It’s alright – I didn’t want to wear my jelly shoes today, anyway.
Which is just as well, because Freddie has clopped up the drive to the school minibus wearing one brown leather Piedro boot and one ladies’ size four glittery plastic sandal.
And I let him.
As I explained to the escort on the bus, he was suffering the consequences of his behaviour.
I tried to convince him.
Time ticked by.
I failed, and the bus duly arrived.
What was I supposed to do? I stuffed the other boot into his backpack and took him out as he was.
Keeping him off school simply for refusing to have his shoe on is a no-no: I won’t be hoodwinked into teaching him that non-compliance leads to a bonus day off.
Pinning him down and forcing the boot on is not an option either – trying to physically coerce Freddie is like trying to bath a cat.
I would come out of it in little bloody shreds with the remains of the boot still in my hand.
In any case that’s an unpleasant way to treat a child, and carries a risk of causing damage to his (very) loosely-knitted ankle joints.
Letting him learn from his own mistake seemed a much less stressful, more productive way to handle the situation: I would step away from the confrontation, thus depriving the behaviour of any attention from me, and he would get to experience the uncomfortable consequences of his choice.
Of all my children, Freddie is the most outwardly confident and extrovert.
I dare say he is the class clown, as he absolutely lapped up the reactions of the other children when they saw him at the steps of the bus with one of his mum’s shoes on.
And, of course, he couldn’t possibly walk around all day like that, so I had to send the other one in with him, and someone will have to give him their undivided attention while they persuade him to put it on.
He already knows from experience that nudity is funny; bare bums and willies are hilarious, especially if you wiggle them about, or jump into the room and shout ‘Ta-da!’
No matter how much I try to condition the rest of the family not to react to his shenanigans, they betray themselves every time.
Freddie is very ‘emotionally intelligent’. He is alert to even the smallest change in facial expression – a barely-visible twitch of the mouth or nostrils, a slight crinkling around the eyes; and he is also acutely aware of the changing atmosphere in a room.
So what do I do with him?
The pattern he displays, of avoidance behaviour and attention-seeking behaviour, feeds into one another in a very stressful circle.
It is difficult to address one without impacting negatively on the other.
Do I ignore the attention-seeking behaviour he uses in order to avoid doing something (by distracting himself and me from the task), and risk not getting the task done, thus rewarding the avoidance behaviour.
Or do I reward the attention seeking behaviour by addressing it in order to try to get the task done, and thus perpetuate it – and still risk not getting the task done?
After being on the CAMHS waiting list for fourteen months, we finally got an appointment in March.
We are no nearer to getting answers, though, because Freddie keeps evolving his strategy.
The latest suggestion from the nice lady from their learning disability team was that I should give him a certain amount of time to complete each task in the process of getting ready for school, and put a timer on my phone so that he can see the countdown.
If he hasn’t completed the task by the time the buzzer sounds, we simply move on to the next thing regardless.
If there is still some time left at the end we can go back and have another go at completing anything not yet done, again with a timer.
But what do I do on the day that he refuses to get dressed, and time ticks by, and the bus comes, and he’s still naked?
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