My husband is a stay-at-home dad. He’s great at a whole lot of things, but especially that. Over the years, he’s come up with some genius rules to guide household operations that strike me as the new version of “Don’t make that face or it’ll stick.”, or “Quit it. You’ll poke an eye out.” Our kids are smart, so if this works on our four crafty kids, I imagine it’ll work on most.
Rule #1: When Mom or Dad calls your name, there is only one acceptable response: “Coming!”
If a kid says, “WHAT!” the other three go , “WooooOOOOOOOooooo!” (As in, “You’re gonna get it now!”)
This prevents a bulk of the yelling-a-conversation-through-the-house, that consists mostly of the kid screening your request versus their current activities, and trying to stall you or convince you that they cannot make it right now, due to some critical thing that is hard to explain….
Works like a charm.
Rule #2: If you ask in front of a friend, it’s an automatic “No”.
Gone are the days of the kid ambush. You know, when they run up dragging along the neighbor kid and saying, “Can (Sarah) stay overnight?”
We don’t appreciate being put in an awkward situation with the neighbor kid. It’s inappropriate. And it’s clear they think it will be harder for us to say no when the pitiful kid with the “Les Miserables” expression on her face is right there listening. It got to the point where we were almost gleeful when they did ask in front of a friend. We would say, “Wow, bummer. I was going to say, ‘Yes’, but you know the rule. HA HA HA!” Maybe a white lie, but it reinforced the rule so they would never pull that again.
Eventually, they would describe their surroundings when they called on the phone to ask permission for something. “Mom, I am standing in the kitchen and Josh is nowhere near me I swear. Can I go to the movies with Josh?”
“It’s ‘may I’,Louis. What time is the movie?”
“I don’t know. Josh, what time is the movie?”
“I heard that. Josh is standing right next to you. The answer is no.”
Rule #3: If you keep asking me, I will give you an answer, and it will be “no”.
Our youngest daughter is the most persistent person I have ever known. She will not accept an answer like, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” She drives me crazy with her follow up. She will continue to plead her case, offering new arguments she is certain will clinch her case. (I don’t know where she gets it.)
So I finally began to say, “Liza, do you want an answer right now?”
At first, she said, “YES!”
And I replied, “OK, then. My answer is NO.”
So she quickly withdrew her request and said, “You don’t have to answer me right now!”
Now, all I have to say it, “Careful, or you’ll get an answer.” Subject closed.