Lately I've been butting heads with DS1 on some pretty stupid things. I've been looking at the pattern we're establishing and I don't like it, but I'm not exactly sure what to do about it.
He has fallen into the habit of disagreeing with me or ignoring me when I tell him to do something. Doesn't happen all the time, or even every day, but there is a stubborn streak in that boy (just like in me, and his Dad) and every few days something I say to him will just stick in his craw and he just Will. Not. Do. It.
Yesterday's argument: reading time, and he has been reading a science trivia book, which is fine, but has no sustained narrative. It's not the best kind of reading for him to be doing, but I let him do 3 or 4 days of it last week for a break. He reads at least 30 minutes a day, so yesterday I got annoyed when he asked me, "Am I done yet?" after less than 10 minutes. The appeal of science trivia had obviously expired.
So I got out Farmer Boy and said, "Read this." No! Oh, you'd think I whipped him and branded him with hot coals -- such torture to read this book. Personally, I think every kid should read this book and get a clue as to how easy their lives are... plus just about every kid will enjoy reading about how independent the kids are, and the little mischiefs they get into. I first read this book when I was in first grade myself, and I still remember how the kids made ice cream every day when their parents were away, and how one of the girls had to patch the wallpaper in the parlor...
The point, though, is not that this is a great book, a classic, blah blah blah -- the point is that he simply refused to do what I told him. So after trying to convince him about the book -- which I admit, there is no guarantee that he will like, but since he has liked other books that I liked at his age, I figure this was a good fit, too -- I ended up revoking computer privileges for the day, and I was counting down to revoking TV privileges, too, and leaving him confined to his reading chair until he just got down off his high horse and read the book... when he finally relented, since he didn't want to have a completely miserable rest-of-the-weekend.
What is it that leads a child to defy his parent?
In this case, underlying the stubbornness (always a factor), I sensed an undercurrent of I don't believe you in my son's attitude. He didn't believe that the book would be good, because I was the one telling him that, naturally.
I'm sure I'm taking this attitude too far to label it a lack of faith of me, but that's more or less what we're talking about here. I think it's vital that every parent instill absolute faith in their children: your kids have to believe that you are working towards their good, always, even when they disagree with you or your methods.
When your kids think your rules are for your benefit, not theirs, that's when rules get broken. (BTW -- that's the same reason that people don't follow God's laws, too. They can't see that our religious teachings and guidelines are to help us, and so they turn their backs on them, harming themselves without even realizing it.)
The way to instill that faith is through experience -- the children have to see our dedication in action. At a certain age, too, I think it's appropriate to discuss this with them, too. They are not going to agree with every decision we make, every rule we set governing their behavior, but our rules are made for their good, and to help them grow into responsible adults.
I think if we can feed this faith it can help make this kind of head-butting incident less frequent. I have to try and remember that when we get into that kind of a situation to step back from it and say, what is really going on here? Is this just laziness or being stubborn or is there something more underlying it? Note that the consequences for being disobedient don't change because of the motivation, but a clue as to the motivation can help with avoiding the situations in the future.
He ended up reading well over 20 pages.