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Tsuga

Is it bad that I would like my step-kids to finish practicing their instruments before 9 p.m.?

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That's about it. One takes lessons but his practice does not involve structure--he's very sensitive so his dad just lets him play around, which I think is probably a good strategy knowing this kid in particular. Otherwise it would just be a battle. With some people there's no reasoning. My step-daughter is very artistic and quit orchestra for reasons I don't fully get, but wants to play piano. She practices on her own via youtube videos. At 9:30 p.m. With the volume all the way up.

 

I think her dad is planning on getting her lessons, which would be nice, but my question is...

 

Would it be bad of me to ask him to ask them to practice earlier in the night? My children are four and six and exhausted. My partner simply doesn't hear noises, period. His kids were excellent sleepers. My children are hyper and totally different.

 

I've asked them to turn down the TV and music, to extremely icy stares, but I feel I'm within my rights. I mean, it's 9 p.m. on a school night, I just don't think it's necessary to watch American Idol at full volume. You can watch it quietly.

 

But music is different. I really value it and would like to encourage her to play. I feel that if I ask her not to play after 9 p.m. her 12-year-old mind will interpret that as, "step-mom is being mean to me about something I like AGAIN, she doesn't want to hear it".

 

This used to be their "easy" house. Their dad is super easy going and though he has firm boundaries, they are pretty sparse. I have no desire to change that. I just want my kids to sleep.

 

Tips?

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Please, please forgive me if I'm out of line here, but reading your post I noticed the 'step kid' and 'my kids' distinction. Is it possible this is about more than music lessons? Perhaps you and your husband need to be in closer agreement about what would be best for 'the family'. You're in a tough place. I'm sorry and hope you work it out.

 

Edited to correct an appalling lack of proofreading.

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If your step daughter is practising on her keyboard with the volume all the way up, buy or get her a headset to plug into the keyboard :) everyone else gets their peace. If she is practising on a piano, than you and your husband would have to come to an agreement as to what is an agreed time for no/low noise for everyone. You and your husband might want to decide on a morning time too like no noisy stuff before 8am.

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Headphones.  Everyone wins.  No need to fight.  

 

-signed the woman whose husband usually decides to practice piano at about 1 AM.  Headphones.  Get them tomorrow.  

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I agree with the headphones. My older kids used wireless ones to watch loud shows while the youngest slept. That is a good solution. My dh does not mind loud noises either, so this was an ongoing issue at our house too.

 

But if your partner won't respect your dc need for sleep on a school night this is the tip of the iceberg for other issues. The girl is 12 with few boundaries. That is not headed in the right direction right there, and your younger ones will be greatly influenced by her in spite of your own good example and training. Sadly I know this for a fact. You need to have a real talk with your partner about how you are going to deal with the younger kids just being younger. They do need sleep, even if they were not hyper it is hard to sleep through loud TV.

 

I am sorry for the step kids, but boundaries are a favor to a child and not a punishment. As an adult I have met many people who are GRATEFUL to step parents who set boundaries their own parents were too guilty to set. I have never met anyone who resented reasonable parenting who was a decent person. EVER.

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Could you approach it as a problem to solve? What if you talked to the 12 yr old and said that you have a problem and you want her help solving it? You could explain that you have been really happy to see her playing and don't want to discourage her because she is talented and enjoys the practice. Then you could bring up that the kids are light sleepers and you can't think of a way to make them sleep through noise, even very nicely played noise. I would end it with another positive statement. If she likes the little ones you could mention how good she is with them. If they annoy her you could mention that they would be less whiny or whatever if they got more sleep. Again, you just can't figure out what to do because her playing is such a great thing.

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my 8yo's bedtime is 8:30.  he was never a good sleeper.  I have much olders whom I had to constantly remind them they had to be quiet.   use headphones, etc.   

 

I think no instrument playing after 9pm is perfectly reasonable when you have people that are going to bed.

 

is the piano an electronic keyboard?  or a real piano?  if a keyboard - I would make the rule of earphones after your set time. 

there are even electronic drums that can be used with earphones.

 

you live in a household - there must be give and take and people working together and consideration for others.   

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I would work with them from a problem solving viewpoint.......... and have their father be the one explaining the new rules. Make sure he doesn't put blame on you, but rather says that the two of you decided together that this is the best way to handle it.

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I would not work directly with step-kids at these ages (unless I had been 'with them' very long term). Between you and DH, work towards a solution, then have the expectation that he would be the primary one to implement it.

 

Whenever possible "solve things from your own end" -- even when it's harder from your end and would be easy for others to be part of the solution. That means that, with some help, the younger kids might just figure out thae trick of not sleeping so lightly. Most kids do, at some point, when it becomes helpful for them. Also, consider white noise or noise cancellation for your children.

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what does your dh think?  brainstorming ideas with him could really help.  teenagers are hard even when you've lived with them their whole lives.

how did the tv and music discussion go after the icy stares?  i don't envy you this piece of it all.....   

 

how often are they with you?  if its two days out of 14, i'd just let it slide.  if its more, i would talk to dh.

 

different families blend different ways.  when my dear father remarried at 65 to a woman with three teens, they decided that he was her husband, and she was their mother and that was that.  when i remarried at 37, my dh (and I) decided my kids were his kids.  they were 11 and 13.  it is a journey, as all relationships are, but 15 years later, all four of our kids are sisters, not step-sisters, and all are equally his in his heart and head.  for us and dc and this situation, that was a good call.  many folks fall somewhere in between.  so if you and your dh are intentional that you have step kids and your kids, and that is the way everyone wants it, then great.  if its accidental or unilateral, its a good thing for you and dh to talk about. 

 

re music: when i had college music students as boarders, the rule was that anyone could practice at any time, but that if you woke the children, you had to put them back to sleep.  each student woke them precisely once, and then that was that.  

 

we have music being practiced here 4+ hours a day now, but never after 6pm. 

 

good luck!

ann

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Can you let DH and step kids be responsible for any little kids that wake up or are grumpy in the morning? They'll soon learn that it's easier to be quiet at night than it is to cope with sleepy, cranky kids. This might make them see that there's a problem other than you wanting things your way.

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The older dc do not live with you full time?

 

You have to work with your dh. He must be the one to work with the older dc to come up with a solution. Headphones are a good idea.

 

Think also about how the house is configured. For example, I have a townhouse with a basement and bedrooms are on the second floor. The acoustics are such that one could play musical instruments or watch tv loudly in one room of my basement while others sleep upstairs. Is there an area where some louder activities could occur without disturbing others? If this is not their home full time finding such a space dedicated to their favorite pursuits could be very important to family relationships.

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I would discuss this with your husband.  Having the house quiet by 9pm is a perfectly reasonable thing to want.  Let him know your wishes and he can present the new rule to his kids.

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It is a reasonable request, but here is another pov to contemplate. When I was in high school (jr high, too, but not to the same extent,) I used to get homework done (chore) before I practiced (fun.) Especially in high school, that meant that I was often practicing until 10:30 or 11 every night. I also found that my most productive practice time was late in the evening. My brain had let go of everything else by then, and I found that my sound and technique were vastly improved by waiting until 8 or so to even start playing. To this day, my evening performances outshine those given in the morning or afternoon.

 

Is there some way to provide white noise for those who don't want to listen to the practice? And maybe a compromise time, say, no practicing after 9:45? Just a thought, after all, compromises are often much easier for all involved than directives.

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How's this for a creative solution. For one month don't say a word about practice times, but begin to ask her to play "for you" at a time you'd prefer. Can you move her keyboard near the kitchen so she can play while you cook dinner? She might complain, pretend not to care, pretend it's a huge hassle to play "for you" or all kinds of other things, but I bet over time it solves the problem without you ever having to talk about not practicing at night.

 

With all this late night behavior that gets a rise out of you, I think the step-kids may have figured a failproof way to get attention AND cause a rift between you and your hubby.

 

These kinds of triangles - kid/mom/dad - victim/bad-guy/savior - are classic (and anyone can occupy any position). The only way out of the triangle is to do something completely different and unexpected (usually simply not playing your "role").

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I would work with them from a problem solving viewpoint.......... and have their father be the one explaining the new rules. Make sure he doesn't put blame on you, but rather says that the two of you decided together that this is the best way to handle it.

:iagree:

 

There is simply no reason why you should have to play the part of the Evil Stepmother here. If your other kids can't sleep through the noise, it is a problem for the whole family, and your dh should step up to the plate and handle it, or the two of you should talk to dd together.

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I think people make a lot of assumptions about animosity between step parents/kids. Only you know if these cultural assumptions reflect the truth for your own family.

 

I will just say that it's hard to have older and younger kids in a household. It seems very reasonable to me to tell older kids to keep the noise down after 9:00. But bio kids can also make you question whether you are crazy, lol. I would talk to DH about it and just ask him what he thinks. That's a start.

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Please, please forgive me if I'm out of line here, but reading your post I noticed the 'step kid' and 'my kids' distinction. Is it possible this is about more than music lessons? Perhaps you and your husband need to be in closer agreement about what would be best for 'the family'. You're in a tough place. I'm sorry and hope you work it out.

 

Edited to correct an appalling lack of proofreading.

 

Well, we just moved in together four months ago, so the relationship is still in it's beginning stages, and I used "step-kids" to refer to that difference in relationships. That was probably misleading. Sorry about that. I've been living with them for a few months so we have not yet developed a rapport to the degree that I can tell them what to do like I tell my own kids what to do. We're working up to that. My own children are very small (4 and 6) so it's much easier for him to tell my kids what for. I so much as make a comment like, "You need to leave in two minutes if you want to catch the bus," and his children's toes get all stepped on. I get it. I'm their step-mom, I'm new. So it's just a different dynamic.

 

But if your partner won't respect your dc need for sleep on a school night this is the tip of the iceberg for other issues. The girl is 12 with few boundaries. That is not headed in the right direction right there, and your younger ones will be greatly influenced by her in spite of your own good example and training. Sadly I know this for a fact. You need to have a real talk with your partner about how you are going to deal with the younger kids just being younger. They do need sleep, even if they were not hyper it is hard to sleep through loud TV.

 

The boundaries she has are totally appropriate for a girl her age in a household without young children in it. The reason there are few is that she's a responsible person and there were fewer other people in the home before to create the need for boundaries like this. If bedtime is 10 for the whole household, practicing at 9 is not unreasonable. If you do your homework and get good grades, there's no need to insist on specific top-down schedules. Etc.

 

I am sorry if I made it sound like there were not enough boundaries. There were but now the circumstances have changed and boundaries are changing. That's not easy to deal with at the age of 12 and I want to be sensitive.

 

 

I would work with them from a problem solving viewpoint.......... and have their father be the one explaining the new rules. Make sure he doesn't put blame on you, but rather says that the two of you decided together that this is the best way to handle it.

 

He won't blame anybody because he doesn't see it that way. He's very matter-of-fact. But I mean... she's twelve with a new step-family in her home, so she's going to perceive me as the cause, because I am the cause of the change.

 

 

I would not work directly with step-kids at these ages (unless I had been 'with them' very long term). Between you and DH, work towards a solution, then have the expectation that he would be the primary one to implement it.

 

I completely agree. Too many chances for misunderstanding. The problem that I face is how to do this when it's hard to convince him that she is perceptive and realizes things about him that even he doesn't realize.

 

For example, he doesn't have to prioritize me over his kids, in order for his priorities to shift. She complains about the shift and he replies that they (bio kids) are still number one. But that doesn't change the fact that when they are at home, they are no longer 100% of his attention. I had to basically draw him a time-map to make him realize that she had a point.

 

He was born with a huge confidence buffer. Maybe because he's a man? Anyway, the idea that someone could continually agonize about their relationships to others, inherent value, and being loved is to him insane. He is great at making people feel loved and cared for when there's no issue to be resolved. When it comes to a disagreement or someone's insecurity, he's totally clueless. I'm pretty secure which is I guess why we're together.

 

I tried to explain to him that the feelings he had during the worst moment of his life, during his divorce, the feelings of failure, not being good enough, nobody loving you, that teenage girls feel this several times every week (if not every day for the sensitive child) because they are programmed to find a mate during that time, and to set up their social circles for life so it's critical to their future survival, and he thought I was joking. I think he's still wrapping his head around it. "Why would you feel that insecure?" Gah.

 

So I guess you and one other person are right... I need to talk with him about how to present stuff to the children. I don't trust him to be sensitive to his daughter's needs so I am making decisions about this myself, and that is a problem.

 

It is a reasonable request, but here is another pov to contemplate. When I was in high school (jr high, too, but not to the same extent,) I used to get homework done (chore) before I practiced (fun.) Especially in high school, that meant that I was often practicing until 10:30 or 11 every night. I also found that my most productive practice time was late in the evening. My brain had let go of everything else by then, and I found that my sound and technique were vastly improved by waiting until 8 or so to even start playing. To this day, my evening performances outshine those given in the morning or afternoon.

 

I hear you and I think this is why I haven't discussed it with him. I don't want to even bring it up if it's not worth it.

 

I think people make a lot of assumptions about animosity between step parents/kids. Only you know if these cultural assumptions reflect the truth for your own family.

 

I will just say that it's hard to have older and younger kids in a household. It seems very reasonable to me to tell older kids to keep the noise down after 9:00. But bio kids can also make you question whether you are crazy, lol. I would talk to DH about it and just ask him what he thinks. That's a start.

 

Oh yes believe me my own kids give me way more grief! But with them I have my "momfidence" and I just roll with it, or try to, anyway. Whereas my confidence as a step-parent is just being built up, and rightly so, I think.

 

Can you let DH and step kids be responsible for any little kids that wake up or are grumpy in the morning? They'll soon learn that it's easier to be quiet at night than it is to cope with sleepy, cranky kids. This might make them see that there's a problem other than you wanting things your way.

 

 

I think this solution is passive-aggressive. A grumpy 4-year-old is pure hell. A 12-year-old is not supposed to be responsible for a preschooler's bedtime routine nor should she have to take care of my kids, unless she's being paid to babysit them or it is her part in a family activity in which she also gets something out of it.

 

If I would like her to change her behavior, I will tell her specifically what I'd like and what I can do in return, in a polite way, at least for the first four or five times.

 

It's not as though she's had the chance to object to a request or something. She doesn't deserve to be "punished" before she's told what's expected of her.

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I know you're in a new situation, but I keep hearing you talk about HIS kids and YOUR kids, and that your dh tells his kids that they will always be #1. I'm just hoping the kids don't hear you guys talking like that.

 

I realize it's difficult, but HIS kids are YOUR kids now, too, and YOUR kids are HIS kids, too, and the sooner you both start thinking about all of them as OUR KIDS, the better it will be for the whole family.

 

It sounds like you're doing everything you can to be very sensitive and to make the transitions as smooth as possible for everyone, but your dh needs to step up to the plate and do the same.

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Edit: I was high on coffee and sounded aggressive. Edited for manners.

 

I understand your point, Cat--to a point.

 

Consider: If I were to have this entire thread about "my 12-year-old daughter", don't you think the advice would be massively different?

 

Without the information about the parent she grew up with, the move-in date, the getting-used-to, the dealing-with-new-personalities, wouldn't the answer be simple? Wouldn't it just be, "She's 12. Tell her what you expect and let her deal. She's YOUR kid. YOU are the mom. Set the boundary, talk about it, and if necessary enforce it."?

 

And yet, I believe that would be a terrible way to deal with a step-child that you moved in with four months ago. It would be very insensitive.

 

The dynamic between a step-parent and a step-child is totally different. First of all, if she was my biological daughter, her biological mother wouldn't have signed her up for two church activities per week, limiting the chances of piano lessons, so there would be no question about that (NB she is the one who brought up this scheduling conflict, not me!). I wouldn't have to ask her dad about her schedule with her mom and I would have been able to help her sign up for the sport she wanted right away no questions asked. I'd know what type of granola bar she liked and wouldn't have bought the wrong kind because I misunderstood. I would know what her little sighs would lead to, at least to some extent.

 

There would be no mortification asking her if she needed me to buy feminine sanitary products (her bio mom buys her tampons when she's at home and she brings them here because, and I can certainly understand this, she's shy to ask me or her dad).

 

My being here, with a four-year-old, would not be a change in her life. It would be the status-quo.

 

The fact is, I can care about her and love her like my own child, BUT my relationship with her is going to be very different for a few years. Not to point out the difference when asking for parenting advice is, I think, a bad idea. I don't think it's fair to assume that just because I am very specific about this dynamic in a question format, that we don't think of ourselves as one family. We do.

 

But we are also realists and are not going to pretend that just because we moved in, POOF, magically we all know each other and feel totally comfortable with one another. There will be an adjustment time and pretending otherwise would not honor the kids or ourselves, because it's something real that we are going through.

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Since you know your DH won't lay down the law, I suggest talking to your stepkids as you would to an adult roommate--ask for courtesy, and make it clear that the boundaries are mutual--for example, you will hold your end up by making sure the little kids don't bother them or get in the way when they're trying to practice. Explain the why's to them and explain how and why THEY stand to benefit. Make it as clear as you can how sympathetic you are to her situation and how it feels to have all the new people on her turf and in her dad's life.

 

I've always dealt with my stepkids (who don't live full time with us) on more of an "I'm an adult but respect your self-autonomy and know I'm not your parent" basis, rather than a "my house my rules" authoritative basis, even while giving DW#2 (their mom, who lives with us) far more latitude for authority over my own kids (authority which she is careful not to abuse). 

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Since you know your DH won't lay down the law, I suggest talking to your stepkids as you would to an adult roommate--ask for courtesy, and make it clear that the boundaries are mutual--for example, you will hold your end up by making sure the little kids don't bother them or get in the way when they're trying to practice. Explain the why's to them and explain how and why THEY stand to benefit. Make it as clear as you can how sympathetic you are to her situation and how it feels to have all the new people on her turf and in her dad's life.

 

I've always dealt with my stepkids (who don't live full time with us) on more of an "I'm an adult but respect your self-autonomy and know I'm not your parent" basis, rather than a "my house my rules" authoritative basis, even while giving DW#2 (their mom, who lives with us) far more latitude for authority over my own kids (authority which she is careful not to abuse).

 

Wait, did I misread that? You LIVE with the ex-wife?

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Edit: I was high on coffee and sounded aggressive. Edited for manners.

 

I understand your point, Cat--to a point.

 

Consider: If I were to have this entire thread about "my 12-year-old daughter", don't you think the advice would be massively different?

 

Without the information about the parent she grew up with, the move-in date, the getting-used-to, the dealing-with-new-personalities, wouldn't the answer be simple? Wouldn't it just be, "She's 12. Tell her what you expect and let her deal. She's YOUR kid. YOU are the mom. Set the boundary, talk about it, and if necessary enforce it."?

 

And yet, I believe that would be a terrible way to deal with a step-child that you moved in with four months ago. It would be very insensitive.

 

The dynamic between a step-parent and a step-child is totally different. First of all, if she was my biological daughter, her biological mother wouldn't have signed her up for two church activities per week, limiting the chances of piano lessons, so there would be no question about that (NB she is the one who brought up this scheduling conflict, not me!). I wouldn't have to ask her dad about her schedule with her mom and I would have been able to help her sign up for the sport she wanted right away no questions asked. I'd know what type of granola bar she liked and wouldn't have bought the wrong kind because I misunderstood. I would know what her little sighs would lead to, at least to some extent.

 

There would be no mortification asking her if she needed me to buy feminine sanitary products (her bio mom buys her tampons when she's at home and she brings them here because, and I can certainly understand this, she's shy to ask me or her dad).

 

My being here, with a four-year-old, would not be a change in her life. It would be the status-quo.

 

The fact is, I can care about her and love her like my own child, BUT my relationship with her is going to be very different for a few years. Not to point out the difference when asking for parenting advice is, I think, a bad idea. I don't think it's fair to assume that just because I am very specific about this dynamic in a question format, that we don't think of ourselves as one family. We do.

 

But we are also realists and are not going to pretend that just because we moved in, POOF, magically we all know each other and feel totally comfortable with one another. There will be an adjustment time and pretending otherwise would not honor the kids or ourselves, because it's something real that we are going through.

I think you kind of over-reacted to my post.

 

There's no need to get defensive. I wasn't even disagreeing with any of your actions.

 

And I didn't even read your post before you "edited for manners."

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Since you know your DH won't lay down the law

 

This is not at all what I said.

 

I have no doubt that if I said, "This is important to the little ones' health", he would just tell her "stop doing this after 9 p.m." and she would.

 

He would definitely "lay down the law", but my question is, is it an appropriate "law"? Is this fair to her, as someone who loves music and wants to learn piano? What are some alternatives for a family with older and younger children? How can it be presented to her in a way that respects the fact that she's a 12-year-old with a lot of changes going on in her life?

 

I think that I will present the headphone option and come to a compromise time, and we'll present it at the same time as signing her up for piano lessons. Like, "We know you wanted to play piano, here's when you can have lessons and here's some quality headphones so you can practice on the keyboard at any time you like at any volume."

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 . I so much as make a comment like, "You need to leave in two minutes if you want to catch the bus," and his children's toes get all stepped on. I get it. I'm their step-mom, I'm new. So it's just a different dynamic.

while it's possible it's exacerbated by being a step-kid who has only lived with your for four moths, - it's also because she's a tween.  I get that from my *bio*-kids.  they want to be independent, and see any reminder/repeated "suggestion' as nagging.

 

try - the bus leaves in seven minutes, and it takes five minutes to get there.  or even just let her miss it one day and have to walk/be late.  or you can ask her if there is anything you can do to help her before she has to leave?

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Wow, I think having 4 and 6 y.o. wear headphones to bed because the olders want to practice their instruments late is entirely unreasonable. I agree that it is preferable that dh make this rule. I don't se that it has to be all that complicated. For good health 4 and 6 yos need x amount of sleep, in order to get that much sleep they need to be in bed by X, instrument practice or anything else needs to be done before then. If there is another area in the house she could practice without the sound travelling to the little ones then that would be great but otherwise practice needs to be done before then. Perhaps she could brainstorm different options of how and where to practice but I don't think the time is a reasonable thing to negotiate, considering the situation. I would certainly emphathize that it is hard to have one's schedule changed but I don't think it is disrespectful to have rules that protect the health of family members.

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Wow, I think having 4 and 6 y.o. wear headphones to bed because the olders want to practice their instruments late is entirely unreasonable.

 

The suggestion is that the 12 yo wear headphones, which are plugged into her keyboard, not that the littles wear them.

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OH, ok, that makes more sense, lol. I wondered why people thought this was such a great idea. I read too fast :)

 

In that case I see that as a viable option if she chooses to practice late.

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I think that I will present the headphone option and come to a compromise time, and we'll present it at the same time as signing her up for piano lessons. Like, "We know you wanted to play piano, here's when you can have lessons and here's some quality headphones so you can practice on the keyboard at any time you like at any volume."

 

That sounds like an excellent solution. I grew up with step parents (both sides) as well as half- and step-siblings, and I know things that may seem trivial to others can be really sensitive and complicated, especially in the beginning.  :grouphug:

 

Jackie

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The idea of headphones on my four-year-old for sleeping was so adorable and unrealistic I had to chuckle.

 

To clarify, it's the 10-year-old boy who occasionally lags for the bus. I'm here to see them off to the bus so it's really the only time I am responsible for the nagging. He's improved massively over the past year. It was just an example. I am positive about it (in order to achieve x you need to do y, is there anything I can help you with?) but they've had that their whole lives and they know full well it means the exact same thing as any other kind of reminder. :)

 

There's no fooling kids these days. ;) You start them out with attachment parenting and sensitive talk and by the time they're 18 they know EXACTLY what you mean by, "That's a very interesting picture! Why don't you tell me about it?"

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WEll, fwiw you sound to me like a very caring mom(and step-mom) I think your posts sound very thoughtful and caring. It seems obvious to me that you are trying hard to think of the best solution for everyone in the most respectful manner possible. Hopefully the suggestions are received in the caring manner they are given.

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