His view: I ask questions and Mom provides the answers.
My view: Ryan asks questions and I help him figure out the answer for himself.
He wanted to know how to spell Spider-Man because he was searching for the movie on Netflix. I said something like "Oh, I think that's a word you can figure out how to spell--what are the first three letters?"
Things went downhill from there.
He refused to even try. He threw out random groups of three letters and then cried, saying it was too hard, that he could NEVER do it.
I tried to be encouraging and supportive. He's recently admitted to me that he hates hates! being wrong (I knew this already, but it's a good thing that he realizes this about himself). We'd had a heart-to-heart talk about that, complete with lots of sharing of my own personal struggles with this, and it was a good conversation about courage and confidence (see the quotation I included in yesterday's Objectivist Round Up). We talked about how it's tough in the moment, but it usually feels great after you've worked hard and successfully solved a problem.
It's HARD to be wrong. I know this, for I feel just the same way on those
Back to Spider-Man. I was as kind and helpful as I knew how to be. I explained that I didn't want to simply provide him with the answer because A.) I was pretty confident he could manage this himself (the kid reads very well), and B.) I was growing weary of answering questions for him when he wouldn't even attempt to figure out the answer on his own. I offered to help him figure it out, to give him a suggestion about how he could go about doing this independently. That's where I was willing to help, but I would not give him the answer.
The whole time this was going on, I kept flashing back to when he was three years old and had had a meltdown because I'd refused to remove his pants for him. He cried and kicked and flailed and accused me of all manner of crimes, and the whole time, his pants were down to his ankles already. Once, he nearly actually kicked them all the way off, and hastened to make sure that the pants were still at least touching his toes, because of course if they'd come off that would completely negate the point that he'd been trying to make so dramatically--that it was my job to remove his pants!
This spelling thing was the exact same fit for the exact same reason. Five years ago, I refused to do that for him because I was tired of handling a task for him that I was certain he could manage himself. And the other day I was similarly tired of spelling things for him when he was unwilling to attempt it seriously himself.
Eventually he calmed down, adopted my suggestion of saying the word out loud very slowly and writing down the letter sounds, and--you guessed it--managed to spell spiderman (I left the hyphen issue for another day). Being Ryan, and still in the throes of anger, he made sure to point out that he did NOT feel happy about having solved the problem for himself. Because, I think, that having been correct about his ability to spell this word, he still wanted me to be wrong about something. I'd done a pretty good job of remaining emotionally detached from this, and by the time he was accusing me of being wrong about how he'd be proud of himself, I was completely disengaged from the argument.
Pants. Reading. Spelling. Math. Retrieving a lost ball over a fence (that happened yesterday at homeschool soccer). This is how he does: he insists, argues, whines, pushes, demands, fights, revolts, complains. After some lengthy amount of time, he manages the task.
I offer suggestions, tips, words of encouragement, reminders to speak kindly to me and others. I watch him struggle and suffer, and I struggle and suffer a little bit, too.
I know I'm doing the right thing for me (because I really do get tired of being treated as if I'm Wikipedia), and I think I'm doing the right thing for him (because I want him to get experience solving his problems independently, though with love and support from those who care about him most). I know that this is probably just how it's always going to be with him, and I've (mostly) made peace with that.
Anyone else out there have a kid like this? I'd love some tips (or words of encouragement)!