TampaDad's picture
TampaDad

Is "I Don't Know" an acceptable answer?

My daughter and her stepmom had a rough spot last night. D is 7 and she has one of the fill in the blank diaries. She filled in several of the blanks with the word "sleep", as in that is what she would rather be doing at any given time of the day. She was showing this to her stepmom and then she was asked why she put that answer in the blanks. Her response was "I don't know".

In our home, that has never really been an acceptable answer. The more her stepmom asked why she wrote it, the more withdrawn D became. If I disagree with her stepmom, I am told that I create a "both of you against me" atmosphere. She and her stepmopm normally have a wonderful relationship, however, she has no tolerance for dishonesty. By D saying that she did not know, she is automatically told she is lying and gets in even more trouble.

I need to find some advice that would help me deal with the issue without making it even worse.



mayamay's picture
mayamay

So, Why is "I don't know" unacceptable as an answer in your home?"

TampaDad's picture
TampaDad

I remember when I was growing up, it was not acceptable. When I gave that answer I was usually told to sit in my room until I could state the reason. Neither of us feels that it is acceptable now. The issue I have is that stepmom translates that statement into lying. That would equate to lying. She is convinced that when D gives that answer, she is hiding the real reason.

mayamay's picture
mayamay

So the reason is "Because it was not acceptable to my parents." Can you ask them why they did not find the response, "I don't know," to be an acceptable answer?

My point is--YOU DON'T KNOW why this is not acceptable.

Up to Middle school, children are in the stage that Piaget identified as "Concrete operational." You ask a kid "Why?" about something, and if they cannot see a physical, mechanical cause (that is to say, a concrete cause,)they cannot identify a cause. You ask most adults why they did something, and they can't identify their motivation, either.

When your child has had formal training in geometry and/or psychology, it is OK to ask them why they did stuff. Until then, it just isn't fair.

mayamay's picture
mayamay

P.S.

I would guess that the reason D put that she wanted to sleep is because she is tired.

And I mis-identified the stage, which is "Pre Formal Operational" in later elementary school. Your daughter is in the Concrete Operational stage, as described.

Sister83's picture
Sister83

For reasons already pointed out, I think you are being sort of harsh on your child. If your wife is very stubborn on this issue, I would suggest counseling for her. It almost seems like she has a fixation on this.

I think if you constantly give your child such grief over not being able to articulate justifications for insignificant actions (like writing "sleep" in a diary)... you could end up doing some psychological damage.

TampaDad's picture
TampaDad

I would like to think that we were not being too harsh. Part of the problem is that on the weekends she is with her BM and there is no accountability for anything. They stay up late, have no rules and she is never questioned by her mom when she does something wrong. What we are trying to instill in her is a little bit of personal responsibility. We want her to understand that there is a consequence for every action. We want her to understand that she cannot play dumb and expect the world to forgive her. Yes, she is only 7, but if we wait too long to try and counter what she learns there, will the effects be harder to counter? She gets none of that from her mom. Her mom enjoys playing the system and others around her to get what she wants. D sees that. Maybe we are trying too hard to counter the possible effects of her learning from her mom.

As far as Piaget's theory of The Concrete Operational Stage, how would cognative thought processes relating to shapes and physical masses translate into her not being able to understand why she did or did not do something. I have spent the last hour or so reading what I could find about this theory. I think I have an idea of what you were getting at, but I would like you to clarify a little bit to see if we are on the same page.

Sister83's picture
Sister83

I can't speak for the theory, but I think that knowing "why" you did something is sort of an abstract concept. Seven year-olds do not have the ability to reason like adults.

I understand that some kids might play dumb and/or lie about certain things: like "where is your homework?" or "did you clean up your room?" etc. And then it would be wrong for them to play dumb and respond "I didn't know I was supposed to."

But what you are talking about is a totally different animal. First, I don't get why you are grilling your child over writing that she wants to "sleep" in her diary. Is there a reason her writing this bothers you? It just seems so insignificant...

And even for argument's sake, if writing "sleep" in the diary is a disciplinary issue, it may be hard for her to explain why she did it.

An adult, or older child might lash out on someone, physically hit someone, etc. and be able to say "I did this because I was stressed out" or "I let my feelings overcome me."

I don't think a 7-year-old has that capacity for reflection and self-analysis. I think it is the job of parents to help our children process, recognize, and understand their feelings.

I do things all the time- like doodling on a piece of paper, writing a silly e-mails to friends, sometimes I say things without thinking about them first... I guess I could really analyze it and tell you "why" I did it... I could probably even make something up on the fly about "why" I did it. But I'm an adult. And, more importantly, what would be the point?

I know that you want to counter-balance what is going on in her mother's house, but it seems like you may be overdoing it.

mayamay's picture
mayamay

"As far as Piaget's theory of The Concrete Operational Stage, how would cognative thought processes relating to shapes and physical masses translate into her not being able to understand why she did or did not do something."

Read the sentence above only leave out "not".

"As far as Piaget's theory of The Concrete Operational Stage, how would cognative thought processes relating to shapes and physical masses translate into her being able to understand why she did or did not do something?"

The point is, she is able to figure out how objects affect each other, because they are physical. She is not able to figure out her motivations. She can't see them, touch them, or manipulate them. To her, they are imaginary, and she could more readily predict the behavior of a unicorn or dragon than discuss her own motivation.

I remember learning parts of speech in about 4th grade. I couldn't figure out how "idea" could be a noun. I didn't know what it was, but it wasn't a noun! The teacher kept reciting, "A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea." You can see and touch persons, places, and things. What the heck was 'idea' doing in that list?

TampaDad's picture
TampaDad

As far as your point Sister, we are not really giving her a hard time about her choice of the word sleep, we are just trying to figure out her motivation. She had just returned from another late night weekend with her mom and when she got home from school on Monday, there was a note from her teacher that she fell asleep in class during a math test. The teacher stated that this had taken place once before but she did not write it in her planner because she thought it was a one time thing. Her stepmom and I realize that the subject of sleep was heavy on everyone's mind that day. Maybe we were just pushing too hard for her to recognize that. We wanted to her to acknowledge that sleep was on her mind when she was writing.

We try to teach her that it is ok to sleep when she is tired, that she doesn't have to stay up and keep everyone company. First, she is a kid, and what kid does not try to stay awake. Secondly her personality type is that of a "pleaser". She will go out of her way to accomodate her mother's every whim, even if it means she goes without sleep.

Mayamay, thanks for the thought. That is exactly what I was thinking. From what I could gather, she is still learning how to differentiate different thought processes. She does have a firm grasp of physical things and of ideas that are very new in her mind. Once those thoughts are more than 5 minutes old, she begins to forget about them. According to the theory, it will be when she is between 10-12 before she actually begins to remember and form accurate thoughts about ideas and not things.

SnglDad's picture
SnglDad

All this over a 7 yo child writing the word “sleep”? Why was her diary being read by the step mother? As you point out that there are consequences to every action; understand that there will be consequences to giving your child the 3rd degree over something so trivial. How many children of her own does this step mother have, and are they held to such standards?

Also, why is it so important to know the reason why she wrote the word?