriting sounds a lot like my son’s. We’ve been focusing on top-down formation because his n, h, and sometimes even r looks the same. It’s an ongoing struggle, and if anything will make him lose it, it’s handwriting. As much as I dislike the idea of copy work, we’ve been doing some of that this year (actually I think I got the idea of doing the Arrow through a WTM post you wrote awhile back). It’s been helping, but he still reverts to his bottom-up formations when I’m not looking. Have you tried typing? I’m trying to teach touch-typing this year in hopes that it will help. Maybe the physical act of hitting that space bar will transfer over to his writing….at least I hope it will.

    1. Great tip about the typing! I’m having my 7 and 8 year-olds do a short blog entry each week and I think the whole space bar and capitalization/punctuation thing has really improved but exact same struggle with my 8-year-old and letter formation. Funny thing is he is totally meticulous and detailed when it comes to drawing. So I know I can do it. Maybe its time for me to dig in, too.

  2. The reaction I guess could be somewhat predictable: you turned the screws somewhat more tightly in something he does not think he has mastered (or does not care yet to put his best effort toward). But I think you are seeking solutions here. You did not mention if he was printing or if he was handwriting (script). There is an immense difference in the letters if they are in script. Maybe you can go that route?

    My own eight year old crams and floats and all that if she feels pressured. What we have found encouraging is that she has always loved handwriting (they teach it the first day of first grade in her Montessori) and handwriting helped immensely with the b-d and p-q reversals common to young readers. Now as new homeschoolers (Montessori is not all it is cracked up to be, especially in encouraging reluctant readers) we have her do her copywork and journaling in script. She tends to be laborious with it because she thinks it is prettier (she’s artsy).

    (I am a first-time commenter here; I found you through the secular homeschool dealio; have appreciated the time you have taken to review curricula and in general put it all out there to share…so thanks!)

  3. Yeah, at some point, kids with poor handwriting should type, I think, but we’re far from there yet. Most of letters actually look really good, it’s just that the scale and spacing is all wrong and one or two are just slowly mutating to get worse. In other words, it’s not an OT issue, it’s purely poor habits. I’m trying to avoid typing for another year or two, I think and then to teach it properly as a subject. Some of these issues wouldn’t be solved by typing anyway – when you can’t tell the scale of a lower case letter and an upper case one, then you aren’t going to get it typing either. Sigh. I think it’s possible in retrospect that Handwriting Without Tears’s lack of three lined paper may have helped get us here. 😦 But moving forward…

  4. Right there with you! For us, it’s a control issue: “I can do it myself!” No correction from mom allowed. Needless to say, I only do actual CORRECTION on Fridays (spelling). The rest of the time, I keep my mouth shut.

  5. Oh, the meltdowns! Sometimes I feel like Tom Hanks, throwing up my hands and saying, “There’s no crying in spelling! There’s no crying in math!!”

  6. I feel your pain. While DS has motor issues and has problems, DD sometimes just slacks off. She gets very upset when I ask her to correct something that I know she’s capable of doing when she pays attention because I’m often not able to correct the same error in DS’ work because he’s simply unable to do so. Drives us all nuts. It’s all about picking the battles…

  7. My dd is in public school kindergarten, and her teacher has been teaching them that the lowercase letters are “small, tall, or fall” They have a song they sing about it (that I don’t know) and once or twice a week she has them cut out a group of letters (each letter is in a square and they cut out the squares – good fine motor practice thrown in!) and glue them on a sheet, sorting into tall, small, and fall. I have seen a dramatic improvement in her handwriting just from doing this. They have done minimal other handwriting instruction at this point, but I hear her talking to herself while writing for fun at home “e is a small letter, t is a tall letter” and so on. Long comment – sorry – but all this is to say that I wonder if you could come up with some sort of sorting game for your ds for him to learn the scale of the letters without actually writing them – to break it down more – and then to go back to writing once he has worked on that. He might find it too babyish at his age – not sure – but it might be worth a try. Good luck!

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