While teachers don’t diagnose students, it’s important for them to keep an eye out and notice children’s mannerisms. I had a student in kindergarten once that struggled greatly with obsessive behaviors. When all the other students were told to stop coloring and come to the carpet, he would continue to color for another ten minutes if allowed. When he was told firmly it was time to come to the carpet, he would begin to cry because his work wasn’t finished.It became a daily battle, as the class worked to stay on schedule, and the poor boy wanted nothing more than to finish his work perfectly.
And though he got in trouble for some defiant, ill-chosen words toward his teacher, his teacher and I quickly realized he wasn’t doing it to rebel. In his mind, it didn’t matter if we told him not finishing his coloring sheet was okay. In his mind, he needed to finish that coloring sheet. If he didn’t, something bad might happen, despite the fact that we guaranteed him it wouldn’t.
That child was an early case. I’ve noticed similar behaviors, however, in children of other grades as well, particularly in second and third. Unfortunately, as a substitute, I often don’t know which child will struggle with this until we’ve had at least one battle over following directions and finishing an assignment perfectly. There are a few ways I’ve learned to help these students, however, so we can avoid conflicts and tears and allow the child to feel successful.
- If it’s possible, I try to build in time for the child to work on unfinished work later in the day. Sometimes it’s time set aside specifically for the students to work on unfinished work, and sometimes, it’s simply whispering to a particular student that he may work on his math during silent reading. Nothing productive will come from a battle filled with tears and angry insults coming from a child who is simply frustrated by his own anxiety.
- Draw clear guidelines for time constraints before beginning the seat work. Instead of simply handing the children the assignment, and then suddenly announcing that time’s up, I’ve found that giving the children 10, 5, and 1 minute warnings can help children use their time more wisely.
- Whenever possible, I try to reassure children that I don’t expect perfection. If we were perfect, I tell them, none of us would need to attend school. I do tell them, however, that I expect them to try. Then, what happens happens.
In My Own Life
The same tips I give to students are really those that are useful in my own life, because I’m not cured of my perfectionism yet. The longer I’m a functioning (at least, somewhat) adult, the more I’m realizing that in order to be rid of the anxiety, I need to do what I tell my students to do: just let go. Here are some ways I am learning to manage the OCD demands in my life:
- Lay out the steps to making a decision – Much in the way I talk about beating procrastination anxiety, I’ve found that physically writing down each baby step in a decision can help focus my efforts and lower my anxiety.
- Choose a priority – In some areas, my priority is saving money, sometimes it’s taking care of His creation, and in others, it’s taking care of someone who needs it, despite the money I may be spending unexpected. It’s hard to break out of my plans, but with prayer and experience, God is proving to me that the unexpected isn’t always bad.
- Finding God’s mercy – Little has helped me more than reading about God’s mercy in the Bible. And while it may seem a little crazy to need God’s grace in choosing a bathroom cleaner, I do need it. We all do. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m learning that no matter how imperfect my decisions are, I can’t make a mistake that God will not use to some good in the end.
Does decision making slow you down? Do you have any tips for making the decision making process any easier? Please share your thoughts and questions in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!