How to Train Your Dragon

Baby girl is T-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-CKED.

Yesterday, she came home with a test sporting a…less than satisfactory…grade. In big red ink.

We’re fairly lenient with the schoolwork. C (or, “average,” if you’re not familiar with letter grades) is acceptable as long as they studied—and especially if I’m sure they know the material. Sometimes the test questions are difficult to understand as written, even for me. I re-word the question, and if the child can answer, we move on.

Two years ago, I had concerns that report cards would never include A or B grades. I was wrong (and I’m thrilled). We don’t mind average grades, but we want them to feel successful. The kids have both had recent academic success as the educational pieces fall into place in their brains. We’ve had opportunities to celebrate both B (“above average”) and A (“excellent”) this year.

“D” grades (“below average”) are indicative of a few possibilities:

  1. ineffective studying
  2. distracted during testing
  3. limited understanding

Whenever the kids bring home any grade D or lower, I request a clean copy of the test questions. The kids study with me again and retake the test at home (not for a grade, but to be sure they’ve retained the information). Sometimes our guy can rattle off all the answers before our study session (and the teacher verifies he was distracted by a fly zipping and dive-bombing throughout test time).

His batlike hearing is a “gift” of trauma; his body is always on alert. It is a detriment in so many ways. He hears—and is distracted by—everything most others tune out. The fly. Fluorescent lights buzzing. The TV upstairs at bedtime. Raindrops hitting a window. Me, solitary in the pantry, wrapper in hand. “Hey, is that chocolate? Can I have a piece?”

On the other hand, he heard two separate leaks in our house and saved us thousands of dollars in potential damage, so…two sides to every coin. 

Once we determine the underlying cause of the D, the child, teacher and I work together to help sinking grades rise to C level. (Nerd joke, sorry.)

F (“failing”) is another situation.

Because when our kids tank a test, it’s SPECTACULAR failure.

A failing grade means one of two things:

  1. didn’t bother studying
  2. didn’t bother trying

and neither is an option at our house.

To solve the “didn’t study” issue, their teachers now send a group text to parents showing the test calendar so we can prompt the kids to read their notes.

Group text means that either

  1. other children have the same issue, or
  2. they don’t want to make us feel bad, so they send it to everyone. 

I like to pretend it’s #1.

Our girl decided she didn’t need to read her notes but told me she’d studied enough. I took her word for it (stop rolling your eyes).

Then the test came home.

I found out she hadn’t studied.

The children’s teachers require them to spend at least 15 minutes reading every day during homework time. This morning, I informed our girl that she would need to spend that time reading her notes instead of her usual fiction.

“I have to spend that time reading a BOOK. The reading teacher said so,” she steamed.

“Well,” I said, “if you can show me that you learned all the information on your study guide on Monday, you can read fiction the rest of the week.”

She glared at me and snapped, “I can’t learn it ALL in 15 minutes.”

I could feel my frustration bubbling higher. My goal this month is to react less to her antics, since we know she’s looking for attention (and seems to prefer negative). Whooooooooosahhhhhhhhh


Photo Credit: Josh Janssen

She continued to argue her point as we loaded up for school. I stayed silent as she complained. Finally, she said, “Well, they’re not going to like that AT ALL.”

“Who won’t?” I wasn’t sure what she meant.

The School. They said we have to read a book for 15 minutes each day. They won’t like it when I tell them you won’t let me read books.” Smug smile.

Inside me:


Photo Credit: fortherock

I recognized the you-know-nothing tone she used. I was a snotty-attitude-thinks-adults-are-idiots-pre-teen once, myself. This didn’t help.

Breathing, I soothed the inner dragon back to Komodo size.


Photo Credit: Naparazzi

“You’re right.” I smiled.

She looked up, shocked. “I am?”

I nodded. “Yes, you definitely need to have your reading time. I shouldn’t interfere with what your teacher requires. Instead of replacing your reading time, we’ll just add 15 minutes of studying each day you’re assigned homework. You can read your notes for a quarter hour AND still read your books. Problem solved!”

Eyes narrowed, she said, “I don’t like that plan.”

By this time, I didn’t even have to pretend to be cheery. “Oh, but you argued so well for keeping your reading time. And I’d hate for the school to be upset…so I think this is perfect.”

She crossed her arms. “But…that’s like…a HUNDRED AND TWENTY MINUTES.”

I tried not to laugh (I did, really). “Perhaps we need to add math practice.”

She grunted and gave the seat in front of her a little kick, then turned to glower out the window.

“So,” I said, “what can you learn from this morning’s discussion?”

She muttered something, then said louder, “that I hate science and I don’t care about the solar system so I shouldn’t have to study them.”


“That I hate studying and I’m mad.”

I shook my head. “No, but great job identifying your emotions. Actually, what you’ve learned this morning is that arguing with your Mama will not end well for you and you probably shouldn’t do it.”

By this time we were in the queue for drop-off in front of the school.

She grumbled out the door, followed by her brother.

Rolling down the window, I called, “Love you guys!”

He echoed back. She ignored me.

Ahhhhhh, pre-teen life.

And we’ve got at least seven more years of hormones ahead of us.

Can’t wait.

Please, if you have any secrets for surviving the teen years, share below. 




About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on February 3, 2016, in Adoption, Blogging101, parenting, Writing101 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. There was a boy in my daughter’s Grade 1 Class who interpreted grades as follows
    A – Awful
    B – Bad
    C – Careless
    D – Disgusting
    E- Excellent
    F – Fantastic

    He always felt bad that while he always got F my poor girl only got A’s !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Salt Machine

    Just would like to add, you really should not tell a child to not do an assigment, it will affect them negatively in school. That reading was an assignment, and her teacher expects her to do that. I was very glad by the end both the reading and studying should be required, as that is how it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. C-level! I am cracking up. 🙂

    As for surviving the teenage years, I think you could teach me a lot! One thing I have learned is that it is way easier with more than one adult. United supportive front helps keep the boundaries in place and shared disciplining helps ease the load. Don’t forget to take those breaks now and then! (I try to do too much on my own!) And TONS of prayer. Do you have someone regularly uplifting you in prayer? I asked a close and special friend to pray for the girls (and me) on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad someone else laughed at that! 😉 You give excellent advice! Yes, all of the above. I can’t imagine doing this alone. Hubby and I lean on each other a lot. Right before we lost our minds, we took a break that first year and we’ve been doing it ever since, to stay sane. At least once a year we go away for a long weekend. Writing provides good therapy, as does reading. I listen to audio books, including the Bible, which helps me get my mind straight. Speaking of which, I just finished “A Man Called Ove” which I found insanely funny (mostly because I know a few grumpy old men). I think you’d like it. I had to listen on earbuds because it’s not really for kids…Ove has very grumpy language sometimes. 🙂
      I have two friends here (also both adoptive moms); they pray for me and vice versa. And of course I have amazing blogging buddies like you!!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, that snotty tone is soooo familiar – already, even though my son is only eleven! I so wish I had some wise advice to impart, but I think I handle situations much worse than you do. I’m looking to you for advice, Casey!
    Our boy had to have a good talking to last night because of his unacceptable attitude. We don’t allow him to talk to us without respect, not even when he’s had a bad day – I hate to hear the way some kids talk to their parents, don’t you?
    I feel for him at the same time, though. These years are tough and I remember them very clearly. You’re brain is so messed up and you don’t know how to handle much of what’s happening to you. Not easy.
    You handled that situation brilliantly, by the way. One dragon trained!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the main thing I have to remember is something I read in a parenting book. Evaluate YOUR/MY response to what they’re doing. If I feel annoyed or get that feeling in my chest like “gonna drown you or myself, one or the other…” (please don’t report me, this is for illustrative purposes only), it’s because they are pushing our buttons. We’re giving them the reaction they want, which means that they are effectively in charge. And we’ve willingly handed them the reins.

      I have an easily-sparked dragon residing in my soul, which can be an asset, but definitely needs to be controlled. Today was a success, but I can freely admit that things are not always so calm. But I always feel awful when I lose my temper and it really accomplishes nothing. In fact, she gets this “ha!” look on her face as soon as my voice hits a certain decibel. I’m trying to train myself to give calm consequences even when I feel like breathing fire! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • And yes, it DOES drive me batty to hear kids’ disrespect aimed at adults. We have an agreement with several of our friends—if you hear disrespect from our kids, feel free to step in, and if we hear it from yours, we’ll do the same. It works well, because it reinforces with the kids that “their” parents aren’t the only ones who expect respect.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny, that still has not changed a lot even with adult daughters who now have daughters who are teaching them how it feels to deal with it all. Payback as my daughter days.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Aahhh, yes! So THIS is what I have to look forward to from my now 11yr old daughter!!!??? You wouldn’t happen to have advice on taming my inner lion now would ya? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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