...a potent blend of Miss Manners and Batman

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Conditioning Parents

Sometimes children, even those in their 40s and 50s, need help with manners in movies or behavior in Bloomie's. And then there are occasions when the parents themselves need help. Here are a few sentences you can utter confidently to offending parents. You will have the full backing of Voice of Society Man.

1. "Sometimes the word no means I love you."
This particular tool is rather blunt and can be used both to disarm the lax parent and to confer a deeper message about the need to set limits for children. It's often the first statement that engages the parent's attention before a more specific message can be delivered. Another version of this statement is: "Discipline doesn't mean you don't love your child." On rare occasions, a more forceful weapon must be employed: "Just because Charlotte is the child you dreamed about having for 43 years but never thought you'd have after finding yourself 40 and single, doesn't mean she'll break if you tell her that she can't keep kicking the back of my seat."

2. "Whining is not appropriate in a child of her age."
This is another opening foray that may be used in a variety of sitautions such as candy stores, amusement parks, and dentist offices. Again, there are stronger versions of this tool: "The famous psychologist BF Skinner showed that intermittent reinforcement of behavior, positive or negative, brought about an increase in that behavior. Your kid won't quit his whining till you quit giving in to it."

3. "That child is too big for a stroller."
This tool is particularly effective in delivering its payload. In just a few words, it addresses obesity, the need for proper exercise, and parent laziness. A variant: "Is that a stroller or a luggage cart with a kid on it?"

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My pesky alter ego who will set you right if you break one of the unwritten rules of getting along