Upset in Loudoun

– By Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D.
Dr. Mike,
Our son is in Third Grade and we’ve received two emails from his teacher to inform us that our son is misbehaving in class. We were told that he is being “oppositional,” and when we asked for examples, the teacher said that our son interrupts others (and her), talks out of turn, is pushy socially and has trouble staying in line. Our son’s First Grade and Second Grade teacher also said that he was difficult to manage in class, but my husband and I just don’t see any of this at home. Our son is off the charts intelligent, always gets top grading marks and he gets bored in class. We’ve been telling his teachers this for three years, but they get defensive with us. With back to school night coming up, we’d appreciate your advice. Upset in Loudoun

Dear Upset,
No parent likes to hear someone say negative things about their child, especially teachers or other individuals who play an important role in their child’s life. “Oppositional” is certainly a harsh term to use, and even if it’s not entirely accurate, it appears that your son is struggling socially and behaviorally in class this year. Based on what you reported, what’s happening for him now is similar to what happened to him in First and Second Grade.

Is it possible that both you and the teacher are correct; that your son is exceptionally bright and that he also has social and behavioral struggles? You write that your son is misunderstood and that he “gets bored.” While it may be true that he acts-out when under stimulated, he still needs to be able to age appropriately manage his emotions and behaviors.

I think that you should consider a neuropsychological evaluation for your son. This sort of evaluation will help you to better identify why he’s experiencing academic, social and behavioral unevenness in his functioning in the classroom, and it will provide you with a road map to address any issues that are revealed via standardized and objective testing.

It’s possible that your son has a processing problem(s) (e.g., attentional, sensory, visual or auditory struggles), a learning problem (e.g., Non-verbal Learning Disability), or a psychological condition. Your son could also be twice exceptional (2e) where he is intellectually gifted but has some form of a disability. Based on what you’ve written, he does seem to be experiencing problems similar to those of 2e children. And there are many other possibilities. There’s also a possibility that your son is perfectly fine and that with time and maturation and a few tweaks in the classroom, all will be good. Again, a neuropsychological evaluation (conducted by a neuropsychologist) will identify and rule out possible problems, and it will also provide you with a roadmap.

With the work load picking up in Fourth Grade, and with social demands and challenges increasing as your son advances, this is an excellent time to have your son tested/evaluated. You could ask the school to have their school psychologist test your son, but a school psychologist will only provide educational testing and not a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation.

As far as back to school night goes, try to remain open to whatever it is the teacher has to say. Speak less and listen more so that you can get as complete of a picture as possible. Take in what is said, process it, and you can choose to respond later.

Remember that your son will be with this teacher all year, so you want to see her as an ally and work with her to support your son.

Dr. Mike,
Our daughter turns five years old in a few weeks, and we are planning her birthday party. We looked into a number of spots, but everything costs $400 or more for a party for our daughter and a handful of her friends. My husband and I simply can’t justify paying that much money. Our daughter has already been to several swanky birthday parties in the area, and she is expecting the same for herself now. She cried and cried when we told her that we weren’t going to rent the pink stretch limo from Sweet and Sassy for a spa day for her and her friends. How do we handle this situation? Upset in Loudoun

Dear Upset,
At your daughter’s young age, she just needs to feel loved and special. It’s all in how you frame the event, so why don’t you tell her that she will be having a super, fun party at home with some Sweet and Sassy flair? Don’t let her believe that you’re settling by staying home, but instead build it up and get her excited by pointing out the benefits of a home party. Staying home gives her a chance to show off her room, toys, etc. As parents, we often play the role of sales persons for our young children, and so you just need to sell your daughter on the idea that her party will be special. If she wants a spa day, paint nails and do glitter tattoos at home; creative spa gift bags with reasonably priced items for her friends might be the perfect end of the party touch. If she’s still unhappy with your efforts and the party, this could be a good teaching moment for managing disappointment, or, for appreciating the value of a dollar.

Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice. He has been featured on CNN Nightly News, Good Morning America and several other outlets. He can be reached at 703-723-2999 and is located at 44095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn.

Add Comment

Leave a Reply