Today, X-man and I walked into our first Tae Kwon Do class at HMD Academy in Savoy. I got information about their program when we took X-man to see Toy Story earlier in the summer. They had a table set up outside the movie theater for one free month of classes. I liked that unlike the park district they were fine with him being 4. I was also hoping TKD could be something we did as a family that would help me teach X-man to have more control not over just his body, but over his emotions as well.
He's 4, and as a student in early childhood, there's nothing really that is completely not within normal developmental behavioral issues -- right now. But I also know that some of the normal developmental issues mirror ADHD. I'm not raising a red flag, I'm just saying, I'm watching him and his emotional roller coaster...
Mostly what I'm worried about are the self-esteem and emotional self-control issues he's been having lately. He says no one likes him. He says he doesn't have any friends. He says he thinks his teachers don't like him. But to me he thinks anyone doesn't like him who tries to persuade him to do something he doesn't want to do. And if what they were asking him to do was "bad" this would be a good instinct. But wiping your butt after you go poop, keeping your hands to yourself, not whining for everything and not jumping about for attention are all things within a) a normal 4 year old's problem area and b) something everyone in his life is trying to teach him to do -- because they're necessary social development skills.
But when anyone disciplines him or asks him to correct his behavior, he falls apart. Case in point, last week I went on a field trip to the Orpheum with his class. When he saw me across the parking lot, my child dropped his partner's hand and RAN INTO THE STREET. Yes, I know he was excited to see me, but, of course, what he got was Ms. Shari, Ms. Susan and I all shouting, "No!" and "Danger!" and "Cars!" And his little heart raced and he started crying because he was in trouble. The next 30 minutes I was saddled with a very clingy, very emotionally overwrought kid.
"I don't want to be in trouble. I don't want to be bad."
Even after telling him he wasn't in trouble, we were just all scared and that he did a good job by stopping where he was and then going back to the sidewalk, it couldn't erase the embarrassment and shame he felt. He did something wrong -- and, therefore, for the rest of the day he thought he had had a bad day. It ruined every other good thing he did that day. This kind of overdramatic behavior totally runs in my family. And the funny part is, I exhibit it more when my husband is around than I do when he's gone. When he's gone, there's no one to bitch, too. So I just kind of suck it up. When he's home the minute something doesn't go my way, I throw my hands up and start cursing.
I remember feeling like my life was ending when I got my name put up on the blackboard as a kid because I turned around in my desk to loan my neighbor some scissors... which I apparently wasn't supposed to do because the teacher had just told us to face forward because we were all uber noisy that day. She wrote my name on the board, and at 34, I still remember sobbing about it and being too ashamed to raise my hand in class for the rest of the week because I thought it meant that my teacher hated me. Ain't genetics great?
Anyway, we showed up to the new TKD 3:30 class on M/W. There were 3 other boys in the class with X-man. Two 9-10 year olds and a 5 year old who is smaller than X-man. The assistant teacher had one of the 9 year olds run warm ups and stretching. I am doing it with X-man, so we did all the stretches, then we did sprints, sit ups, push ups and some basic stances. After warm up Master Hyong came and worked with X-man and I. He asked me not to try to teach X-man (so he could). I just modeled good behavior by following instruction. Xander lasted about 15 minutes. In that time, he sat down about a dozen times, flailed about, said he couldn't do something but then he kicked and hit pretty effectively, cheered for himself, was then shy, was then loud, and then he did his fake cry... in short he was all over the place. Master Hyong and I continued while X-man got to go sit by the wall and take a break. Then he had a little talk with me as he was doing some exercises with me. In 15 minutes, he had deconstructed my child's strengths and weaknesses. Those that are normal for his age, and those that are specific to him.
And he was dead on. I guess 47 years of working with kids has its benefits for parents everywhere.
We're going back for class on Wednesday, and I hope I can get him to stick with it. X-man had announced in the middle of class he was done and ready to go home, but I kept working. So he kept working... Then at the end, when we left the classroom, he played with the Legos for a while, and I ran into an MMO mom and her three boys. Her 5 year old was in the 4:15 class and then 5 minutes later a CARE friend of mine came through with her son and daughter. Her 6-year-old son was in the 4:15 class, too. Both were big fans of Master Hyong and the positive changes they've seen in their sons.
So, we'll see where we are after class two. I'll probably go back and meet with Master Hyong and see what his strategy is re: my training and X-man's. We'll see if he wants me to continue in a class with X-man or go to one after. I really enjoyed it, myself. And I loved watching how positively he and the other teachers interacted with the small kids, particularly. They had an expectation, and when it was met, the praise was definitely given. I could tell when that happened, X-man felt special and proud of himself. It made it easier when he had trouble on the next activity.
I guess, in the end, I'm hoping that TKD will help me raise a better boy. But I will admit it was nice that during that entire class experience, I was off the hook for discipline. He didn't get to hang on me or whine at me. And I made it clear when we went in, that like him, I had never done this before. So I was not in charge in the room Master Hyong was... but he still looked at me before he did anything.
It was also nice that during stretching some of the items were familiar for him though. At one point he said, "I know how to do these stretches from Little Gym!"
So, wish us luck. :-)