After the disgraceful behavior displayed in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, we are in "punishment mode" at our house this week. Amberly has been grounded from her favorite thing - play dates and Neal has been grounded from the use of all electronic devices such as the Wii and the computer. Combined with the wet, cold weather and the stress from a torn-up house, it's just generally unpleasant around here.
During this past school year, it has not been that difficult to encourage Neal to practice the piano each afternoon. He's really pretty good. He has advanced quickly and he likes his teacher. But even more than that, he knows that unless he practices the piano for a half an hour, he can't play on the computer, play the Wii or go shoots hoops with the neighbor across the street.
Well, now these "privileges" have already been revoked for a time. He's angry and he's lashing out by refusing to practice the piano. Every afternoon this week when he got home from school, he screamed and cried and stomped about the house. Until he realized that I was not going to give in. I'm the mom. After all the wasted time spent throwing a fit, he finally sat down and practiced for the required time.
Yesterday he tried another tactic - the logical argument. Do not be fooled by the calm reasoning of a nine-year old. He might sound like he's reasonable and mature. However, his logic is always flawed and driven by emotion he doesn't really understand himself.
"You are spending so much money every week so that I can do something that I HATE. Think about how much money you could save if you let me quit."
"I only have so much time after school and homework and you are making me waste it."
"Grandma let Daddy stop playing the piano."
"I'm already good enough."
"If you really loved me, you'd let me quit the piano and play the guitar instead."
"You only want me to play so that you can sit and listen to beautiful music."
"If you can convince me that one day I'll be grateful that you are FORCING me to play the piano," he threatened, "I'll practice the piano."
"I am going to remember this and when I grow up, I will prove you wrong."
We've been over these discussions plenty of times before. And clearly, there is no way that I can convince a nine year old that one day, perhaps when he's 19 or maybe not until he is 35, he really will be grateful that I provided piano lessons and strongly encouraged him to practice. Even though there is enough evidence to prove my point, he won't really care. He's nine years old now and he can't even imagine ever being twenty.
And so it came down to this (again), "Neal, you will sit down and practice the piano for thirty minutes today BECAUSE I SAID SO."
Seriously, the most handy words a parent carries around in the parental arsenal of phrases. It strikes fear and annoyance into the hearts of every child. I hated hearing it when I was a kid because I knew there was nothing more I could say. How would a child possibly argue with that? The mom has just had the final word.
I am the mom. I have thirty some years of wisdom on my side. While I do not profess to know everything, I can promise that I have a lot more experience and I'm a lot better at making decisions than my nine year old. It is my job to teach him how to make good choices but it is also my job to make some of those good choices for him. He doesn't yet have the capabilities and wisdom to decide everything for himself.
For example, Neal has the choice of what attitude he takes to cub scouts. He can choose whether he goes happily each week to his den meeting and has a good time or he can choose to go with an unpleasant attitude and have a miserable time. That is his choice. But I decide that he will attend cub scouts.
I could let him quit the piano. Heaven knows it would be a lot more peaceful around here. But I would be setting up too many negative patterns for his future and I will not do that. I will put up with the battles and I will win.
After I squelched the piano practice argument with the "because I said so" line, Neal fell to pieces and threw a tremendous fit. Then, he got to sit on his oh-so-boring bed until he was willing to come down and practice the piano.
I'm grateful to be blessed with very headstrong and passionate children. Hopefully, one day, they'll be grateful for their very headstrong and passionate mother and that she FORCED them to practice the piano.