I received a phone call from Big Guy's school yesterday: he was sleeping again. This has been a problem for months. He sleeps soundly for half the day, so much so that his grades have gone from straight A's to a mixture of C's and low B's and even a D. I have been after his residence to get him to the doctor (thyroid? anemia? apnea?) for a long time.They seem to be asleep at the wheel.
Last week Big Guy mentioned that the days he sleeps are the days he doesn't eat breakfast. Aha! you say -- as did we at first -- before we remembered that correlation doesn't tell us anything about causality. Is he tired from lack of food (three hours worth of can't-rouse-him-tired?) or simply too tired to eat? Dunno.
So while we're waiting for medical tests we will do a Big Cookie Test. I think every parent with a child who has issues (and most kids do, on one level or another) should know about Big Cookie Tests. They're a simple way to find out whether a child is capable of doing something or not. In Big Guy's case, what I want to know is this: can he stay awake at school if he really, really, really tries?
We've had situations where Big Guy's anxiety and fear are such a roadblock that he truly can't do what seem to be simple things. And before assigning consequences to a child because it appears he isn't trying or has a bad attitude, it's kind of important to know if it's possible for the child to do what you're asking. Sometimes it's not. You can dole out punishment to a child for being incredibly slow to finish homework, but if he's dyslexic those consequences won't make him read any faster.
So we will set up a big reward -- an unbelievably attractive "cookie" -- and put it out there to be obtained if Big Guy can go through an entire week of school without sleeping in class. The cookie has to be so incredibly desirable that if he is in any way capable of mustering the energy to earn it, he will. If he works hard at it but still cannot succeed, I will know that the sleeping problem is not a matter of attitude or willpower. If he tries his best and is only partly successful, I can conclude that something is going on that prevents him from succeeding consistently. And if he suddenly has no problem staying awake, our conundrum is solved.