Every once in a while we are given a great opportunity to teach our kids a life lesson in a safe environment. I seized one of these opportunities over this past month, and oh what a life lesson it turned out to be.
My two youngest boys take piano once a week. Their piano teacher is very kind but also has incredibly high expectations of her students. If you come to a lesson unprepared, she will take notice and she will call you out on it.
Over the past month, Miss Ellen was out of town for four weeks visiting her son. She piled up a lot of homework for the boys, and with four weeks to prepare, she expected them to return with near perfected pieces.
The first week my kids were off, I quickly noticed a pattern of procrastination. Several times they were reminded to practice and in an irritated way, they chose to ignore my advice.
It was at this point that I openly removed myself from the piano equation and I promised that I would not remind them again and that the responsibility now rested solely on their shoulders.
So the weeks passed, and as you can imagine, my kids did not open their piano books – not even one time.
Monday night rolled around when Andrew, my eight-year-old, announced that he has decided to quit piano all together. Clearly not even an option, I reminded him that he needs to accept full responsibility for his lack of commitment.
Now we are into Tuesday, and the pressure in the air is thick. Both kids were completely freaking out as they were trying to get everything together. I can’t say for sure but I’m thinking that the 13-year-old actually did the written assignment for the 8-year-old. Perhaps not completely ethical, but I did see them working together to problem solve and I was unwavering in my commitment to not get involved.
Before they left for piano, I spoke to both of them about how necessary it is to take full accountability for their actions. There is no one to blame for their situation but themselves and that since quitting is not an option, they would need to find some other way to make this right.
Upon the arrival to their lesson, both kids were quiet and completely intimidated by what was coming their way. It was at this moment that my eight year old stepped up and I as a mom had one of my proudest moments ever.
He marched right up to his teacher and said, “Miss Ellen, we messed up and we did not practice. We are not prepared for today’s lesson and we are sorry. It will never happen again!”
Miss Ellen thanked them for their honesty, moved forward with their lesson, and never spoke of it again.
I gave my kids the gift of accountability and it is a gift that they will carry for the rest of their lives.
So often, it is so easy for us to bail our kids out of tough situations. But it is our responsibility to give them the opportunity to figure out these life lessons on their own. It would have been so much easier for me to force them to practice every day, but they would not have learned near as much as they did through this experience.
Your kids are capable. Believe in them. Give them the chance to grow.
PS. I do have to share that my 15-year-old said that he would have walked in and said, “I practiced so hard for four weeks but the assignments that you gave to me were just too hard!” He then informed me that this was the only way that he made it through 6th grade band!