Bright but Disruptive 4Th Grader - Meeting on Friday -What to Ask For? (Long)

Updated on October 04, 2013
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
10 answers

Skip to the bottom if you don't like long preambles ;-)
Hi mamas - I've written about my second (middle) son before, who is a bit of a puzzle to me. He's now 9 and in 4th grade, and has two older siblings and a younger brother.

He is very bright - not to a degree that warrants testing and talk of skipping grades, but at the beginning of the year he knows all of the spelling words he needs to know by the end of year, reads a grade level or two ahead of his grade and consistently gets tests back with 100% plus extra credit. He's also a fast musical learner, playing piano and drums well with little instruction or practice, and has some drawing talent as well. Our school system doesn't do letter grades at this age but he's always meeting or exceeding standards except in areas of behavior, organization and work habits.

In school and at home he talks a lot, is always seeking attention of any sort, and has poor work habits. The work habits seem more a choice than a matter of not being able to do something. "I don't feel like it" is a common refrain, followed by "I know all of this already anyway" (which is certainly not always true). He does the work anyway because it's not optional at school or at home, but it's always with drama and discipline that's totally unnecessary.

As you can imagine, we've danced around an ADHD diagnosis for a while. We've had the Conner's survey filled out by us and teachers and have met with a few therapists and doctors but the general consensus is that while he's impulsive, this doesn't look like ADHD. We have an appointment with a developmental pediatrician in March 2014, the first opening she had available. At this point, he's never had any psycho-educational testing so I have no idea where his IQ is, etc. My state has no gifted and talented programming anyway so it's not as if there is something he could test into.

OK to the point - he has a two-teacher team this year and they have asked to meet with me on Friday. I know that we are on the same page in thinking that something is a bit "off" here and that something needs to change for him to improve his work habits and behavior in school. This is not the first time I've had such a conversation about him - this happened in K, 1 & 2 as well (but not last year - I guess she just put up with hiim). I think that the disruptiveness and attention-seeking/class clown behavior is now at a point where it's not age appropriate and is affecting the classroom.

Would it be obnoxious of me to request that the school do a basic evaluation of him? I was hoping to accomplish that via the behavioral pedi but I don't think we have time to wait. As the mom of someone with learning disabilities I am cognizent of not wanting to waste school resources on a child who is academically fine but I feel that without some baseline performance and behavioral metrics, we're shooting in the dark with what he's capable of and what the problem might be. I've had people suggest that perhaps he's "bored" or needs more challenging work but I don't have any data to back that up.

If you were me...what, if anything, would you ask the school to do? Any suggestions on how to help my child better control his behavior and understand that yes, homework and classwork are for everyone? In someways he has a bit of "I'm a special snowflake" attitude (because he knows he's considered smart) despite the fact that the work always ends up getting done anyway. At home I can control things by enforcing rules (basically relax a bit at first but then no fun until HW is done) but I can't control what happens school. They have created a private reward chart for him that rewards him for the positive behavior that they're looking for but the question is why is it so hard for him to just stop talking, stop clowning and do the darn work?

I appreciate any techniques, book recommendation, stories, or thoughts you'd like to share. Thank you in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone! SH I had to laugh out loud at your post. Yeah, that's my kid. Thinks he's the coolest thing since ice and has a posse of buddies who reinforce that idea. Thank you for the article - I took the time to read all of it (it was long) and it's riveting stuff. Well worth the read. Thanks all for the good tips and for the recommendation that I press for an evaluation - I will definitely request it and see what happens. At the end of the day, I think that if we can corral him and bit and channel his energy and efforts towards productive things, this boy will be a force of nature. I just have to find a way to have him not drive everyone crazy along the way.

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answers from Cleveland on

I just wondered if the guidance office could pair him up with an older student as a reward, don't know if they could work on a special project together or something, but it might a mentor might give him some positive attention.

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answers from Dallas on

Honestly, why NOT get him tested to see if he's farther ahead than you think he is. He may be super bored. Get him evaluated through the school, have him tested for gifted/talented. It seems everyone would benefit from knowing for sure what is going on academically and otherwise.

If he doesn't do the work at school, the teachers can't know what he can/can't do. Maybe that will help him do the work.

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answers from Boston on

Of course you have the right to ask for an evaluation! It's very important that you all have all the information to proceed.

In the meantime, may I suggest that the school consider the many ways (and perhaps they are doing this already) that they could help him?
Perhaps: assignment requiring deeper thought, scheduled breaks for physical motion once each task is done, etc.

Also , what are the rewards for chanelling his energy and sense of humor. Like discipline to stop behaviors, discipline to start behaviors is best given in a related manor. For example, if he deserves a reward perhaps he could spend 10 minutes planning the next class party/play/joke session.

Meanwhile, it's possible that some things could change at home that might help. (And I realize you may have done any or all of these things.)
Keep his schedule routine. Challenge him with changes within the routine. New types of books to read. New libraries to visit. A different love note under a different thing in his room each night. So, routine to keep his life under control, and unique challenges to keep him interested.

Involve him in the puzzle of how to help him at school. Let him know you are working on it with the other responsible adults, but that your going to brainstorm with him all the ways school could be better and all the ways he could do better. Then set the timer for 10 minutes and start writing whatever he says. Reject nothing. Explore nothing. Just take notes. If the timer dings and he's still talking, keep taking notes. Afterwards let him edit or explain anything he offered. This exercise can provide you with tons of insight.

And finally. I hope he has an interest/club/activity outside of school that he is truly involved in. Balance in life is so helpful. All my best!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Oh gee, there is a boy just like that at my kids' school, and he is now in the 5th grade.
And there is nothing wrong with him, per evaluations etc.
And he also has a "I'm a special snowflake" type attitude.
Good grief.
And he irks everyone at school.
Sure he's been talked to by the Teacher, had consequences etc.
But he thinks he's cool as heck.
And he has friends, and well they all think he's cool as heck too.
And gee, his Mom is a very prominent figure in the city.
He just thinks that nothing can happen to him.
And that he doesn't have to dance according to anyone else.
So the problem, is never solved.
And sure he's very bright.
But so what.
That doesn't mean anything, when everyone thinks you are a major pest and class clown.
And YES, he knows he's like that.
I even asked him once. He knows.
But he just does not care, to improve.
So the problem, does not end.
One day, as another person said at the school, he will get a real rude awakening, when someone just tells him off. Or worse.
Because one day, someone will not put up with him. In a civilized manner.

But sure, why not get your son evaluated through the school?
Use the resources you can.

Please also read this:

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answers from Dallas on

Get snowflake tested but insist that he hears the good and bad of the results.

Musical kids(and I had two) are notoriously impulsive and over the top. One of mine taught himself guitar and played drums.
I'd bet it's just his personality. Means you are in for the ride of your life.

Beware, they can crash pretty bad, too. Keeping him on an even keel is going to be difficult. Involve a music teacher in reigning him in. It can be his currency.

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answers from Chicago on

You certainly should get him evaluated. He might be super bored. But if he is disruptive in the class, this means he doesn't have good impulse control. So I still would not rule out Attention Deficit Disorder.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My daughter is a lot like your son, I think. She is in 4th grade as well (she is 8 though, a year ahead in school), but has the same issues. Fantastic grades, and no impulse control to speak of. Anyway, recently I read an article about ADHD without hyperactivity. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but evidently such a thing exists. I recently initiated the process of having her tested. I don't know from your post if your son has actually been tested for ADHD? If not, you should certainly request a formal assessment. For us, I called our healthcare provider (a big HMO) and told them I'd like my daughter assessed. They had me fill out a giant stack of forms, I had an interview (without my daughter there) with a child psychiatrist, who agreed it sounded like something was a little "off" about my daughter's behavior, and we set up a group evaluation (before which I have to fill out another large stack of papers). Evidently, that's how they test for ADHD. It actually sounds like it would be really funny to be a fly on the wall - they have a group of about 30 kids who need to be assessed and they have them all go into a classroom and perform various tasks. Then, they just sit back and watch. From this, they can tell which kids are hyperactive, which ones are inattentive, which ones have impulse control problems... some will have all three. During that time, they have the parents go to a seminar of some sort. Anyway, if you haven't had that done with your son, you may want to insist on it. I've had teachers say specifically that they didn't think my daughter had ADHD because she isn't hyperactive. But hyperactivity is not a prerequisite for ADHD, it is only one symptom in an array of possible symptoms.

Anyway, I would certainly press for a full assessment by the school district, or if such a thing is available from your healthcare provider, then you could pursue it that way as well.

PS: Our school district also doesn't do gifted and talented anymore. I ended up pulling my daughter out of public school, and now we homeschool. This is allowing me to work with her on her behavior and give her some tools with which to manage herself, and at the same time she can move forward academically as quickly as she wants/needs to.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I am not sure why you don't think he is gifted if he is reading 1-2 grade levels ahead and seems to be exceeding the level of the work he is given.Why would you have good work habits if you were simply coasting and bored? I think you need to discuss this with the school and request that he be tested. I am surprised that if he is always getting 100% on things and his reading is so far ahead, that he has not been tested already.

It does NOT matter if there is no state funding for GT in your state if you have a gifted kid. If your child is gifted, then it is your responsibility to find him the services he needs. That might mean private school, home schooling, working with teachers and administration within his school to provide differentiated instruction or even moving to a state that recognizes that gifted children are worth investing in. But you CANNOT just ignore it and hope it goes away. That would be the equivalent of having a disabled child in a school without services and just expecting that child to make do. So what that he/she can't walk and there are no school provided wheelchairs. Your state doesn't care, so you must.

My elementary school didn't have a gifted program. So my parents advocated for my brother and me, we were tested and each skipped a grade. It made a HUGE difference in our attitudes towards school, work habits and to his behavior in class (he would likely have been in the principal's office for acting up on a regular basis, instead, he graduated with honors and went on to Princeton).

Sometimes the kid who is the class clown really is a special snowflake. And rather than eventually getting their comeuppance as some posters have suggested, will someday find their appropriate peer group and THRIVE. Our biggest class clown in junior high school was our high school valedictorian and has had a wonderful time since he graduated from MIT. Fortunately, he had parents and teachers who recognized his potential, not just his disruptive tendencies.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Don't feel at all bad about asking for testing. You said he is a year or two ahead but you are only guessing. My oldest was an underachiever in school but I knew she was pretty bright. I asked her 3rd grade teacher to have her evaluated and she didn't think it was warranted. She did however point out that my daughter was typically the last to open her book and often didn't know what page the class was on. I took her for private testing not knowing if I had requested the testing in writing the school district can't refuse to test. Anyway... Long story short my 3rd grader was reading and comprehending between a 9th grade 8 month level and an 11th grade 8 months level depending on the test administered. I was in shock. We also learned that although my daughter scored off the charts in reading (perfect score) she was pretty average in math. Very unusual! As a result the school provides a GIEP for her and she is now an honor roll student in HS. It felt like it took a long time to get here though. Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi JB,

I agree with the posts below. I will also say, and try not to be too negative, that in our experience public school is not the place for kids like ours. They are not equiped with the resources and specialized teaching that these kids really need. Any additional resources are devoted to the other side of the bell curve. I am not saying that the kids with disabilities and other challenges don't deserve every moment of attention that is provided. What I am saying is that the kids who qualify for MENSA are not provided for in the least, at least here in MI. We've chosen, and are fortunate enough to be able, to provide our DS with private school. I wince every time I write a tuition check that rivals what a college freshman pays but I know it is worth it because I see him flourishing in this environment.

I know this might be off the mark and a little venting in and of itself. I apologize for any soapbox shouting but this topic hits a nerve with me and I am trying to be supportive as you work through this.

One last thing......never forget you are his most and best advocate. No one knows him better than you and no one can speak more clearly for him than you. Trust that inner mommy alarm and you will be just fine!! good luck! S.

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