Rewards & Consequences

What If We All Set a Daily Laugh Quotient?

It doesn’t make me a bad parent to admit that my kids drive me nuts in the summer. But this year I’m trying something new: a resolution to laugh at as many harmless ADHD indiscretions as I can — no matter how annoying or perplexing.

It’s early May, and our family calendar is quickly filling up with awards ceremonies, standardized tests, Muffins with Mom, volunteer breakfasts, open houses, and end-of-the-year banquets. We’ve had so many field trips scheduled that we put a separate line item on the family budget, and Laurie has started journaling what we have and haven’t paid for so far.

“I’m already burned out,” I tell Laurie as we’re heading to an open house, “and we have four more weeks of school left.”

“Tell me about it,” she says.

I’m getting the impression the teachers are feeling burned out, too. We recently got an email and a letter home from Jayden’s fifth grade teacher informing us of some Revised Class Rules, complete with bullet points:

  • Two warnings in a day result in a demerit
  • Three demerits within one week result in detention
  • Two detentions result in parent chaperoning the upcoming class field trip to a water park

[Free Download: 10 Teaching Strategies That Help Students with ADHD]

“I don’t understand these at all,” I tell Laurie. “How do they expect a bunch of 11 year olds to keep this straight?”

Laurie rolls her eyes. “I have no idea.”

“Well, Jayden better not get a detention because I’m not about to go on a field trip with a few hundred of them,” I tell Laurie.

“Two detentions,” Laurie says.

Once we get to the open house, I’m convinced my suspicion about teacher burn-out is accurate. We visit several teachers who are trying to force a smile and appear patient, but they can only go so long before snapping at a student. We witnessed a teacher reprimand a student for looking through a bookshelf. “Nathaniel! Get away from those books!”

[The Daily Report Card for Better Classroom Behavior]

This seems trivial, but I’m trying to be sympathetic. She’s probably told him a hundred times about those books. I remember back to September, when these same teachers were excited and full of life — ready to run a marathon. Now they are crawling to the finish line.

Ms. Finley, Jayden’s other fifth grade teacher, was an exception. When we got to her classroom, she had a line of current and former students waiting to give her a hug and say hello. When we finally got to her, she said, “I have the funniest story to tell you about Jayden. The other day we had some downtime, and he’d finished all his work, so I rewarded him with some free time on his iPad. Well, a few minutes goes by and I look over and see that he’s trying to fit his fist in his mouth.”

The three of us erupt in laughter.

“What?!” Laurie and I both say.

“Yeah,” Ms. Finley said. “I watched him for maybe a whole minute, and I was silently rooting for him to see if he could do it. Then I told him to cut it out.”

The three of us laugh harder. “That boy!” she says.

Had Laurie or I seen Jayden attempting to stick his fist in his mouth, we would have barked at him to knock it off and then given him a lecture on lockjaw. I think most of his teachers, and most other adults in general, would have reacted the same way. So I found Ms. Finley’s energy refreshing. She’d experienced nine months of her students’ quirks, and was still amused by them.

Laurie and I are staring down the business end of a long summer vacation — 13 weeks with our kids, day in and day out. So I’m taking a cue from Ms. Finley and making a resolution to laugh off the kids’ behavior as much as possible. Maybe, like her, I can make it the end of my time with these kids without losing my mind.

[“Laughter Is NOT the Best Medicine, But It Sure Does Help”]