The Big Trip

Last week I was getting all irate because I couldn’t get LB’s TA to understand the magnitude of LB going on a residential – see Hysterical . I was also worried about how LB himself would cope, following moments of distress and him struggling to sleep.

After that, things improved a bit, seemingly because they’d spoken more about the details of the trip in school, resulting in LB realising they weren’t in fact camping out in tents. The idea that they were must have been worrying him because he did settle when he realised they weren’t. I have no idea where he got that idea from in the first place – it just goes to show that not all worries are predictable.

I didn’t press any issues with school because things seemed to be ok.

The night before the trip, LB grew anxious again. He really struggled to get to sleep and got himself in quite a state. He was worried about “missing us too much”. The next morning, we woke to him to him crying and shouting the house down. It was such a shame to hear because it isn’t like him to get so distressed.

LB came into bed for a cuddle and soon rallied. He started doing my make up while I was still half-asleep and, despite, or perhaps due to me looking a state, it cheered him up considerably.

When BB got up, he did a fabulous job of encouraging LB – telling him that he was nervous when he went on the trip too but that all his friends would be there and it’d be ok. He is so instinctive that boy, it really does make my parenting job easier.

It was almost as though once LB got his head straight that he wanted to go and that it would be fun, even if he was nervous, he just focussed himself on getting ready. Soon we were at school, amongst a throng of similarly excited children and LB was fine. He didn’t struggle to separate at all (as I thought he might have) and went right on in.

I had a quick word with the TA and impressed upon her the importance of calling me, should he need her to. I could see her reluctance, but ensured I got my point across.

 

It was a very strange evening at home, that night. It was so quiet. And so tidy. And something was palpably missing.

Our thoughts were not far from LB all evening. I checked my watch every ten minutes, trying to think what he’d be doing at each point. I was surprised by how much BB worried about him – he too wondered aloud about him much more frequently than he would if he had been staying with grandparents, for example. We all knew this was a huge deal and could have gone any which way.

From about 8pm onwards, I kept thinking my phone would ring any second. But it didn’t.

I kept checking the school Facebook feed but it hadn’t been updated since 4pm so that revealed nothing.

By about 10pm, I figured it was safe to take my shoes off and have a cup of tea, whilst simultaneously wondering if they would call the second I sat down.

But they didn’t. It seemed unlikely they’d call during the night so I assumed this was us: he was really doing it. It would have been really appreciated had someone taken a couple of seconds to send me a message saying he was fine, but that didn’t materialise either. I half thought, due to them having me down as mildly hysterical and neurotic, that they would have sensed the need for such a message. But there we go.

 

By school pick up time yesterday, I was very keen to get him back again. I had half envisaged him running out of the classroom door to be swung into a swirling hug, but, this being LB, our reunion was a lot more nonchalant. I had forgotten that we’d probably get a bit of the cold shoulder because we had been separated for twenty-four hours. That’s always the way of it. But, in the grand scheme of things, it was ok. He didn’t hate us, he was just a bit quiet and standoffish.

He was also, what Gary would technically describe as, “dead dog tired.”

It happened to be parents evening, so between the information LB shared, the chats I had with his teachers and accusations made by random children in his class, I managed to piece together an accurate-enough account of what actually went down. I think he enjoyed it overall. Apparently at teatime on the first day, LB began to droop and asked to go to bed. He does go to bed early and his body is very much ruled by a strong circadian rhythm, and affected by not sticking to it. The staff jollied him along because they hadn’t done the bonfire and marshmallows yet. LB managed to power through but then, obviously, went beyond tired and by the sounds of it, struggled to get to sleep. I suspect there was a degree of high jinks. However, I’d rather that than him be upset and crying for us. And, according to his TA, “all the boys were a nightmare for bed.” And, well, I did warn them.

I suspect the second day was trickier – LB was tired and no doubt struggling with regulation. But, he came back in one piece and so did all the staff.

I think this is a probably a time where I don’t need to worry about the details too much – instead focussing on the bigger picture. That picture is that LB, at seven years old, with a history of neglect and trauma, has managed his first residential, without any significant ill-effects. What a guy.

I thought he’d have been fast asleep early last night, but no. I suspect if there are any lasting effects, it will be tricky bedtimes for a few days, while he re-adjusts and maybe a dysregulated weekend – no big deal.

I hope that him going away and us still being here when he came back is powerful for him. We all told him how much we missed him and how weird the house was without him. We told him how proud we are of him for managing it. I hope it’s another step forward with his attachments, and with his self-confidence too.

LB might be the smallest member of our household but my goodness he’s a big presence. Even when he’s asleep, the house feels fuller and more complete when he’s in it. I think the trip gave us all a strange vision of what life would be like without him. It would undoubtedly be tidier – the tornado of discarded clothes and toys notably missing; quieter and calmer. But, jeez, it’d be boring. Who wants sedate when you could have exuberant, unpredictable and hilarious? I know which I’d choose, and there’s no contest.

 

Addition – Saturday

As you can tell from the above, I thought we’d survived and were kind of okay.  I didn’t anticipate that I would be called into school on Friday evening, faced with teachers who were surprised at LB’s lack of ability to control himself and have a smiley face chart waved under my nose as a supposed cure-all.

I actually despair.

Surely it is not that difficult to attribute dysregulated behaviour the day after a trip, to the trip? Surely, it should have been obvious to all that Friday would be a very tricky school day? Surely, or so we naively imagined, the demands and expectations would be reduced accordingly, to accommodate LB’s temporarily reduced window of tolerance? Surely?

Err, it would seem not.

Instead there was outrage that LB wouldn’t do what was asked of him and that he was rude to some teachers. We just cannot accept this behaviour, there have to be consequences.

Groan.

Then, without consulting any of the members of staff who know him best, and without reading any of LB’s paperwork, two members of the senior leadership team thought they knew how to sort him out. A smiley face chart. Seriously. I think they actually thought I’d be pleased with this new fangled invention.

I’m just so frustrated that every time we think we’re there; that school understand LB’s needs and how to support him, something like this happens to suggest the polar opposite.

Grizzly and I now feel we shouldn’t have let him go on the trip. School clearly aren’t able to accommodate and support his needs properly when dysregulated. They can’t even recognise that he is dysregulated. Essentially, they can’t keep him safe. And if that’s the case, they can’t take him on any trips. Its so frustrating because I told them and I told them, but they thought I was exaggerating. Then when the behaviour we predicted does occur, they think its nothing to do with the trip, it’s him getting spontaneously extra naughty. Not my words – how I imagine they think of it.

I could scream.

And while I’m ranting, getting dragged into school means my children are left in the playground, to their own devices, which is clearly unwise for LB. I’m discussing his behaviour while he’s given further opportunity to misbehave.

It is exhausting being a parent of a child with behaviour needs – not because of their needs – but because schools just cannot wrap their heads around them, despite training and meetings and about a gazillion discussions. The patience of a saint is required and mine is running out.

 

 

 

The Big Trip

Hysterical

One of the biggest problems, I find, with attempting to get other people to understand the emotional and behavioural needs of your child with SEMH issues is getting your points across without those people drawing the conclusion you are hysterical. I’m pretty sure I’m not being paranoid about this – I have read it frequently in people’s body language, facial expression and even in their choice of words. Here she goes again, being all over-anxious and fretting unnecessarily, they think. When I say people, I mainly mean teachers, though this isn’t exclusive to them.

When you do have a child with SEMH issues, you become adept at predicting their triggers. You know the sorts of situations that may challenge them and, in an attempt to parent them the best you can, you try to anticipate potential problems in advance so that tweaks or alternatives or supportive measures can be implemented to minimise their stress. For me, that just makes good sense. Why leave a child to flail and panic and worry, when you could prevent that with a bit of forward planning or heightened awareness? Obviously you can’t predict everything, but where you can mitigate potential problems, why wouldn’t you?

It’s this attitude that brings me to teachers, raising possible problems with them in advance of them happening. Unfortunately, what I see as a wise anticipation of issues is more often than not interpreted by them as over-anxious parenting. I’m pretty sure they have conversations about how I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and bringing LB problems where he didn’t have any before. “Her anxiety will be rubbing off on him,” I can imagine them whispering, “It’s not him, it’s her”.

This has come to the fore because next week LB is going on his first residential. I do not feel it is excessive to say this is a big deal for him. Staying away from home without any of your family would be a big deal for most 7 year olds but is even more so when your early life has involved moving from place to place: staying away might trigger all sorts of difficult feelings and anxieties, not least whether you will actually return home again. This is compounded by embarrassment that you wear pull-ups at night when your friends don’t and the trip will involve you staying up way beyond your bedtime; a time that you already struggle to stay regulated for in your own home.

So yes, I think there are some very real concerns about the trip and in an attempt to help LB as much as possible, I have been pro-active in discussing my concerns with his teachers. I wanted them to be aware of his continence issues so they could help him subtly. I wanted them to know his bedtime is early so that when he starts to spiral they will be able to recognise it as dysregulation due to tiredness, not bad behaviour. I wanted them to be aware of the reasons why a trip away from home might trigger feelings from his past. I wanted them to be aware of all this so they could support him through it.

I thought this was all tickety-boo. They had seemed to listen and had been reassuring about how they would deal with it all.

However, as the time draws closer, LB’s behaviour is beginning to spiral. I have noted it at home. They have noted poorer listening, poorer compliance and an increase in fidgety behaviour at school. LB has started saying he doesn’t want to go on the trip. To me, it is obvious he is anxious about it. This anxiety is being expressed through the changes in his behaviour.

School, on the other hand, are scratching their heads about this change of mood. Why is he all of a sudden throwing things and threatening to kill his TA, they wonder. To help them out, I’ve tried to make the link between the two things for them. This has involved me having to elaborate on why exactly the trip might be anxiety-provoking now, before it has even happened. The problem is that I don’t think they’re really getting it, so I find myself harping on more than I’d really like. The more times I even reference the trip, the more convinced they become that I am a hysterical, over-reactive mother.

This morning, as a small part of the coherent explanation I was trying to weave on the spot, I mentioned that LB has only ever stayed with us or his grandparents (I thought the ‘since he’s been here’ part was obvious) so staying somewhere else might be quite triggering. “He won’t be alone in that,” his TA says, “many of the children won’t have slept anywhere else”, as if I am being quite unreasonable by making a point out of something common to all the children. What I want to say is something along the lines of, “Yeah, but, before these other children moved to their forever home, did they live with foster carers who randomly took them to other houses for respite, with people who were not always registered as carers? Did they get left there without explanation for inordinate periods of time? When they came to their forever home, were they just dropped off by people they had lived with for several years who would then just disappear never to be seen again? Before that, were they suddenly removed one unpredictable day from the family who conceived and gave birth to them? Where they? No? THEN IT REALLY ISN’T THE SAME!”

Obviously I said no such thing, smiled sweetly, took a deep breath, and attempted again to explain things in a calm manner that might actually get my message across. That’s how it was from my point of view anyway. I suspect that from theirs, they thought, “Oh, she’s still going. I’ve covered off that point so she’s trying to concoct more. Definitely hysterical.”

What’s infuriating is that when you don’t feel heard, there aren’t many options. I don’t believe in shouting or being rude (it’s all about the long game and building relationships) so I’m really left with repeating myself or trying to find other words or other arrangements of words to get the ideas to strike home. I often find myself reaching for more extreme or more shocking examples when the tamer ones don’t resonate. It is as though I have to escalate the severity of what I’m saying to get my messages heard. The thing is that if they are still not heard, I am surely seen as increasingly hysterical.

I suggested today that we must monitor LB. Yes, some anxiety is to be expected. But as he is already at threatening to kill people levels, perhaps we don’t want him to escalate much more. Perhaps, if he does seem to be spiralling out of control, we might need to come up with a plan to soothe his nerves. Perhaps, and I was just throwing things out there, we could reassure him that we would not make him stay somewhere he doesn’t want to (trust and all that) and we could offer to pick him up from the day-time part so he can sleep where he feels safe: at home. Though, to me, this makes perfect sense, I can see that school find it an outrageous suggestion – the kind that would only be made by a mother struggling to loosen her apron strings. “She doesn’t even want to let him out of her sight for one night, for goodness sake,” I can imagine them commenting. The response from the TA only confirmed my feeling they had been talking about me in this way – “Mr Teacher doesn’t want you to do that,” she said, when I suggested it.

It really is quite a challenge to remain dignified in these situations. It is a constant balance between persisting in getting messages across and presenting like a non-hysterical, credible source of information. I do a lot of internal swearing.

I understand that they have taken hundreds of children on trips and that every parent gets a bit worried about it and that they will do their best to look after LB and that if he gets upset, they will deal with it. I know they haven’t had to call anyone’s parents before, but, if we’re honest, that’s more of a gauntlet than a reassurance. When they say, “he’ll be fine,” I hear, “we’re not taking this seriously enough”. If only they could acknowledge this is a huge deal for him, we’d be grand.

Obviously we are doing all the prep stuff and giving reassurance at home. LB does seem to be coping better now he’s realised they aren’t camping outside (you really can’t anticipate all the issues) but I am typing this outside of his door as we have another tricky bedtime. I intend to monitor him/ his behaviour over the weekend and should things have worsened, I shall be back at the classroom door, making myself look hysterical again. And I don’t really care what Mr Teacher thinks about it – should LB be crying and hanging from my leg when I drop him off for the trip, I will be picking him up at bedtime.

As tempting as it is to just pack LB off with them, with little instruction, to let them deal with whatever happens themselves, I can’t shrug my shoulders of all responsibility. He’s our son and it’s our job to meet his needs as best we can. If that means occasionally having to overrule school and to lose street cred over being anxious parents then so be it. LB’s needs are paramount and if that makes me hysterical, then I guess I am.

 

 

*The irony of me writing last week about how much I love the school is not lost on me. I should have known that singing their praises would nudge the universe into trying to prove me wrong

**The word ‘hysteria’ derives from the Greek word for ‘uterus’, suggesting that to be a women is to be hysterical; that being overly emotional is an intrinsic failing of having a womb. Marvellous. I wonder whether any of the dads out there experience a similar thing when they have worries or if this shrugging off of concerns is more prevalent when they are raised by mothers?

I’m not really trying to make a feminist point, I’m genuinely wondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hysterical

When is a school a good school?

It’s the twenty million dollar question isn’t it? How do you go about picking a school for your child that will do all the things you want it to? Do you go on their Ofsted: outstanding schools only? Or on their league tables? Pick the one with the best SATS scores? Do you go on recommendation? Do you consider staff turnover? Or exclusion figures? Do you avoid the ones with chequered pasts?

Which measures should you look at to get the most accurate indication of an establishment’s ability to educate your child? This is a huge question and I fear this blog is going to mess with heads more than answering it.

The thing is, on paper, the boys’ school might be considered dubious. It is currently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted but before that it ‘required improvement’. There is an on-going question over leadership and all sorts of political shenanigans happening that I really can’t go into. It does fair to middling on league tables. There is quite a bit of muttering in the playground and some parents have decided to talk with their feet in recent months.

However, despite all that, I bloody love it. It isn’t that we’ve always had the easiest time or that relationships were built immediately or that they just ‘got’ LB because none of those things happened. In fact, at times, I’ve been tearing my hair out. If you want to know more about our history with school, you can read these posts: Adoptive Parent: Behaviour Detective 

School Worries

Alleviating School Worries

Dear Teacher

Stop. Collaborate & Listen.

There are several factors that have led me to having the warm, fuzzy feelings I have towards them now. First of all, despite LB’s behaviour being difficult to understand, difficult to cope with in a busy classroom and it requiring novel practices, not one member of teaching staff has ever given up on him. Not at any point. They have never rang me and asked me to bring him home. They have never made us feel that they can’t/ won’t help him or us. His TA, who has to get a special mention because I wasn’t always sure she was the right appointment, has been there for him, day in, day out, for two years now, even though he has hurt her and called her names and refused to do anything she says (at points). She could have handed her notice in and gone to find a much easier job, but she hasn’t. She’s changed her days when LB has needed her to and she has put up with uncertainty over the funding which pays her. She has visited him at home during the holidays and brings him things from her home she thinks he might enjoy in school.

I don’t know how to quantify that sticking power/commitment or which sort of league table or report would validate it.

And the teachers/TA don’t just tolerate LB, they love him and it’s obvious (to him as well, I imagine). At least two members of staff have cried with pride at what he has achieved. Unlike some schools which have strict ‘no touching’ policies, they are all willing to show LB he is loved through cuddles and physical reassurance if he needs them to, including his current rugby-playing male teacher. It’s hard to do that in this day and age but LB needs it, and the teachers know that.

They are very instinctive about his love for animals too and don’t bat an eyelid about him going into assembly with two guinea pigs, or spending some time with the school dog. They do forest school (big tick), plenty of sport and are happy to fly in the face of convention or go above and beyond if necessary. Two members of staff will visit us at home, as part of transition, for example.

I think much of what makes me so happy about the school, comes from the genuinely caring people who work in it. We’ve now worked closely with four different teachers and the TA and every one of them has cared enough about LB and about meeting his needs the best they can, that they’ve been willing to listen and to do things differently. Again, I don’t know how to quantify that willingness but it is essential. Without it, I would still be tearing my hair out. In fact I’d probably be fully bald and rocking a rebelliously coloured wig.

The teachers were not experts in trauma when they met LB. I would say their knowledge has ranged from none to some but, crucially, they have been open to other professionals coming in (post adoption support & a psychologist) and to listening to them. Over time, though I won’t lie about the difficulty in achieving this, they have become willing to listen to us too.

One of the biggest journeys we have been on has been with LB’s current teacher. We have gone from inappropriate comments about ‘attention-seeking’ and ‘manipulating adults’, born out of not knowing any better, to him pro-actively passing on key, attachment sensitive strategies to the next teacher. He has literally turned things around from LB refusing school and being anxious in his classroom, to LB being happy, making accelerated progress and having a warm, trusting relationship with each other. That willingness – to admit there’s a problem, reflect on it, take advice on it and action change – is immeasurable. As a human, it is uncomfortable and can be confidence-shaking to go through that sort of process. Many teachers are not willing to lay themselves bare in that way, instead becoming entrenched in how they’ve always done it.

We all sat in a transition meeting yesterday – him, us, LB’s next teacher, his TA and the acting SENCO (reception & yr 1 teacher) – and it actually felt like a team meeting. Like we were LB’s team and we were all working together to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible for him. It wasn’t combative, there wasn’t disagreement, I didn’t leave despairing or feeling they think I’m neurotic – all of which have happened many times before. It felt like a collection of people, each with their own set of knowledge and skills, and a mutual respect for the others, brought together by their shared commitment to provide the best they can for LB. It has felt a long time coming, but my goodness I’m grateful for it. And not only that, I’m proud of it.

I’m proud of our persistence and unwavering commitment to being friendly even when things have been tough – these relationships would not be so solid otherwise – and without somehow building up a foundation of respect and trust, it is almost impossible to effect change. I’m proud of the teachers for their openness, commitment, willingness and genuine care. I’m proud of LB for teaching a bunch of grown-ups the most they’ve learned in a long time and for persevering when the strategies have not been right for him. I’m proud, that with the support of his exceptional school, LB continues to confound expectations.

I don’t give a fig about the Ofsted report, the league table, the SATS scores or even the political shenanigans (though we could do without them) because none of it really matters. Its people and relationships that make the difference and LB’s ‘team’ rocks.

 

When is a school a good school?

Confidence

I was having a bit of a blogging ideas drought this week so I asked people if there was anything they wanted to read about and one person suggested the topic of confidence and how, as parents, we can instil it in our children. I thought it was a good suggestion and as it’s something I have spent quite a bit of time pondering over the years, here we are.

Now, I don’t profess to being an expert on the subject but, as is my wont, I do have some thoughts and ideas and bits of this and that to share with you.

Confidence and self-esteem are undoubtedly areas of difficulty for many of our children, especially those who have experienced an adverse start. For LB, I think his chronic lack of self-esteem can underlie some of his more challenging behaviours such as Demand Avoidance – he will certainly baulk at a new task and I feel it’s because he just assumes he won’t be able to do it. Certainly, when there have been times that I have been able to cajole him into doing new things anyway, he has made great strides with his confidence in those tasks. The whole jigsaw incident is still the best example I have of that, which you can read about here: Jigsaws .

That situation, and the many others we’ve had like it, convinced me that there is something in taking a child a little beyond their comfort zone on occasions. I absolutely don’t mean making them do tasks they hate or are afraid of. I just mean being beside them, offering verbal and physical encouragement and a high level of scaffolding, for tasks you know they are capable of, so that they can succeed. It can involve a lot of, “I can see you think this is too hard, but I know how clever you are and I know you can do it. How about we do it together?” chat. We generally did this for table-top activities like the jigsaws, but I have used it when park equipment has looked a bit daunting and now for homework tasks. I used it last night when I was reading The Cat in The Hat to LB. He began reading a bit then gave up as soon as he stumbled on a word and wanted me to continue reading instead. With just a little bit of encouragement (“I know you can read those words”, “You could smash that page easily”), LB chose to carry on and we finished the rest of the book, taking turns to read pages, as dictated by him. If I hadn’t pushed him just a little, he wouldn’t have read any. In that scenario, I believe he would have gone away still thinking he couldn’t read the book but, through a gentle nudge to persevere, he was able to prove to himself that he could read it.

For me, that’s how confidence is built – through succeeding at things you didn’t believe you could do. Doing the thing is the most irrefutable evidence that you are capable of it.

I do think this is about balance though and being very tuned in to a child. It is quite an art to know when to nudge and when not to. I have also written about a time we got it wrong – in Our Just-Right Challenge . On that occasion, I realised that the right level of challenge for LB is a little below what he’s actually capable of. I think that because he has to work so hard, all day, every day, to maintain regulation and to overcome the challenges of his Developmental Language Disorder , he doesn’t always have the resilience to be pushed to his full capability. It’s about getting it ‘just right’ – a level which will differ child to child and situation to situation. There will be days I can (and should) ask more of LB than others. On a day where the daily routine is challenge enough, he doesn’t need someone getting him to plough on with something even trickier. It comes back to being tuned in, something which can be hard to achieve in school if staff don’t know a child well enough.

So it’s about challenge and experiencing success. What else? I came across this quote yesterday, which is pretty pertinent:

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” (Peggy O’Mara)

When you think about it, that’s quite a responsibility, especially as some of our children will already have experienced years of potentially negative or destructive voices surrounding them and may already have a self-loathing inner voice. For those children it is doubly important we surround them with positivity. I think this is a difficult area because some children’s self-esteem is so rock bottom they cannot cope with praise and overly positive language: it is too dissonant with what they already believe. I suppose this is where the ‘relating’ that Dan Hughes talks about comes in – those children need adults to empathise with how they feel now before trying to get them to think differently. A child who thinks that poorly of themselves may see praise as superficial or given in error. It may stop them from trusting the person giving it.

I don’t know enough to make suggestions about how to proceed in that scenario, other than to take baby steps and go back to the literature for more expert advice.

I’m grateful that LB has always accepted praise and tends to lap it up. I do try to be specific in the way I give praise – “I thought the way you did that sum so quickly in your head was brilliant” is meant to be much more effective at building confidence than the more generic “good boy”. Verbalising exactly what they have done well is more likely to lead to a child doing that again. A generic “well done” can be quite vague, leaving a child wondering what it is that they’ve done well – was it that they were quiet or that they were sharing or that they remembered to say ‘please’? It may seem obvious to you, but you can’t assume it is obvious to them, so, as I always talk about in workshops, it’s best to be explicit.

I think when Peggy O’Mara wrote this quote, she didn’t just mean that we should praise our children, although that’s part of it. I think she meant that the way we speak to them as we go about our daily business is just as important. I like these suggestions for positive phrases to use:

positive things to say

 

Using phrases such as ‘I believe you’, ‘I trust you’, ‘you are good at’, ‘I really enjoyed doing x with you’ is a powerful way of working on a child’s confidence outside of specific tasks. Children are extremely tuned in to the ways we express ourselves – they often know if we are lying or uncertain and equally, they will read into the positive phrases we use. Hearing ‘I trust you to do x’ will surely tell them something about our thoughts and beliefs in them. If Mum or Dad trusts you to do something, then maybe you are a trustworthy kind of person. Whereas if all you hear is, “You can’t do that, I don’t trust you”, surely you build up an opinion of yourself that you, in general, are not to be trusted.

It’s not that I trust LB to do all tasks, because I don’t. But, I am careful to give him opportunities to do ones that are within his just-right challenge and to succeed at them. If I don’t trust him to do something (yet), I don’t tell him that. I might say that he’s too young, or ‘when you can do x, you will be able to do y’ so he knows what concrete steps have to be achieved first. This comes up a lot at our house because he has an older brother who is naturally ready to have more freedom than him. I am at pains to get across that this is due to age/ maturity and nothing to do with anything lacking in him as a person because I know that’s the direction his thoughts will take.

I suppose another thing we do, on reflection, is play down the negatives where possible and make a big deal out of achievements. When LB has gone up a reading level or tried extra hard at something, we let him choose a way to celebrate – sometimes he has stayed up to watch a football match or asked all the grandparents to go to the park with us. He loves the fuss of everyone saying how well he’s done and how proud they are. When he comes home and tells me he got a red card, I ask him what for and say something banal like ‘oh right’ and then, ‘well done for telling me’ because I don’t want him to be scared of doing so. Whatever it is has been dealt with in school and I’d rather encourage openness and honesty than punish him again. I try to show him that my interaction with him won’t change because of it and we move on.

I hope that the bigger reaction to positive achievements will be more memorable and formative for him.

I suspect I am more inclined towards making a drama of achievements because there are so many challenges – calls to the teacher, comments in the book, red cards for this, that or the other. I am determined to make him see he is more than that.

I did realise though, that in so doing, I was inadvertently doing BB a disservice. He doesn’t get red cards and I don’t get called in about his behaviour – he is very steady, knuckles down and just gets on. Consequently, there aren’t the same extreme highs and lows in parenting or educating him so he doesn’t always get the same extreme shows of praise or validation. Now that I’m conscious of this, I am trying to rectify it – obviously if he does something fabulous, he too gets to choose how to celebrate. We tell them both we’re proud of them all the time, because we are, but I need to be more alert to not letting BB’s consistent positive behaviour disappear under the radar.

I suppose my only other thought is that confidence is a thing which grows and dips throughout our lives. I still have days I feel more able to take on the world than others and I suspect everyone does. This isn’t about working to achieve an end goal of Being Confident. I think it’s more about acting and speaking in certain ways to create an environment conducive to confidence – both for our children and ourselves.

Confidence