problem solving


Yesterday when the boys got off the bus, their bus matron was frazzled and told me that it’s not going well. Isaac wants to sit with Andrew and Andrew doesn’t want to sit with Isaac and she sits them separately and then Isaac unbuckles himself and goes to sit with Andrew (on a moving bus!) and then Andrew screams about it. No wonder she is frazzled.

Last week I heard Andrew’s teacher explain to me what she does to prevent and handle his meltdowns. Isaac’s teacher told me about her system for using the “boring chair” when he doesn’t follow directions and he needs a consequence. The program administrator asked me to help her manage their behavior during the early morning drop off because it was getting out of hand.

So, when the bus matron had more behavior to report, I felt so deflated. I wanted to give up. I felt so tired of helping people manage their behavior. I find it really hard when time and time again things crop up that need all-adults-on-board-to-manage-my-kids. Sometimes I wish my kids sat quietly and did what they were told and didn’t need a complex system of reinforcers to get them to buy in to what the adults in their lives need from them.

I wanted to give up, so I did for a little while. I do this from time to time. I take breaks. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I have to keep going anyway. But yesterday afternoon, after hearing the latest report, I decided to table it for a few hours. Back-burner it. Work with my kids on other things: snack, potty, ballet stretching, homework. I decided to worry about the bus a little later.

Then, a little while later, I started up on the problem. I brainstormed a plan and I contacted the school about helping with part of it. I heard back from the school with a few suggestions and how they can help. And then, I opened up photoshop to make up a series of behavior management charts. New ones that address the new areas that need addressing. I took a minute to celebrate the things I could drop from their charts because they are no longer issues I need to track as closely (hooray!) and I thought through the specifics of what I need from Andrew and Isaac right now. Behaviors I need to see more of. I added cool graphics and printed multiple copies and it was done.

This morning I had the new charts on the table for them to see at breakfast. And they were so excited! I explained to Isaac about what we need from him on the bus…and I *think* he understood (though he often needs a few days of practicing a new system before understanding it). When the bus pulled up, I told the matron the plan, buckled in Isaac myself and gave him a little card with his bus rules (1. stay in my seat 2.) keep my seat belt buckled) to hold on the way to school. And the school was ready to get them off the bus, hear the report and give out rewards for following the bus rules.

I guess this kind of thing happens all the time around here, really. Problems come up and patterns emerge and when they clarify as a real problem that needs a systematic way to address it, I do. I guess what stood out to me yesterday was the strong, strong feeling to “give up”. I was surprised at how much I wanted to give up. And, this will sound strange, but it was sort of enlightening. It made me appreciate just how hard parenting is. How hard it is to hear hard things about my kids. Still! After all the hard things I’ve heard…it still can be so hard. And it’s not going to end anytime soon. I know that with each new system, it will work for a while until it needs tweaking again because something new comes up. Things that are problems now will resolve and new problems will emerge. And then they’ll be teenagers and my little photoshoppy charts with cute graphics won’t work anymore and then what will I do?

I’m worried that the longer I do this, the longer I continually face and try to solve the problems presented, the more I will wear down. The less I’ll be able to muster the energy to find effective solutions. But, I’m hoping that taking breaks and roping in help from people willing and able to help (in this case, their school), will help me sustain the creative thinking and problem solving energy I need. Then, other times, I don’t worry about that at all. Sometimes it feels like the more I face and solve problems, the stronger I get. So let’s hope that that will be my long term trajectory. Strong Mama who Needs Occasional Breaks. That seems like a worthy and reasonable goal. :)


Another reasonable goal? Strong Mama who Needs Occasional Cake. This one is a zucchini chocolate cake and we had it with ice cream and it was moist and delicious! And if you do not have this cookbook by now, what are you waiting for??

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About robyn

I stopped teaching Kindergarten in 2005 to become the mom of two crazy boys here in Brooklyn. At first I thought being a stay at home mom meant that I needed to pour all my time and energy directly into my sons, but I realized somewhere along the way that being a rockstar mom meant not only taking good care of my boys, but also taking good care of myself. And taking good care of myself means pursuing something creative...just about everyday. I started Made In Brooklyn to motivate myself in my creative goals as well as share my work with others and perhaps inspire them in their own creative journeys.
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7 Responses to problem solving

  1. Susan says:

    Just, fyi, your pictures aren’t showing up for me.

    • Robyn says:

      ug! I’ve tried it a few times and I can’t figure it out. I can see it when I’m using Safari, but not when I’m using Firefox.

      I gotta ask my tech guy about this…


  2. Debs says:

    First off, I see two beautiful pictures of cake!
    Second, I think you cope with the issues that crop up beautifully and your coping strategies are successful. Never forget that every child will have issues of some kind that their mum has to deal with. Let me tell you about the time my daughter worked out how to over ride the child lock on the car door and opened the door – while we were driving on the motorway! It still amazes me that children of such a young age travel on their own in a school bus (us Brits are so over protective!) and it doesn’t surprise me that Isaac wants to sit with Andrew, nor that Andrew doesn’t want him to! When my son started at the same school as his sister, he insisted on finding her every lunchtime and it drove her mad. We didn’t have photoshop back then and it took a lot of other bribery to make him leave her alone and make his own friends!

  3. Terri Deal says:

    Wish I could say that they will wake up one day and the problem solving is over but alas at 14 with my Caitlyn we are still in problem solving mode, however, I can say that you get better and quicker at the problem solving. That the problems do become fewer and farther between!

  4. Ruth says:

    I read this post earlier and left it until now to leave a comment. Firstly, I can’t imagine sending The Boy Child off to school on a bus (perhaps Debs is right about we Brits being over protective); I shall be wanting to walk him to school until he’s 18!! I think the behaviours of both boys is normal, nothing to do with autism at all. I see plenty of fussing over who sits where on the coach every Thursday afternoon when I help out at swimming. 47 kids and only mine with official additional needs …
    You do an amazing job every single day and you know that I aspire to be like you, don’t you?
    And no photos visible for me, sorry to say.

  5. Cathy says:

    My kids don’t have special needs and I feel like quiting every now and then! I think it’s a mother thing… Robyn: you’re a great mom. Your sons and your school are lucky to have someone like you, willing to photoshop a solution at the blink of an eye.
    Keep up the great work!

  6. robyn says:

    Fixed the photo problem! I had uploaded the wrong type of file! (tif instead of jpeg…I’d been working with tifs for another project)….but I reloaded correctly now. :)

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