It’s tough being a parent. Sure, it’s also tough being a professional cage fighter, but I’d put my kids up against any 250-pound wall of muscle. A demanding 3-year-old will make even the strongest person fold like a lawn chair.
The problem with parenting is that none of us know what we’re doing. For example: The 10-year-old is about ready to go outside without shoes in 30-degree weather. The immediate response is to tell her to put on her damn shoes. However, modern parenting methods instruct us to let her do it. She’ll learn, experts say.
Yes, she’ll learn to walk again on feet with no toes. It looks like we won’t have a problem making our health insurance deductible this year.
Children aren’t fragile beings with weak minds. They’re little lawyers who deftly twist anything a parent says into what they want it to mean – and they’re good at it.
So, how do we, as emotionally exhausted parents, learn to get one up on our children? Simple. We trick them.
Psychology has brought us many great things, not the least of which is Valium. This science is also key to fooling our stubborn little monsters into doing whatever we want.
Such as helping around the house.
Nobody enjoys carrying groceries in from the car. It’s like putting away laundry or unloading the dishwasher. It’s a time expander – the chore takes less than five minutes, but it seems like a weeklong challenge while you’re doing it.
Me: Hey, buddy. Let’s go unload the groceries.
The Boy: Do I have to?
Me (channeling my father): You’re going to eat this food, aren’t you?
The Boy (pouting and shuffling his feet toward the door): But I’m not going to like it.
Enter psychology. Engaging someone in conversation is just distracting enough to take advantage of them.
Me: Hey, how’s your “Call of Duty” campaign?
The Boy: Great.
Me (walking toward the door): Tell me about it. Come on, I have to get something from the car.
When we’re outside, I keep him talking and hand him a bag of groceries. By the time the car’s unloaded he doesn’t even know it happened.
Children also have the propensity not to listen to anything their parents say.
Parent (pointing to stove): No, no. Hot, hot.
Adult child still living in the basement (touches burner): Ouch.
The next time you need to hand out advice, don’t act like you came up with it yourself. These kids have seen you fail at driving, home improvement projects and wearing anything fashionable. What do you know?
Child: I’m not eating that. It looks gross.
Parent: Your grandmother cooks it this way.
They may think you’re an idiot, but they love Grandma. It works every time.
Children also have the predictable response of doing the opposite of what you tell them to do, so if you want them to listen, lie to them.
The Girl: I want to invite a friend over.
Me (picturing the loudest child I’d ever met): You should invite that kid with the pigtails.
The Girl: Serendipity*?
The Girl: No way. I want to invite Hibiscus*.
Me (smiling inwardly. Hibiscus is a wallflower): Well, I guess. If you’re sure.
Hey, this is great. It’s working.
Me: And before she comes over, don’t you dare do your math homework.
The Girl (kisses my cheek then bounds away): OK. Thanks, Dad.
Wait a second. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
*Names made up because, what the hell’s wrong with people?
Jason’s newest novel, “Bad Day for the Apocalypse,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.