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Old 04-21-2014, 06:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is a follow-up question to what I posted in Miranda's thread: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1400611/finding-the-right-amount-of-structure

 

My 10yo is not loving piano these days - not liking it, even. He decided to take lessons last year, loved it, wanted to go back, but this year has been a struggle. I've tried to support him with keeping it up because, at the time, he does seem to love it when he does it, and there was obvious issues about it not being challenging enough for him so things we could do to address it, but honestly I don't think that either myself or the piano teacher has done a very good job of it. So now we have about 6 more classes left to the year and he's refusing to do any homework, hasn't touched the piano in weeks, and refused to go to class last week (it's a group class that he normally loves and is what kept him going even when he wasn't enjoying the actual work).

 

He's said he doesn't want to do piano again next year. That's fine, but I don't know if we should just let him drop it now or 'make' him finish out the year. It seems so sad to stop so close to the end of a year! I can't decide what the bigger lesson to learn here is. I don't want to fight him about it, but I'm worried he'll add 'not finishing piano' to his mental list of things he's failed at.

 

The other thing is he's lapsing on his care duties for his gerbils (that he wanted to get). I'm in love with these little guys so in reality it's been shared duties since the start. But I feel like he needs to keep up his side - it's not fair to them otherwise. He's feeding them, giving them lots of stuff to chew etc, but where he's lapsing is getting them out of the tank into their playpen. I know that's partly because they are proving very skittish and he can't hold them yet, so it's disappointing for him, but if he kept up the daily 'taming' activities he'd get to holding them sooner! So how do I talk to him about this?

 

Sometimes I dream of having a checklist of daily things for him to do that he just does like a happy robot without any grumbling...

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Old 04-21-2014, 09:06 AM
 
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Why is he having difficulty with his lessons?  Is he just losing interest?  Or is he not living up to his own expectations?  Like you said "failing at one more thing".  Is there a bigger issue here?

 

In general, I would have no problem letting my girls quit something, but if there is a larger issue, I'd be doing them a disservice if I didn't examine it more closely first.  Nothing wrong with quitting in and of itself!  Fine, more time for other stuff that generates its own energy and interest.   But it's not always that simple, is it?

 

If it is possible he's dragging his feet because of some sense of failure, I would question the group setting (comparison to others, the instructor not identifying the issue because he gets "lost" in the crowd) and perhaps even this particular instructor, if s/he is not able to assist with the problem professionally.

 

Or maybe it's time for some deschooling (delessoning?) that would allow him to find the value of creating music in his own life outside the context of lessons?  I had lessons for 3-4 years, and that was enough to support my interests for the next 40.  If you can't find a context for creating music in your own life, why why why are we learning it?  If it's not about the music but about something else gained from the lessons, can't we gain that somewhere else?  I had some good sheet music and books, kept buying it from songs I liked (musicals, movie themes, old songs introduced to me from movies, those were the usual places I'd get inspiration.)  I kept plunking around on the piano and also on the guitar.  It served.


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Old 04-21-2014, 09:19 AM
 
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As for the gerbil, my own requirements for pets like this (pet sit that animal for 2 weeks at least) don't apply as you already own these.  Unlike the piano, you can't just quit on an animal.  Part of that is play and contact, so I would need to be unconcerned with any possible impression that "mom can get him to calm down and play and be handled but I can't".  Get the gerbil out and see if you can't acclimate him to handling.  Find some good books on gerbil games to construct.  

 

Maybe this particular gerbil is not going to be socialized enough.  It happens, sometimes without any fault of the person.  Also, different animals respond differently to children.  Some become edgier, others more mellow.  Your son needs to know that some animals take more intense attention to become gentle and calm, others will never be that way despite a person's diligent efforts.

 

Get those gerbils out yourself and get them calm.  I know, I know, they were his idea.  But do it. It sounds like you enjoy them.  Get them calm and then get them calm around him and he might have more patience when this batch passes and he might want more.


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Old 04-21-2014, 01:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts, SweetSilver!

 

I might have been projecting a bit with the things he failed at comment! Maybe it's me that has that list, for myself. But he and I are very much alike, and he does beat himself up for a lot of things, says he's not good at things, he's stupid, etc. So it's a concern.

 

He's not having difficulty with his lessons. Some of the theory gets a bit tricky for him and he's never particularly enjoyed the written homework, but the songs haven't been challenging enough for him to play this year, and he's been able to coast by with minimal work. There's only four other kids in the class, so it's not so much as getting lost in the crowd as a more general dropping-the-ball on the part of myself and the teacher in finding him songs that are challenging enough. He *used* to play with the piano much more during his first year and the summer of lessons, playing around with it, practicing songs of his own choosing, but for whatever reason he's lost interest this year.

 

I think this all started out of fear, but now that it's progressed so far he has negative feelings towards the piano and I'm not sure he can get past that. By fear, I mean I think it might have started out of fear of not being good enough - because he is good, and people told him that, and so there were expectations.

 

It's like writing - I read a story he wrote over a year ago and I was really impressed, let him know it, and he hasn't written since. Oh! He  did start writing a comic last week, so maybe it's coming back a bit.

 

So, yeah, I'm not sure what to do. :(

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Old 04-21-2014, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh I do get the gerbils out! Mostly every day, but not for as long as I'd like. What you're saying is exactly what the plan is - because they respond better to me than him, and because I'm more confident handling them, the idea is to get them used to me and then move on to getting used to him. But they aren't even at the stage where I can pick them up. We take them out of their tank in a jar and then either they go in their playpen, or if I'm there, I sit on the bed and they run over my lap and up my arms and stuff. We hand feed them etc. He does that. It's the playpen that's being ignored. I've suggested we make some new things for them in their playpen but he's just not interested. So I'm doing it, but it just reinforces that he doesn't have to take care of them in that way, that I'll do it for him.

 

And oi! Don't talk about my babies passing! Wash your mouth out!! :)

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Old 04-21-2014, 01:42 PM
 
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 So I'm doing it, but it just reinforces that he doesn't have to take care of them in that way, that I'll do it for him.

 

You're right, it does send that message, but unfortunately with animals it's one that you can't get around.  If it is more than you can handle, the it's more than you can handle and it's time to find them a new home.  

 

Maybe he just doesn't see the need in the same way you do, and you might be unlikely to convince him otherwise.  I know dh and I are constantly back and forth with our chickens.  "They need more room to run!"  "They have plenty!"  Short of crap on the porches and them devouring the rhubarb, I say "Let them roam!  The more the better!"  He respectfully disagrees.  It has been 4+ years looking for the middle ground.

 

 

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And oi! Don't talk about my babies passing! Wash your mouth out!! :)

 :p  So sorry.  Our 5th year with chickens, death is just something that happens.  The outlook tends to rub off in other areas.  We do our best.  They die sometimes, sooner than we want or expect.  Sigh.


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Old 04-21-2014, 01:58 PM
 
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BTW, my girls are the opposite with our animals--cat and chickens.  I do the necessary maintenance and they focus on the playing.  They are 7 and 9 and we have been learning Chicken Chores for 5 years, and they've shown them for fair the last 2 and included their knowledge in last year's county 4-H public presentations.  Their involvement has increased slowly but surely.  I don't have the issue of having the chickens be "their idea".  I have raised 2 batches of chicks just to have birds small enough for them to handle in front of the judges, but otherwise they are my project.  They would love to have corn snakes and hamsters one day--not in the same pen, at least that's not the plan!  :blush 

 

ETA: It's been so long now, owning chickens, it's part of their identity.  They were selling girl scout cookies in front of the grocery store, and they were recognized--"Hey!  You're the Chicken Girls!"  They'd heard that before-- the Chicken Girls of _____ County!


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Old 04-21-2014, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You're right, it does send that message, but unfortunately with animals it's one that you can't get around.  If it is more than you can handle, the it's more than you can handle and it's time to find them a new home. 

 

Whoa, jumping the gun a bit there, aren't you? I never said I couldn't handle it. I am handling it. I just want him to be a part of it, and I was asking for advice on how to help that happen. And getting rid of our pets because one family member is having a slight lack of interest in them is not an option. They are part of our family. :)

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:15 PM
 
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Whoa, jumping the gun a bit there, aren't you? I never said I couldn't handle it. I am handling it. 

Perhaps, but just operating on incomplete information due to the nature of the medium.  He's not doing all of what you think needs to be done.  You would like him to do more of certain things, especially since he was the one who wanted them.  Perhaps it's not more than you can handle, but if you are wanting a different arrangement, it's easy to assume it's more than you can or want or are willing to do on your own.  

 

 

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 I just want him to be a part of it, and I was asking for advice on how to help that happen. And getting rid of our pets because one family member is having a slight lack of interest in them is not an option. They are part of our family. :)

My way of helping that happen is to be interested myself, but that doesn't guarantee a sustained interest for the kids.  Maybe someone has more specific advice on how to turn it around so he will willingly help out.  I've only done that with time and with an interest that was continual and strong.  Maybe he doesn't have that, or maybe he needs more tools to be able to commit to his interests, if it's a matter of that.  I just know that the fact of it being a living thing complicates the issue and prevents taking certain actions--if the legos collect dust and grime due to fading interest, it's not a problem.


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Old 04-21-2014, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Perhaps, but just operating on incomplete information due to the nature of the medium.  He's not doing all of what you think needs to be done.  You would like him to do more of certain things, especially since he was the one who wanted them.  Perhaps it's not more than you can handle, but if you are wanting a different arrangement, it's easy to assume it's more than you can or want or are willing to do on your own.  

 

 

My way of helping that happen is to be interested myself, but that doesn't guarantee a sustained interest for the kids.  Maybe someone has more specific advice on how to turn it around so he will willingly help out.  I've only done that with time and with an interest that was continual and strong.  Maybe he doesn't have that, or maybe he needs more tools to be able to commit to his interests, if it's a matter of that.  I just know that the fact of it being a living thing complicates the issue and prevents taking certain actions--if the legos collect dust and grime due to fading interest, it's not a problem.

 

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Perhaps, but just operating on incomplete information due to the nature of the medium.  He's not doing all of what you think needs to be done.  You would like him to do more of certain things, especially since he was the one who wanted them.  Perhaps it's not more than you can handle, but if you are wanting a different arrangement, it's easy to assume it's more than you can or want or are willing to do on your own.  

 

I'm sorry you assumed so wrongly. I guess my comments about how much I love them, don't joke about them dieing, clarifying that I am doing everything that needs to be done to help 'tame' them etc steered you wrong.

 

As for the rest of your comment, yes, that's basically my approach too. I'm just frustrated at the moment that it's not a quick fix, I guess. Or a fix at all, given free will and all that jazz. I think I was curious whether any unschoolers here take the 'pet care is non-negotiable' approach.

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:35 PM
 
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It sounds to me like the piano program isn't a great fit for him (maybe he's outgrown it?). I wouldn't see dropping that as being about your son at all, but about rejecting a program/teacher that isn't working. A year's worth of inappropriate music choices is a pretty big deal, IMO-- if it were me, I would be quite unhappy with the teacher about that. 

 

 

In our house, pet care is non-negotiable, but I do a lot of reminding. Will he work with the gerbils if you remind him? Or does he refuse? 

 

If I agreed to a pet with the understanding a child was going to provide a substantial amount of care, and the child refused to provide the care, we would seriously consider looking for another home for that pet. But if it's a question of failing to remember, that would be different. 

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Old 04-21-2014, 02:46 PM
 
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Chocolove, Sweet Silver took the time to write you 5 well thought out posts. Take what you can use and leave the rest. No need to lash out on the differing opinions.
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Old 04-21-2014, 03:05 PM
 
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I'm sorry you assumed so wrongly. I guess my comments about how much I love them, don't joke about them dieing, clarifying that I am doing everything that needs to be done to help 'tame' them etc steered you wrong.

 

No, but expressing the desire to have your son help out more did:

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 But I feel like he needs to keep up his side - it's not fair to them otherwise. 

If you are taking care of all their needs, then the gerbils aren't caring who does the work,  so, this statement *did* steer me wrong.  I always like to understand the situation clearly, and to express my thoughts clearly.  I also like to be shown a bit more understanding when I'm failing.  I never do it willfully and I feellike your responses to me are inappropriately sharp.  As to your quip on not mentioning them dying, it was worded in a "playful" way and while I took you seriously didn't feel like you were offended by it.  Clearly, I was misled on that point.

 

I'm fine with having my advice be rejected as not what people are aiming for.  I get advice like that all the time, and I often give advice that is not accepted.  All I ask is that people are more generous and kind in their rejection.  

 

My answer to your last question is that pet care is not non-negotiable in our house.


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Old 04-21-2014, 03:46 PM
 
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I think I was curious whether any unschoolers here take the 'pet care is non-negotiable' approach.

 

Not here. I know that when kids take on some new type of endeavour for the first time, they really don't have the life experience or capacity for abstract thought that allows them to really understand what they're taking on. I do my best to explain what I think it'll be like, but they won't really get it until they've lived it. Therefore I cut them some slack if their commitment wavers.

 

As they get older and have more experience under their belts, I do expect more ability to follow through. My 11-year-old has had years of experience with violin lessons, so if she took on piano lessons, I'd expect her commitment to that to be firmer and more mature, for being more fully-informed. 

 

I can understand a kid wanting gerbils, and having this idea that they're going to involve a fair bit of responsibility in terms of feeding and cleaning and so on, but expecting that committing to this work will be repaid fairly soon by being able to enjoy cuddling and playing with them. Even if intellectually he knew that there would probably be a 'get-to-know-you' phase that would take time, his expectations didn't really take that fully into account. And then when that payoff doesn't seem to be coming, when the animals don't seem to like him at all and aren't allowing the handling and playing and cuddling he thought he'd get, well, the whole experience is rather different than what he thought he was committing to. He may have been fully informed, but he didn't fully understand, not viscerally.

 

My ds did community soccer when he was 10 or so, a ten-week program of teams and games. He liked soccer. We talked about the commitment to attend practices, and run and do drills and be physically active even if you were tired or sore, and that coaches sometimes shouted to get kids' attention, and that sometimes kids would get injured playing, and how long games were, and how score was kept and all that. He was prepared for all that, and wanted to sign up. But what became a huge challenge for him was something I hadn't thought to explain to him because I just hadn't realized how much of a problem it would be for him: how emotionally embroiled his team-mates got in the competitiveness of games. They'd get angry and volatile, or mean-spirited and loud, when faced with trying to score points and win games ... and even if his team won, he could see the same kind of upset amongst the other team. It was all too much for him: he'd cry in the car after every game, win or lose, because of the stress of witnessing other kids' raw angry emotions. He made it through the season, but barely and only thanks to a couple of missed games as a result of illness. If it had been a three-month thing I think I would have let him bow out early. He just hadn't known what it would really be like for him to experience that.

 

So I think that holding fast on a commitment is a good value to strive towards, but I think there should be some slack cut when the commitment wasn't made with a full understanding of what the reality would be.

 

I agree with SweetSilver about piano. I think it's time to change things up, either by moving to private lessons with the teacher, or by changing teachers, or by taking a break and then trying these or other solutions. Group classes can work well if the interests and abilities are at the same level, but once there's a spread in levels, I think group classes need to be replaced by private lessons, or else become supplemental to them. I'd talk to your ds first, then talk to his current teacher if he's okay with that, to basically say "This isn't working for him right now" and discuss alternatives, and take it from there depending on what comes out of those discussions. Being one myself I know that music teaching needs to be responsive to changing needs and to waxing and waning levels of motivation. If your teacher is creative and flexible, you may get a lot of support in working towards an instructional style that better meets his current needs. If she is unable or unwilling to work outside her current model, then it's probably time to look elsewhere. 

 

Miranda


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Old 04-21-2014, 04:12 PM
 
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Perhaps looking at switching piano teachers for next year is worth it?

 

I'd totally make my son finish out the piano year, though. Music is an important skill, and it's very rewarding, but it is hard work. Hard work sucks to do. No one *likes* hard work exactly, but we all have to do it. But the reward is: playing an instrument is awesome!

 

I grew up in a household where we had to do our practicing and homework. My mom wasn't even that mean about it (like my husband's mom, lol). We just had to do it, and quitting wasn't really a thing, because music was just something everyone did, like learning how to read and related life skills.

 

As a trade off, though, we were never allowed pets because my mom said she didn't want to have to take care of them. :)

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Old 04-21-2014, 04:21 PM
 
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I'd totally make my son finish out the piano year, though. Music is an important skill, and it's very rewarding, but it is hard work. Hard work sucks to do. No one *likes* hard work exactly, but we all have to do it. But the reward is: playing an instrument is awesome!

 

But the problem here isn't that he dislikes hard work, it's that the teacher is giving him assignments that are too easy. It's a waste of his time.

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Old 04-21-2014, 07:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No, but expressing the desire to have your son help out more did:

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 But I feel like he needs to keep up his side - it's not fair to them otherwise. 

 

If you are taking care of all their needs, then the gerbils aren't caring who does the work,  so, this statement *did* steer me wrong.

 

I can see how that comment taken out of context of everything else I said gives that impression. But considering everything else I *did* say, I find it frustrating you only focus on that. And when I clarified that I *am* handling it, you responded with "Perhaps". So, yeah, my response to that was snippy. I am sorry for that. You said that my responses (plural) to you have been inappropriately sharp? I honestly don't see that at all. The dead gerbil comment I did not take offence to, hence the :). I only mentioned it as an example of how I'd commented on my affection for these little guys.

 

And you are right that this medium makes it difficult - I guess I didn't give enough detail at other times to explain that the time I spend with the gerbils I see as separate to their 'free play' in the playpen. I feel it is important that they get as much time out of their tank as possible. I have a hard time with animals in cages, and he and I discussed this a lot ahead of time. And time spent directly with him will get him closer to holding them faster than them only spending time with me. So just because I am doing what I'm doing doesn't mean I feel like the other stuff shouldn't happen too. But that's an ideal, and these gerbils are well loved and well cared for, even without daily playpen time.

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Old 04-21-2014, 07:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Grrrr having trouble with multi-quoting!!
 
Thanks onatightrope! Honestly, I think both the teacher and myself messed up this year. So I'm kind of unhappy with both of us. :) As for the gerbils, he's not refusing to get them out, just avoiding it, if that makes sense? And our disorganized life seems to make that easier to happen. That's why I linked to Miranda's structure post, because I wonder if part of the problem is a lack of structure - or maybe it's not the problem, but that structure/routine/rhythm could help. Part of the problem is that often when we do go up to get them out, they're asleep and buried under 8-10 inches of substrate! So for a bit we had a routine of getting them out straight after breakfast, since that is usually a time they're awake. But we didn't keep it up - my fault as much as his. But when we did have that routine it worked well! Hah! Neither of us are good at keeping up routines. :(
 
Thanks Miranda! You're echoing a lot of what I'm feeling. I think the situation with the gerbils is pretty understandable, though still frustrating. I totally get his disappointment and his lack of life experience in really understanding what this might be like. It's one reason why we'd never approach getting a pet as 'you have to take care of it or it gets rehomed'. We wouldn't have gotten the gerbils if I wasn't prepared to pick up the slack. I expected the slack. He's a kid. Jeez, I've slacked off plenty in my adult life! But I know he wants a relationship with them. I know he feels bad he isn't following through as much as he thought he would. So it's trying to find a way to help him with that. I do wonder if structure would help us with that (which is why I linked to your structure post up above), but we both kind of suck at that.
 
I admit, sometimes I wish we'd take the 'it's non-negotiable' approach. But I'd need magic fairy dust or something to get him to comply! :)
 
With the piano, I'm wondering again if the lack of structure/routine hasn't made things worse for him. His first year he practiced all the time, so it wasn't an issue. This year he's barely practiced and I haven't made practice a non-negotiable, or helped him with a routine to make sure it happened.
 
I tried talking to him about it again tonight. He says the only thing he likes about piano are the kids in his class. He is not keen on private lessons.
 
onatightope and MichelleZB - It's funny, because my feeling had certainly been that the work is too easy for him so it's not an issue of hard work. But he's now decided, when we talked to him about it tonight, that piano is too hard. I was surprised when he said it, but after he said he thinks it was too easy at first but since he doesn't practice much and the songs have gotten harder over the year, that now it's too hard for him.
 
Man, I really wish he hadn't said that. I hate him quitting piano with the thought of it being too hard for him!

I'm going to carve out some one-on-one time with him over the next three days before his next class to help him, practice together, try to have fun with it etc, and see how he finds class on Thursday night.
 

Thanks everyone!

 

 

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Old 04-28-2014, 07:02 AM
 
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Piano - have you already paid for the rest of the year's lessons? As a single mother whose ex doesn't pay the child support he's ordered to, money is tight for me and so my children understand that if I put money out for something, they have to finish unless something major happens to prevent that - such as illness or injury, moving, the teacher/coach/instructor canceling, etc. I don't have extra money to "waste". When I find the money to pay for them to do activities, it's usually coming from something else, so I remind them before anything we do like that that they will be expected to finish out whatever I paid for. I try to find things that let me pay by individual lesson, so that we don't have to "force finish" things, but if the only option for something they want is to pay for several lessons or a whole season or whatever, they know my rule is that they will finish out that one. Beyond that, if they decide they don't want to do it any longer, they don't have to. So if I'd paid for the rest of the lessons, I would have my son finish - but I would also tell him to pay attention and give some thought to some things while he's there: Why is he unhappy? What could be changed that would make him enjoy it again? Does he need/want a different teacher? A different type of lesson (private instead of group, longer, shorter, more advanced, less advanced)? I wouldn't want him completely giving up piano, if he enjoys it, just because these lessons weren't working for him, so I'd want him to see if he could come up with ideas for how he might continue, if that was what he wanted. 

 

As far as pets, we have a cat. My rule is that pets are living creatures, and you make a commitment to it, and you will live up to that commitment. When we got the cat, I made sure to tell my boys what it would be like (I'd had one until just before my youngest was born). But I also told them that I probably wasn't covering everything, and that it might very well turn out to be nothing like they expected - but they would still be expected to care for the cat. I often have to remind them to change the litter box, feed him, check his water, etc., and I don't mind doing that, but I do make them do it. They begged for the cat, they swore they would take care of it, so I make them live up to that. Some people may not agree, but I feel it's a lot like having a baby - you can't have/adopt a baby, take care of it for a few days/weeks, and then decide that it's not what you expected and just give it up (well, okay, technically you *could*, but you understand my point.). When you have a baby, you're committing to the baby for a minimum of 18 years. It may not be what you pictured, and you may find yourself exhausted, frustrated, clueless as to what to do, but you work through that. And that's what kids have to do with pets. They are committing to the pet for the lifespan of the pet, and even if they're tired, frustrated, or clueless as to what to do, they need to work through it. As parents, we turn to other, more experienced parents in our lives or online when we need help, and kids can and should do the same. They can ask us, the neighbors, the pet store staff, animal shelter staff, go online and look up information. It's fine to have to remind them (at least for a while) that they need to do _______ for the pet, but I think it's important to make them live up to the commitment they made.

 

With the pets you have, I would work beside him. Get the gerbils out, do what needs to be done, pass them to him to imitate. Or alternate. One day, you handle them, the next he does. Gradually increase his days until he's the one that does it, and you only do it if he's sick/unable or you just plain want to. 

 

If you have trouble with routines, try setting reminders. I don't know about you, but I love my Android phone for that. I have all kinds of alarms set to remind me of various things we need to do throughout our day - the kids' independent reading, sending files to friends, even things as simple as going for a walk sometimes. It's great because I can set the reminder when I think of it, and my phone goes off, so I don't have to even remember to look at a calendar to remember what needs to be done. If you use Gmail, you can put things on the calendar there and set it so that it will send you email reminders. 

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Old 05-01-2014, 05:43 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Smartmama!

 

Update: he's quitting piano, but stuff with the gerbils is going well. Ya win some, ya lose some, I guess. ;)

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Old 05-01-2014, 07:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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And just as I was about to email the teacher to tell her he changes his mind and says he wants to finish out the year (and that he will practice)!

*bangs head against wall*

Kids!

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Old 05-01-2014, 08:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by chocolove View Post
 

And just as I was about to email the teacher to tell her he changes his mind and says he wants to finish out the year (and that he will practice)!

*bangs head against wall*

Kids!

 

I'm not sure if you've read about what happened over the past 6 months with my 11-year-old and violin. She started playing violin at not-quite-three, having begged to be allowed to do what her older siblings were doing. She progressed very quickly for a few years but by the time she was 8 her eldest sister had moved away from home to pursue serious music study and her other two older siblings had drifted away from it. There was no longer that family tradition going on every day of practicing and going to group classes and ensembles and orchestra together. Gradually she realized that studying violin, though very much her choice at the beginning, had become more about doing what everyone expected her to be doing. She was quite advanced for an 8-year-old... which would make the prospect of quitting seem all the more tragic to everyone. She also comes from a family where all her siblings, her mom and all her extended family on one side, play stringed instruments. It was a pretty weighty set of implicit expectations. 

 

So she carried on for a couple of years but her motivation level was pretty low. We tried our best to find things that would help motivate her, but we live in a pretty remote area where our options are limited. By age 10.5 she was more than ready to quit. Her progress had ground almost to a halt over the previous couple of years. She wasn't wanting to practice and didn't much enjoy her lessons.

 

She quit before Christmas this year. She said she might come back to it after a break, but I knew perfectly well that that very rarely happens with kids. They say it mostly to appease their teachers and parents at the point of departure.

 

And then it happened. After four months of no violin, she asked to have lessons again. And she's doing really well: she's motivated, working hard, progressing well, etc. etc.. I think she had to get to the point where she knew she was really and truly free to quit, and from that perspective she could begin to look for -- and find -- her own reasons to keep playing. 

 

So maybe that's what happened with your kid too. Albeit (since he's had a much shorter piano experience) with a much quicker turnaround. He had to reaffirm that he really had the choice one way or the other before he could find his reasons for going on.

 

Miranda


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Old 05-17-2014, 07:19 AM
 
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I can't imagine forcing people to do things they don't want to do. (Unless, obviously, it's my children and it is a serious safety issue and there is literally no other way.) I don't see how that can ever end well. And although it feels galling to have someone not fully use something I've paid for when money is tight, I try to look at it, first, as a gift with which the recipient is free to do whatever they need, rather than something with strings and conditions attached. And second, to look at it as if I'm paying for the opportunity to see if something is a fit, with anything beyond that as a happy bonus. I do try to determine first if something is likely to be a good fit. And I try to remember also that sometimes it's not about "quitting", it's about it being pointless to continue. So money is "wasted". Well, time and life are wasted if someone continues with something that they've figured out is not right for them.

 

Especially with music I have this bias. I've played piano since I was six, and picked up other instruments throughout the years. For me, if people act like they're invested in the outcome (which might be communicated through positive reinforcement that is intended to encourage i.e. motivate me) it kills it for me. And I feel music is too important and too wonderful for me to take the risk of doing that to someone else. 

 

I did take traditional lessons throughout my school years, because that's just what you do if you want to play an instrument, right? (Or so I thought.) When I was entering adolescence, and for a few years after that, practicing and homework became agonizing for me. I was absolutely miserable, and felt terribly guilty. It was really wrenching for me. My mom talked to me, trying to figure out what the problem was, and I couldn't articulate it, but in the process she came up with the idea of just letting me continue to go to lessons, but not having to practice. I thought that might be okay. The teacher agreed to the plan and I did not progress for the next few years. But I did get to keep the only connection I knew to the music world, and my interest and desire did eventually come back, although practice and the expectations of improvement (in later years when I was at a now advanced level with a different teacher) were always challenging to me, not in a good way. After high school I never took another lesson, and never looked back. Some might say I showed promise, maybe I could have made a career out of it, or at least gotten good enough to really impress people, but ultimately that was not what I cared about, and it was freeing to let that expectation go so I could focus on what I did really want. I don't regret having that freedom one bit. (I still play piano, it is a very dear thing to me.) 

 

My children have all been able to approach music learning in a way that I envy. It is all internally driven by their desire, so it is always a joy to them. There is nothing negative about it for them. I show them things when they ask, otherwise I leave them to their own devices. They all played when young, making up beautiful improvised music, but at the present time only one is playing regularly. He'll work for an hour at a time, sometimes a few times a day, on learning a song. I wonder if he'd have that same drive still if I'd made him take lessons in his off times, when he was more intrested in doing other things. Maybe. But he's a sensitive sort (a lot like me) so I have my doubts. 

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