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Lilly, I have chopped up your letter in order to be a little more exact with my input. Because we are concerned parents, we are obligated to work hard. It seems like a fair trade off for the gifts we have been given.
He [7 y.o.] is downtrodden both when faced with a challenge and also when he repeatedly comes home with less than great behavior grades. He leaves the house happy and comes home happy but recently complains of being bored and doesn’t like school.
Most boys are often very different than girls in school performance and attitude. When the first child is a girl (and an extremely high performing one at that), despite our logically altered expectations, we (you) have an unrealistic baseline. Your description is pretty typical for a boy.... and especially a 6/7 yr old one. Boys will rarely express much enthusiasm about school. Me: "Justin, what are you favorite classes?" Justin (5th grade): "Well... I'd say P.E. and lunch. But not in that order."
I should also note that his older sister is put on a pedestal (by basically most everyone in life) for her amazing behavior and has always had a reputation of goodness and sweetness of nature.
Lucky y'all for having such a blessed child. But also lucky her for having appreciative, nurturing parents. However, that unwitting awesome baseline is a tough act to follow. Try to keep expectations accurate for each child.
He wakes every night 2-4 times a night every night for at least a year. He shares a room with two sisters and has no problem going to bed in his own room although he likes us to be upstairs while he is going to bed. This problem has ranged from fear of the dark, to nightmares, to just wanting to be with his parents.
Boy, sleep issues are a worrisome affair. Really, other than sucking up little stimulants like chocolate before bed, it's usually a guess as to the cause. Logically, we have to assume his little body has only been here for 7 years, and "systems" like sleep are still developing. One thing is pretty certain, everything is temporary. "Going with" an issue and making slight modifications along the way (see final link) is usually more successful than "putting your foot down" and demanding a change. *(ask my daughter sometime about "bumping)*. It's a good bet he won't be sleeping in your room on prom night. Remember that temporary thing.
We basically are caught between the worry that we are creating a problem vs. wondering if allowing him into the room halfway through the night is just the right thing for this particular child.
That's because y'all are smart, kind and concerned parents. The basic rule of thumb is this: if you love your child and if you are doing something to help your child, it may or may not work, but it will never screw up your kid. We parents rarely are certain we know what to do, but without seeming to hippie-ish, the Beatles had it almost completely right when they sang ♫All you need is love, love.... love is all you need.♪
Stay focused on the issue at hand, but expand your vision to the future as well. This boy won't be coming home for a visit with his adorable wife and first child and be the class clown in the living room. Deal with the present but logically always view the future. In other words, remember to look at the big picture.
Love and dedication conquers all.
PS Although the following essay deals more with behavioral/discipline issues, the principle is sound: Judo Rather Than Karate
http://www.johnsommercounseling.com/blog/issues-with-your-kids-use-some-martial-arts-on-em [copy and paste in your browser if you must]
PSS We usually have an easier time with the child who reminds us of ourselves. The kid(s) who are different take more work (and worry) because it doesn't come naturally to us. It may be more work, but we don't want to just raise a large family of clones....