I’m occasionally blessed with three kids (third- and fourth-graders) riding in my mommy van at the same time. These kidlings seem to think there’s limo glass between the front and back seats. If I stay quiet, I can learn a lot. Stuff that my children wouldn’t otherwise tell me. Like who has a crush on whom and who got sent to the principal’s office. And how their parents drive them nuts.
Because the kids I ferry around town know I write about kids, they’ll occasionally talk to me. Especially if they can dish about their parents.
So, I’ll admit it — I encouraged them to tell me how their parents drive them crazy. But I did it for you, dear parents. The next time they’re driving you up the proverbial wall, pull one of these tricks to get back at them. Of course, you’re probably already doing most of these things, but now you’ll notice them more, and thus tap into your awesome parental powers.
Note: These tricks only work with kids who are 8 years old and older. But then they work for the rest of their lives.
Ways to drive your kids nuts:
• Dance or sing in front of their friends. “Remember the time your mom was dancing while she made macaroni?” asks Lia. All the kids in the van groan in unison. “So embarrassing,” mutters the kid whose mom made that faux pas.
• Choose their clothing. In fact, force them to dress the way you want them to. As my girl says, “It’s only church. What’s the big deal? Why do I have to wear a nice shirt?” Then Lia chimes in, “I don’t know why my mom makes me wear a big coat over my T-shirt.” Why would she, indeed? It’s only 32 degrees outside. Plus, you can take the coat off the moment you’re away from mom. Parents love watching kids walking into school in short-sleeved shirts, dragging their coats on the ground behind them.
• Smother them with adjectives. Tell them they’re cute, beautiful, smart, talented, etc. Particularly when they’re wearing the clothes you’ve chosen for them. On the rare occasions when I manage to cajole my girl into a dress, she’ll say, “I’ll wear it, but don’t you dare tell me I look pretty.”
• Don’t answer their questions. “I have to ask my Dad, like, 100 times for something, and then he says, ‘Why are you asking me 100 times? I heard you the first time,’” Austin says. Notice that your kids ignore you all the time, but they go bonkers if you ignore them for half a second.
• Make faces at them. “You know how parents make all those faces at you? What do those faces mean?” Austin asks. Well, those faces mean a lot of different things, and it might be a good idea for kids to learn to read their parents’ ever-changing expressions. Here’s a fun game. Make the disappointed face. Ask your kids, “What does this face mean?” Make the “I can’t believe you just did something that dumb” face. Ask your kids, “What does this face mean?” You get the idea. The kid with the most points at the end of the 100 Parental Faces game wins.
• Tell your kids they can do something, but don’t tell them when. “How long is a little while?” asks my girl. Then five minutes later, she says, “How much longer?” And I say, “A little while.” She says, “How long is a little while?” Then I ignore her.
Corollary to the above trick: Answer all questions with “because I said so.”
Question: Why do I have to wear a coat?
Answer: Because I said so.
Q: Why do you sing along with ‘70s songs on the radio while my friends are in the car?
A: Because I said so.
Q: Why won’t you answer my questions? Wait, I know. Because you said so.
See? It’s the perfect answer to any question you don’t want to deal with.
• Help them with their homework, but get it wrong. I did this recently, although it was accidental. I mean, I know how fractions work. After all, I’m a damn good cook. Once you’ve screwed up their homework a couple of times, they’ll stop asking for help. Maybe.
I’m sure you already had some of these tools in your toolbox, but there’s always room for more. Remember, we aren’t just raising children, we’re teaching them to be as crazy as we are.
Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville. She covers a number of topics (including parenting) on her blog, www.EdgyMama.com.