Friday, January 29, 2010

Shouldn't We Be Better At This?

With 8.25 years of parenting the J Boy, we are still working on our novice badge. I mean we've had the odd triumph, but we, apparently, have a long way to go.

About a month ago, Husband and I surmised, deduced and concluded a revelation about the J Boy: one of the keys for him to let out his accumulated energy/stress/tension is to be creative.

He is a prolific writer and has authored many books and comic books. 

He will also draw and create  plans for his dream house, the ultimate fart machine or annihilation weaponry.

He and Sydney will play some Lego/ Star Wars / Pokeman / Bakugan that I can't even begin to understand. I'm not sure Sydney actually keeps up with the ever changing and emerging rules the J Boy creates, but nicely they do play.

All of these activities seem to be "good" ones for him. And what's good for him, is good for us.

But nothing engages the precocious one like computer activities that allow him to create. He makes stop animation movies stick figure movies on some very cool software. He makes movies with the camera and then edits them on the computer (usually named "Fart Monster" or similar). He learns about physics on one programme called "Crazy Machines" where he can solve problems or just make cool experiments learning about friction, gravity, electricity using pulleys, ropes, balls, boxes, gears and explosives. He creates Powerpoint presentations using photos, clip art and text.

Again: good for him; good for us.

Husband and I belatedly realized the calmly effect of these activities, or perhaps just realized what these "good" activities have in common. We perhaps realized this when we discovered that the opposite is true. Games that involve shooting or driving with no creative element are not good ones for him in excess. He becomes obsessed with completing a level and eventually frustrated that he cannot. This leads to uncivil behaviour and an unwillingness to do homework or go to bed or get along with other human beings.

To recap, big revelation: let the J Boy have his creative outlets, especially on the computer.

Really, parenting is going to be so much easier now that we have unlocked this mystery. I think we might win an award or something.

Last weekend, we had some issues. To deal with this, we took away all screens from Jackson for a week. TV, Wii, computer, and DS (which he was already banned from for earlier poor behaviour). In a show of mean-spiritedness I also took away the camera too (come on, it has a screen!) just because I knew that one would hurt.

J Boy took it like a man. He was very creative, engaging his sister in many games while making a disaster of the rec room downstairs. He didn't ask for screens and I don't think told us he was bored once. I think he was bored, he was just kind enough to not to use the B word.

But on Wednesday evening, this is how Jackson's moods went:

  • upset
  • mean
  • angry
  • aggressive
  • hostile
Then we realized he was hungry and fed him. And then:

  • cute
  • hyper
  • very hyper
  • silly
  • very silly
And then it was time for homework:

  • moany
  • whiny
  • complainy
  • tearful
And then it was time for bed:

  • hyper
  • mad
  • pleading
  • upset
  • tearful
  • asleep
He actually fell asleep an hour earlier than normal as I guess that many emotions in one evening takes its toll on an 8 year old. By the time he was in dreamland, he lost screens for an additional 5 days.

Emotionally drained, we dissected and discussed the evening and tried to figure out where it all went so wrong. We talked about what triggered the stampede of emotions (it started with a supper issue). We reconstructed the day to see where stress might have accumulated. We talked about what we did right and what we did wrong. This was a day where, for the most part, we remained calm (we were almost perfect but when a boy is wildly kicking at no one in particular and connects with some one's kiwis, there is going to be a reaction)

It dawned on us that maybe he was having screen withdrawal. Though he was actually doing a very good job entertaining himself without screens, it was day 4 and maybe it was getting to him. And taking away screens for an additional five days likely did not help the situation.

And then, the light bulb went on.

We had taken away one of his major life coping strategies: the use of the computer to be creative.

So we have a kid who is struggling to cope and we take away one of the few things that help him do that.

Good idea, Einstein. I don't think we'll be receiving any parenting awards anytime soon.


DramaMama86 said...

Well, the bright side of all this is that you figured out something really major and that is HUGE when dealing with a creative/bright/hypersensitive kid. My hat goes off to you.

Konnie said...

Yes, there is that. We'll see if it pays dividends.