Sink or Swim Starts Now and I Pretend I Don’t Care.

A year ago almost to the hour, I published a post about deciding whether or not to let our ADHD kid fail (that kid would be Sweet Pea in case you are just joining us).  Well, Husband and I have spent the last marking period operating over capacity at Sweet Pea’s homework with an increasingly sour attitude from the very child we are trying to, you know, help.  I must admit, it involved calling Sweet Pea a Buttface behind his back with startling regularity.

This kid looks euphoric compared to Sweet Pea doing homework.

Here is how this went down.  I am at work 2 evenings out of every week, so it falls on Husband to work one-on-one with Sweet Pea to drag him through his homework those nights while simultaneously cooking a delicious, nutritious dinner and parenting the other two boys.  Exhausting.  I have no idea how he has kept it up so long.  I handle HW the other 2 nights and we sort of share it on the weekends.  This involves hours of our time and constant re-direction of Sweet Pea.  A typical conversation would go like this:

Parental Unit (sweetly):  Sweet Pea, what homework do you have tonight?

Sweet Pea:  None. I’m going downstairs to watch TV.

Parental Unit:  Come back here, please.  It says here on the eboard that you have to read pages 45-60 in Boring Book 4 and answer questions 10-15.

Sweet Pea:  I did that already.

Parental Unit:  Great!  May I see it, please?

Sweet Pea:  I left it at school.  I am going outside to play Manhunt.

Parental Unit:  Stay here, please.  That’s a shame.  So no TV for tonight.


Parental Unit:  If you want to have a tantrum, please do it upstairs in your room.

Sweet Pea:  Oh, I found the assignment.

Parental Unit (taking slow, deep breaths):  Great!  Can I see it?  Hmmm.  Looks like you only answered a couple of the questions, and these 2 answers are too messy to read.


Parental Unit (through gritted teeth):  Upstairs.  Now.

(Stomping, loud mumbling and complaining fading into the distance)

Parental Unit:  Buttface.

After a half hour cooling-off period, this process is repeated until either Sweet Pea goes to bed or the whine wine runs out.

It even looks scary when written for children.

The over-extending on the part of husband and me had made all of us grumpy.  The younger Shorties weren’t getting sufficient attention and the kitchen wasn’t getting cleaned after dinner and the dog hardly ever got fed.  Well, not any more!  Time to sink or swim, dude.  Sweet Pea has now been relieved of his parents nagging supervision of homework and missing assignments.  Do the homework, don’t do the homework, it is up to him.  We still care, but we just pretend like we don’t.  I suspect my mom-friends who have teenagers have already discovered this.  Husband and I are just kind of slow.  That is how we are handling the buttface oppositional piece of this puzzle.

The next piece is the motivational problem.  Sweet Pea has never found grades particularly motivating (dammit) beyond the exact moment he receives the grade.  Because of this, we had to go to big guns:  TV.  If any of his average class grades, as reflected in Progressbook (online grade book kept sort of up to date) fall below a B, he has no privileges at home.  That simply means that Sweet Pea doesn’t get to watch TV or play any video games.  Don’t want that to happen, Sweet Pea?  Figure it out.  Motivation?  Check.

Let me tell you, the kavetching was off the charts when we unveiled this little plan to Sweet Pea.  OMG, you would have thought we asked him to remove his own kidney with a spoon.  He even suggested that maybe he just isn’t that smart and can’t get good grades.  That was fantastic!  Sweet Pea loves him some screen time and the threat of taking it away has always affected him.  But his tirade died down pretty quickly and he headed to school.

That was almost a week ago and you may be wondering how it is going.  Well, the marking period started Monday, and by Tuesday he had a D in math because he bombed a test.  We suggested (in a very nonchalant way, of course) that he consider attending the Math after-school-homework-help if he wanted to, of course.  He refused.  Doesn’t matter to me, I pretended.  We wondered aloud if he would do the corrections for the test so that his grade would be improved.  He said he had done them.  (We will see if they ever get turned in.)  We conversed with each other in Sweet Pea’s earshot about how a teacher might react if you asked nicely for extra credit to bring up one lone bad grade.  No comment.  We suggested he might ask Husband to work with him on some problems to prepare for the upcoming math test.  Sweet Pea accepted that one.  Doesn’t matter to me, I pretended.

Ultimately, I am happy to report that I am seeing more swimming than sinking.  Although his grades are a A, B, C, C,  and he hasn’t seen a screen in 6 days, he has been much more pleasant to be around.  Sweet even.  Sweet Pea also went and talked to his science teacher to follow up on a missing assignment and ask for extra credit (I know, right?!) That visit ultimately brought his F up to a D+ and he hasn’t even gotten the extra credit work yet.  Sweet Pea also requested help and studied with Husband cooperatively for his most recent math test which he did not entirely bomb.  It is dicey to watch our kid potentially sink and Husband and I fret about it when we are sure no Shorties can hear.  But I am certain it needed to happen.  We couldn’t keep up that kind of homework pace.  There are five people (and one Doodle Dog) in our family and 85% of our parenting was going to one child’s schooling.  This child simply needed to get his act together.  Better than in high school, that’s for sure.

This is the only Lifesaver you are going to need from us, Sweet Pea!!

As it stands today, we are happy with our decision to chuck Sweet Pea into the water but if we need to throw out a life preserver, I suppose we will.  Right now he doesn’t need one at all and Husband and I couldn’t be happier.  We have more free time and less stress.  What could be better?  I may even have to find someone else to call Buttface.

(Image Credits:  Homework pic borrowed from the Engineering school at UMass here.  Sink or Swim by Valerie Coulman and Roge Girard available at Amazon here.  Wint-O-Green Lifesavers available here at Amazon who should seriously give me a kick back for all the damned product placement I do for those nubes.)

About Adventures From Cloud 8

I am a stay at home mom who now and again sneaks away to be an in-home family therapist. My husband and I have 3 boys: Sweet Pea (12), Pickles (9) and Pumpkin Pie (4). Oh yeah. We have Doodle Dog, too. You guessed it! He’s a boy. At least he pees outside.
This entry was posted in ADHD, Funny Parenting Blog, homework, Middle School, Parenting Boys, Sweet Pea and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sink or Swim Starts Now and I Pretend I Don’t Care.

  1. Justin says:

    I am both encouraged and discouraged by this post. I teach math so I’m on the other end of this debate and, I’m sorry to say, in our district, the majority of the parents don’t have the willingness to take things from their children when they don’t perform as they should. I loudly applaud you on this.

    On the other hand, at some point, my girls will both be in school and I am terrified out of my mind that we will have this exact conversation and not know how to hold the line. Some things are easy, like taking away phone, TV, computer, whatever new fun thing happens to be popular then.

    I wonder daily how I can instil in my children that education is something to be valued and while it may suck at times to do the work, it still needs to be done for the betterment of the mind and future.

    I salute you, support you and wish you the best of luck!

    • Justin-

      It is pretty easy to take stuff away when they are acting like butt heads instead of the mildly obnoxious humans you have taught them to be. However, it gets hard when it feels like all we are doing is punishing. We are not there now, but have been there before. Good luck with your daughters, may they be responsible, well mannered and kind teens!!

      • Justin says:

        This i how I feel in my classroom. I don’t want to be punishing my students all the time. I want to be offering positive reinforcements as well and in many places, I can. I will be one of the first to admit that as educators, we focus WAY too much on negative behaviors and not enough on positive. I would much rather reward than punish, but it is a constant battle to balance the two.

  2. Nannette says:

    Hang in there girlie. Learning to do the same thing with disagreeable behavior from the boy (including grades). Ultimately they have to make the choice to live up to their potential (or not). We are learning to back off on the punishments as we had reamped them up to a point were he wouldn’t do anything we wanted him to do. We needed to let home be his soft place to fall when he made a mess of his world. Raising teenagers really is a roller coaster ride. If you need to talk or vent or bounce ideas off someone know I am always here. Peace, N

  3. Pingback: Deciding Whether or Not to Let Our ADHD Kid Fail | Adventures From Cloud 8

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