Friday, May 20, 2011

Because I Said So . . .

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Well, now these "privileges" have already been revoked for a time.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.


Rheanna said...

I'm sure he'll go somewhere on his mission where they desperately need him to play the piano and then he'll appreciate you :o) I do love the power of the "because I said so" phrase---sorry it's been a rough week!

Mom of 12 said...

I see lots of moms who let their kids start something and then if they aren't happy they get to quit. My theory is that as a parent I want to give my kids all kinds of opportunities and then they can choose the areas they want to focus on. That said, I'm mean about some stuff...I require scouts and church activities. I won't let them quit anything mid-season, but after the season is over and a reasonable amount of time is over so that we can discuss things without passion, we decide together if there will be another season. I also require some sort of music (but I'm not as good as you with piano, usually it's an instrument like the clarinet or trumpet). There are so many choices for kids and parents to make but I think it's fun to see what they choose and how they grow! I've had band geeks, dancers, and even a drama queen...

Cindi said...

Mom of 12 -- I completely agree with you. We've had discussions and made decisions like letting Neal decide not to sign up for soccer the next year. And as he gets older we will let him choose a different musical instrument if he wants. He really does like piano. Normally, piano practice isn't a big deal and he often plays beyond his practice time. It's just become a battle of wills right now.

Heidi said...

Thank goodness there are moms like you. That's all I have to say. If I had quit the many times I had wanted to, I wouldn't be able to do the job that I love and I would have missed out on a lot of blessings in my life. It's such a good stress reliever too! Just tell him that all the girls will fall all over him if he keeps it up! ;) I know they loved hearing my brother play, that's for sure.

Bossy said...

My sassy 9 year old would take a nice long nap ignoring me on his boring bed as a punishment. Unfortunately the world seems to thing the rules are different because I have that "step" in front of Mom. It seems like it completely cancels out the authority in my "Because-I-Said-So" decrees. Cheers for sticking through his original grounding and making him practice.


Liesel said...

Since he does actually like it, it is good that you stick to him practicing. We do the "finish the season" thing and then decide on things. I've had ballet kids quit a couple days before a recital and I'm like what parent lets their kid decide that? With that said I was a kid my Mom made take piano. I hated it every minute. I took it for 6-7 years. Once I was allowed to quit I have never regretted it or played since (and I'm in my mid-30s now). Sometimes a certain thing just isn't your kid's thing...

Reyna said...

Sometimes headstrong and passionate children have a need to feel they have some control in their lives. (I know, I was one and had 5 of my own!?)

So if he has to practice any time before he goes to bed (or his siblings do if they go earlier) he can choose ANY time he wants. Of course "the fun stuff" will also have to wait until it's done too.

So he's reminded once and then it is let go. No more words about it. None. Each time we engage by giving explanations we give them "ammunition" to throw back at us. Ex.You- Because I love you. Him- If you loved me....

So what if it doesn't get done that day? Then he has the next day to make it up. Maybe giving a "free day off" coupon that can be used once every 2 weeks or?

If he holds out for a looonnnggg time then he is probably trying to say more and it'd be time to ask him, "How can I help you?"

Boy, I just got up on my pedestal and you didn't even ask for my advise nor do you know me.
Thank goodness for delete!

Good Luck! It is evident that you love your children very much and want what is best.