Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Have I sold out as a parent?

Tell me the truth. Is this a bad parent thing or just finding a way through a problem.

Son #2 has always responded to incentives.

Son #2 has not been practicing his bass clarinet.

Son #2 has always wanted to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Son #2 gets to watch one Buffy episode with me for every 40 minutes of (quality) practice he does.

Son #2 practiced for over 2 hours on the weekend. His teacher was amazed at his progress.

Son #2 is 10. My desire for him to practice his clarinet is clearly greater than my desire for his mind to stay free from vampires, monsters, witches and demon-slaying teenage girls in short skirts.


  1. Did you say "demon-slaying teenage girls in short skirts"?

    Man. No wonder he's practicing so much..

  2. If, in your judgement, he's at a stage where you think he can handle Buffy with your involvement, then I don't see what the issue is.

    Different children respond to different strategies. Jennie and I at a far earlier stage on this but we work with the kids we have. We rely on the strategies that actually work to do the work. But our goal is the long-term formation of the adult-to-be, not the short-term goal of behavior management and goal-meeting (no doubt a much easier distinction to make when neither is older than barely four). So we also have to keep working on them doing things even when the strategy fitted to them isn't in play. That builds a complementary set of character-type things too.

    If God has made #2 so that he's wired a certain way and is prepared to work to a goal that you've determined is good for him for a reward that you've determined isn't bad for him then I think that's entirely legit and something good to harness in his own interests. He still has to make the choice to do the work to get the reward - and so has to weigh up the cost/benefit ratio and make a choice and live with the consequences. That's a good part of child formation it seems to me. Not everything, but a good part.

    If you thought Buffy was bad for him - either in absolute terms, or at this point in his life - then that would change the equation substantially. But I'd be surprised if you thought that was the case.

  3. More to the point: do you think you've sold out?

    Cos that is all that really matters.

    As a non parent who watches with interest others parenting, I think that different kids are very different and working with them and their personalities and drives seems to produce a better 'result' (in terms of growing into mature, godly, balanced adults) than blanket one size fits all approaches.

  4. I think as Mums we can tend to over-think things too much most of the time!! But it's definitely healthy to analyse what we do and why we do it on a regular basis.

    As I was reading your post, I was wondering why he has never watched Buffy before if he has "always wanted to". If it's because you weren't convinced it was a suitable show but now you've 'moved the goalposts' in order to obtain the behaviour change you wanted, then perhaps it's worth re-considering.

    I have never watched an episode of Buffy in my life, so am in no position to comment on the suitability of it for a 10-year-old boy being raised in a Christian home, however perhaps the very fact that you're questioning it is, in actuality, the answer! :)

    1. Hi Anon. You need to watch Buffy. She's fabulous. Joel has good taste. Imagine a younger, hipper, blonder Jael (of Judges tent peg fame) fighting supernatural creatures.

      But... as I've told his 3 or 4 million times in the last few years, M is M for a reason. My main reason for avoiding M rated shows is because I don't want the kids exposed to sex scenes. Buffy is M because of supernatural themes. No sex so far... Though there was a giant bug (disguised as an attractive teacher) looking for guys to mate with her!

    2. Yes, Season 6 is going to cause some problems. The *other* buff Vampire with a soul and Buffy do a rabbit impersonation.

    3. That will be a lot of clarinet practice!

  5. I think what anonymous said was good.

    But I have no answers on how to get them to do music practice either. We are trying to set up a system where if they do ten minutes of music practice then they can have ten minutes of screen time (computer/Wii or whatever). No practice, no screen time. It all sounds great in theory but we suck at following through so I can't see it working for long.

    1. I have a Three rule system going with my 6 y.o.. If he generally manages to obey all three rules, then he gets three buttons. 12 buttons and he gets to choose a reward from the "reward" bag, which contains things like stationery, lollies, balloons etc. The three rules are
      1. Listen to mum (he still needs me there almost constantly)
      2. Be prepared to play something again to make it better.
      3. Concentrate on your own work, not what someone else is doing in the same room (we're in a small house!)

  6. Buffy is M rated which has meant it hasn't been allowed in the past. The title alone has been enough to make him interested - and the fact that I like it.

    I have no problem with monsters or vampires or witches or demon slaying. (I love them!)

    The short skirt thing isn't a draw for him yet.

    He's a clever thing. Waiting till I'm so desperate that he practices that I'll agree to almost anything, then using his clarinet as leverage to get what he wants. It's not just the show. It's time spent snuggling up with me and watching it without the other boys - They practice their instruments without incentives!

  7. GK Chesterton: Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

  8. I'm with M - non-parent watching others' parenting adventures with interest.

    That being said, from my own experience and observation, kids normally follow / want what they see others (they admire) doing. (Hey, I wanted to learn languages / do Grade 8 English homework because my older sisters were doing it years before I did.) That means, as you've already said, Son #2 wants to watch what you're watching.

    If you don't want him to want it, you'll have to either (a) give up watching it altogether or (b) only watch when he's in bed. If you have no problem with his watching it with you because you can explain any conflicts with your faith then you can continue watching it when he's awake.

    My parents allowed us to watch Dr Who and The Goodies. My maternal grandmother thought that Dr Who would give us nightmares so she wouldn't let us watch it when we went to her place (so we never wanted to go to her place on a Saturday night). As it turned out, the ABC reran The Goodies when I was in my late teens - I was shocked by (a) the innuendo and (b) that my parents had let us watch them - obviously those jokes went over my head as a child.

  9. Hi again,

    It's simple isn't it? 'a' doesn't happen until 'b' has been completed. that's how life works, isn't it?

    Consistency is the key. The more reliable we are as parents, the easier it will be cos our kids will be able to predict our response and the consequences accurately every time. It's hard work in the short term, but I honestly don't see any other way if we want to raise responsible kids?!

    I have three boys so am speaking from some experience and natural consequences starts from the beginning surely? eg. finish your dinner and then you can have dessert; you can play once you've done all your jobs and are ready for school; you can have afternoon tea once you've unpacked your bag and put it away; etc etc.

    A final question I would have, though, is does your child even wants to learn a musical instrument? i was forced to do piano lessons all through childhood and hated it with a passion. it caused so much friction between my mum and me and i dreaded coming home after school cos i knew i would be forced to sit at the piano and do scales when i was genuinely tired and in need of some 'free time'. For that reason and the financial side of it, we have chosen not to go down this path at this stage with our kids.

    Life throws up enough battles to fight on a daily basis without adding 'optional extra' ones!! :)

    1. I've seen too many kids with the parent pushing them to play an instrument to do it myself. I've waited till my child desperately pleaded to learn (and only my third son has gotten to that point), but then held him to it, even when it got tough. After two years, we'll see how motivated he is to continue. A musical instrument is jolly hard to learn and stay motivated at. That's why so many people give up and wish they hadn't later. There is that initial hump of learning basics like scales that are really important, but don't seem very fun. Afterwards comes the fun, but that is hard for kids to see.

  10. Yes, he does want to play. He has a new teacher this year and has had some trouble getting accustomed to her (he's not so good with change.) I think that that was what all the 'I don't want to practice' was about. I'm hoping that we've turned a corner in the last few days.

  11. Hopefully he'll be fully motivated by the end of Season 3.
    Spare him the horrors of Riley and The Initiative.

  12. The exclusive time with Mum sounds like what will stick with him in future years. Clarinet practice and Buffy are comparatively just ephemera.

  13. When I was younger I was more vigilant about these things. As I got older I think I got lazier and more apathetic.. And I think I regret it...