“I just need to sit and relax.” She sighs. She’s standing at the top of the stairs with the television controller in her hand, and a pleading look in her eye. “I’ve been playing outside all day.”
“It’s a no-tv-day.” I reply. We’re not exactly sticklers for limiting technology in our house, but a number of circumstances have collided this particular summer and without a system of managing it the girl would spend her whole break sitting on the couch watching SpongeBob Squarepants reruns via Netflix.
She sighs, exasperated and loudly. “But daddy…” she whines.
“No. The sun is shining and you know the rule: that means no tv today.” We’ve limited her access to technology based on the quality of the weather. Sunny means the tv stays off. Cloudy gets her limited viewing. Rain and anything goes. These were rules we had discussed and agreed upon, and are her rules as much as mine.
It’s a beautiful sunny day and she’s been playing, running, swimming, and generally active all day long, but if I give in today I get that aching feeling as though I’m tossing out the rule book for the rest of the summer.
“But what can I do?” She huffs.
“Figure it out.” I grumble. “I need to make dinner.” And I leave her to her own devices for ten minutes while I putter around the kitchen prepping some rice and veggies. Sure enough, the faint muttering of the television eventually trickles down the stairs and I march up to investigate, heavy footsteps heralding my arrival.
Click! Remote in her lap, she’s suddenly staring –innocently, of course– at a blank screen. “You’re watching TV?” I ask.
She doesn’t lie, but instead evades the question. “I need something to do.” She pleads. A pout. That face followed by a “can I, please?”
I hesitate, but my patience is thinning and I finally just say, “Ok. Do whatever you want.” And I turn to walk back towards the kitchen. Then, almost off-hand, I call back up: “But remember, that means you’re breaking your rules.”
Three minutes later she is in the kitchen with me chopping vegetables for our salad.
building integrity, rule 010
deep down she has the willpower to follow the rules: trust her instincts
I guess that it was never really about the rules. After all, it was one of those hot, lazy mid-summer days that makes a kid just want to sprawl onto the couch, let the fan waft cool air over your face, and glaze over as the television entertains… and I can appreciate that’s exactly what she wanted to do. Arguably it was just guilt and the nagging tone in my voice, but I’d like to think that it was more-so about the willpower of following the rules. Her rules.
The building blocks of personal integrity, I’ve often mused, are less about the ability of one to follow rules and more about understanding the reason that one should follow specific rules. The rebellious voice in some folks may right now be screaming out for anarchy, but there’s a big difference: following rules and guidelines one sets for oneself is a LEGO brick of integrity and moral character… while understanding what rules are worth following –deserve following– well, that’s an entirely different topic. So, provide your daughter a chance to hone those instincts by making a choice to follow through on her own standards, even if it’s just about turning off the tv for a day because “that’s what her rules say.”