Communicating With Tweens Can Be Accomplished (With Persistence)

The Mercenary in particular has been getting irritated with me routinely. My breathing alone can cause a fit of sighs and eye-rolling. (You should see what happens when words come out of my mouth.)

I’ve always tried to be very upfront and direct with the boys. This can have its disadvantages, but overall I’m glad that Hubby and I took this approach.

I took over piano lessons with the boys when their teacher got a full time job and stopped giving lessons. The younger boys are having no difficulty with it; the older ones are having a harder time. They’re slated to finish piano completely in the next several weeks, so this particular torture is (supposed to be) short-lived. Part of the problem is that I didn’t insist on the boys learning to play with a metronome all along. Now that they’re getting more advanced they can’t just rely on their natural rhythm and when I’m pointing out that they’re playing inconsistently they get upset.

As with most issues with the boys I’m learning that firmly insisting on set standards results in them giving in and (gasp) enjoying themselves much more in life. Who woulda thought?

TM and I went head to head over the metronome issue last week, and after a lot of insisting, eye rolling, fist clenching, sighs, and general irritation, he used the thing. Wouldn’t you know it?? He played beautifully at lesson time this week!

Today he was practicing a new song and was clearly playing some phrases incorrectly. Faced with the choice of letting him learn it wrong and freak out next week when I have to say that it’s not right or telling him now and letting him freak out…I went with the “freak out now” option. Needless to say, he got very angry when I said, “hey you need to play those four eighth notes evenly”.

I know, right? How does a child survive such attack? Such torture??!?

The fists and jaw clenched, he glared down at the keys, and the whole anger bit was on. Again.

I took a few moments to talk to him about it. He did grudgingly agree that if any other adult had said that exact thing, he wouldn’t be mad.

“Okay, then,” I said. “While your anger is human and NORMAL and developmental and I’m NOT mad at you for being mad at me, it is also the case that your anger is not justified.”

He nodded.

Then I said, “Buddy, you’re going to get pushed in life no matter where you are. You can’t control that. What you can control is who pushes you.”

He got mad all over again. This was very confusing.

I explained that what I meant was that if he wanted someone else besides me to be the one pushing him, I wouldn’t be mad. I want to have us be on the same team, and it’s actually a pretty generous offer.

He thought about it.

I asked him if he’d noticed that I have not once pushed him to practice for basketball, nor have I bugged him about being ready for practice. Not once, in over a month.

He said, “yea….”

“That’s because I see that you’re already pushing yourself. You get ready for practice, you go out and practice at home, you’re working on conditioning all by yourself. You don’t need me to do any pushing, so I don’t.”

I could see the light go off in his head.


Then he practiced his song and played it almost perfectly.

Ohhhhh if only this lasts for a while.

Image courtesy of Futurilla via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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20 Responses to “Communicating With Tweens Can Be Accomplished (With Persistence)”

  1. Jason says:

    It can be accomplished but its not easy thats for sure. I have a couple tweens of my own and they are giving me grey hair at an alarming rate lol

  2. gunawan says:

    good article,
    thanks for info

  3. Bestoti says:

    I think you should change the topic to ‘Communicating With Tweens Can Be Accomplished (With ALOT of Persistence)’….great article though.

  4. Jim says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, I was just wondering do you trade featured blog posts. Thanks for sharing your Blog with others.

  5. Corinne Edwards says:

    Have you thought about getting a job with the UN, Amy?

    Or perhaps running for public office?

    You are a master negotiator.

    I also, as you know, raised four boys. I love boys.

    They do argue – but they don’t whine.

    Then, just to warn you –

    They grow up and try to become your parent. My boys are always checking on me and telling me what I should do.

    • Amy LeForge says:

      LOL. Corinne there’s not much I dislike more in life than politics so I doubt I’d get along well with a UN position or public office anytime soon. In fact, “politician” is the only job I’ve told the boys that I really prefer them not to pursue. They can get a 4 year degree in some technical field and then choose to be garbage collectors for all I care. As long as they’re happy….and not in politics. Given my objections to the field, I fully expect to be the mother of the president someday, just because God has a sense of humor and would arrange just that scenario so He could laugh.

      I love boys too. Mine do attempt whining here and there, but it’s generally the arguing that happens, just as you said. I wouldn’t have the first clue how to manage a daughter at this point because I’m so used to the rough and tumble of boy world.

      And they’re already showing signs of managing me. I slipped on the stairs a couple of weeks ago (this after a catastrophic knee injury last January) and my Boy Scouts immediately conducted an interview to make sure I was okay. Since then I’ve gotten more than one concerned warning while walking on the stairs.

      I’m glad your boys check on you and even that they tell you what to do. That’s a good son. I’m not saying you have to do what they say of course. 😉

  6. Joel says:

    That’s a great story! As a man who took 4 piano lessons when he was young and no can’t even play chopsticks, I know how frustrating it can be but how rewarding it will be later on!

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Thanks Joel! 4 whole lessons, eh? I bet there’s a story there.

      I’m really looking forward to watching the boys as they start choosing their own pursuits in life. For one thing it’s a big relief to hand over that responsibility, and for another it’s just so wonderful to see each one becoming his own person.

  7. Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny says:

    Hi Amy,
    I love the idea of the metronome helping your son to find his way to correcting his mistakes and helping him to find his rhythm. I also love how you weave life lessons in while overcoming his resistance. Your patience is amazing. Plus, you think really quickly on your feet. We all need outside encouragement to do the things we “need” to do.

  8. David Rogers says:

    My remaining teens are only teens for another 4 months… I think at any age though you have to know the individual to work out how best to “encourage a change of behaviour”. Good luck for 2011…

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Wow, 4 months?!! That’s not very long. I think the “encourage a change of behavior” challenge is a big one. Thanks for the well-wishes and luck, and may your year be fantastic as well!

  9. Great Amy, you are doing a great job. Teens can be the roughest. Never had any boys myself, but with the girls I stopped the whining at a very young age. Told them if they wanted to whin I would make sure and give them something to whin about. that stopped that real quick.
    I do like the way think on your feet. That is really an asset when raising them little buggers.
    Keep up the good work and hang in there. Your doing wonderful. As for the piano always wished I knew how to play it. Guess it is never to later to learn.

    • Amy LeForge says:

      Thanks Debbie. Somedays I feel like there are brick imprints on my forehead from beating against the proverbial wall. And then other days, it’s pretty smooth. My mother-in-law keeps saying that the teen years were the most fun for her as a mom. I’m hoping we pull off that kind of experience as well. I got a lot of self-improvement to get done fast if that’s going to happen. 🙂

  10. Raymond Chua says:

    That’s a very nice way to deal with children. What a creative idea. I really enjoy the story and the lessons. 🙂

    Thank you.

  11. Congrats Amy!

    I think since he got the full meaning of that teachable moment, he will think a little differently about being pushed and pushing himself. Then you may be on the other side telling him he’s pushing himself too hard, that he’s only human and won’t do every single thing perfectly every time.

    My sister and I both were very strong self-pushers, and we often had to be reminded to be a little less hard on ourselves. When we were in college together, we were each other’s reality checker. By then, we knew we had to keep it real and that we needed outside input. We are both still perfectionists to a point.

    I now have a 15-year-old son who was very combative and angry when I pulled him out of school at age 11 and started homeschooling him. The first battles were very tough, but I finally got to the point when I was asking him if he wanted someone else to teach him, he would have to go back to school. I can’t afford a private teacher. I told him I wasn’t angry with him, but that our options were limited and how they were limited. The “you’ll have to go back to school” did it. It filled him with the most horror I’ve ever seen in his eyes. He has been amazingly cooperative ever since then.

    If he starts in on refusing to do his lessons and gives me real trouble about it, I mention something like, “and there is always school” as a last resort in a list of options he has to choose from, and he falls right in line. He will and would do just about anything to avoid having to go back to school. I hate throwing that in, but sometimes it’s the only way to get him thinking in the correct direction again.


    • Amy LeForge says:


      Yes exactly! I offer that option quite a bit. I don’t mean it in anger (and I make sure to clarify that) but if they don’t want to learn from me then they have to make a choice and follow through with it. My boys haven’t ever gone to school so they’re not sure about the options. But so far they’re sure they like the benefits of staying home. They’re welcome to change their minds of course.

      Wow, having them push too hard on something would be a new thing. I hope it’s coming someday, but for right now motivation is external. All in good time though.

  12. Ack. Amy. Even all the books on parenting disagree. Sometimes I push, sometimes I take a love and logic approach (I’m so inconsistent with it), but I agree, our kids needs to learn to push themselves in the long run.

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