Friday, October 4, 2013

Anger and Depression Over a Missed Reward

Kai has gotten off to a mediocre start to the school year. It hasn’t been as bad as the days of major incidents every day, but it’s also not like he’s putting together a string of great days either.

Yesterday was illustrative.

He was having a fine day. Until late in the day.

His class was working on an art project. They had collected leaves and then would have them ironed between sheets of wax paper along with little shavings from various crayons. Each student would get a turn to have their leaves ironed by a staff member.

Kai’s turn was last.

Regular readers know that Kai sometimes has difficulty waiting. In the past, the school was working with him to help him develop his ability to wait without getting upset. They communicated expectations so he would know ahead of time if he would get to go first, or if he would have to wait. They also had a staff member assigned to him to help him with coping strategies while he waited.

We’re not clear if any of that happened yesterday. He has a new teacher this year, so perhaps she hasn’t been brought up to speed on these techniques.

What is clear is that Kai got upset about having to wait, and then did something. It was deemed a “minor” incident – not sure exactly what it was. But the consequence is that he will miss a special reward of getting to watch a movie during class today. All of his classmates were safe all week, so he will be the only one to miss out.

When I got home from work last night, my wife filled me in on all that happened. Kai was in his bedroom. He still had not taken his bath yet. He was still very upset.

“I don’t want to go to school tomorrow!”

I asked him what happened. He buried his head in a blanket and shook his head.

When he surfaced, he said that he hates everyone at his school.

Gradually, he started to talk about what happened. As is typical with him, he was angry with everyone else. He was angry with the staff for his punishment. He was angry with his classmates because they would get to see the movie and he would not.

I tried to explain that he needed to accept responsibility for his own actions, that he was the one who did something that now resulted in him missing the movie.

I don’t know that he ever quite gets that.

He kept repeating that he would not go to school. When I told him that he would go to school, he indicated that he would do further unsafe things there. I told him that if that happened, then there would be consequences at home beyond just missing a movie at school.

I sat with him for a long time. His emotions ran from anger to depression. I kept telling him that he would have to try to stay calm at school the next day. And that he has to understand that he has control over what happens to him.

I didn’t think I had made much progress with him, but also didn’t think there was anything more I could say or do. Besides, I was getting hungry.

I told him to take his bath and then we would eat dinner. He moped around a while longer. My wife and I repeated telling him to take his bath, and he finally did.

When he came down to dinner, he seemed to be in a better mood.

And this morning, he actually was in good spirits.

Of course, I don’t know how he will be when it comes time for his class to see the movie and he has to be elsewhere.

So, I’ll be wondering how his day goes. We shall see.


  1. Oh my! Can't wait to hear if he was well-behaved today! I hope so! Especially hard since he was the only one missing the movie.

    1. Just posted an update, Betsy... Kai had a very good day! Hooray!


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