Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stubbornly Shy

Children are amazing. Each day, I am in awe by something new I have discovered in one of my children. A new word. A new skill developed. A new kindness given.

Yesterday, I was completely and utterly amazed by Noah's newfound sense of stubbornness.

Noah is my shy boy. It's just who he is. It's in his genes. Apparently my grandmother thought I needed therapy when I was at his age of five due to my extreme shyness. I eventually grew out of it. Jason also struggled with shyness, so it is no wonder we have created a child who is painfully shy.

While I try to accept this about Noah, I also want to encourage him to open up and teach him to be polite. Very often when an adult speaks to Noah, he will just act like nothing has happened and not respond. He seems to believe that if he just looks the other way, no one will notice.

Noah has had eye therapy with the same therapist every week for over a month now. The first day he refused to even participate. But since then, he has done a great job at each session. That is, until the end. Even though he will have played games with his therapist, Therese, entirely on his own for forty-five minutes, he will not say thank you and goodbye to her when we leave. Therese is working with Noah to help him overcome many different types of obstacles and also wants to encourage him to grow in this area. So next week, if he won't say thank you and goodbye when I ask him to, he will not receive his weekly treat from the treasure box that he usually gets as a reward for a job well done.

I spoke with both of the boys this week about how to greet adults; saying hello with a smile, calling the adult by name, asking the adult how they are doing, saying it's good to see them, thanking them for inviting them over to their house or for coming to ours, etc.

Yesterday, we went to Jenny's house. Our two families are dear friends and Jenny is an adult who they are very comfortable with. As we drove up to their house, I reminded the boys to greet her.

Looking in the rear view mirror, I could see Noah's body begin to tense. I tried to reassure him that I would be right there, I would hold his hand and that all he had to do was say "hi" back to Jenny when she said hello to him.

I asked him if he was going to do what I was asking. He said no. Again I tried to reassure him. Still his answer was no. After much conversation, I told him that if wouldn't be polite to Jenny, he was going to stay in the car. He chose the car. I brought the other children into the house and after settling in, I checked on Noah to see if he'd changed his mind. He hadn't.

Because I didn't want to just leave him in the car, I brought him into the house and had him sit in the office by himself in a chair with the door closed. It's a glass door, so I could see that he stayed in the chair.

Remember, all I wanted him to do was say "hi."

FOR FIVE HOURS, Noah stayed in that chair other than to go to the bathroom. I checked in on him regularly to see if he changed his mind. I tried to encourage him in every way that I could. He missed playing, watching a movie, chocolate milk and lunch. With each thing, he chose to skip it rather than say hi.

While I was very frustrated with him, I was also in awe of his commitment, persistence and dedication to his decision. He really only cried when I tried to make him say hi. Otherwise, he pretty much just sat there quietly in the chair.

After five hours of this, we went home. I wasn't sure what to do at that point. Jason and I were supposed to drop the children off with friends that evening so that we could go out on a date. But I wasn't sure that was a very good idea after such disobedience from Noah. I was considering just dropping off Joshua and Veronica, and having an at-home date while Noah had dinner in his room and went to bed early. His only explanation of his behavior was he said he was tired. So an early bed time seemed logical.

But after discussing what had happened with Noah in the car, he said that he was sorry, that it won't ever happen again and that he will begin saying "hi" to adults. He seemed very sincere and for the most part, if Noah has no intention of doing something, he won't tell us that he's going to do it. He will just very matter-of-factly say, "No, I don't think I want to do that" until his mind is changed.

I was a little bit floored. Really? You mean, you learned your lesson?


Will you call Ms. Jenny right now and apologize?

"Yep." Which he immediately did.

Will you say "hi" to Ms. Jennifer and Mr. Jason who are watching you tonight?

"Yep." Which he did no problem after I reminded him. So we did get to go out on our date :)

This was all sort of a shock to me. Does this happen? Do children really sometimes go through one difficult episode and then "learn their lesson?" While Joshua has grown and matured leaps and bounds, this has been slow, very gradual progress that has oozed by in his seven years of life. Never, ever, ever has one instance of discipline gotten through to Joshua. It often feels like we are banging our head against the wall, taking two steps forward and one step back.

Now of course, this is sometimes the case with Noah too. And I obviously don't expect Noah's shyness to be cured. But it was a great reward to, at least for a moment, witness immediate benefits of discipline and of sticking to my guns. Those five hours were long. It was nice to end the situation with the feeling that my lesson to Noah may have actually been successful. Usually when it comes to discipline, I'm left hoping that we will reap the benefits of it someday in the future. And most likely, the distant future. Surely not on the same day!

When it was all said and done, I actually felt kind of proud of Noah. So I gave him a hug, told him I loved him and fed him a huge plate of meatloaf and sweet potatoes.
At least one form of stubbornness is perseverance, which came in useful during the boys cross country season :)

Noah kicking it in at the finish

Look at that stride!

Veronica's new cheesy camera smile

With their game faces on before the championship race

The beginning of the race

Bringing it home

Our cheerleader

Papa's treat at Dick's - a great way to end the season :)

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