Give kids an inch and they’ll take approximately a billion miles.
For example, this is what’s going on in a kid’s head when you give a “five more minutes” warning: “I’m counting on this sucker to lose track of time.”
When it’s time to go, they have already crafted a simple yet effective follow-up plan: “I’ll look up with my long eyelashes and hopeful smile and you will lose this battle, honey.”
It’s important at this pivotal moment to stay strong, no matter how fake-polite they make their demands. If you don’t, count on negotiation attempts later that will turn the playground or playdate into the United Nations.
“Five more minutes” is also kid code for: “I’m going to get more computer time if it kills me” and “let’s see if I can break the bedtime barrier tonight.” Such shenanigans often begin with seemingly logical standbys: “You said we could last time” or “I’m almost finished.” Don’t fall for it.
Also, if a child ever asks to draw cat whiskers on your face with washable markers (because it will easily come off with soap and water, you reason), say no. Don’t waver on this because if you do, your face will be entirely covered in ink and you will look so scary that the family dog won’t come near you.
The other day, I let a child be in charge of the classroom lights for an exciting glow-in-the-dark race car experiment. The next thing you know, lights are flickering and everyone is screaming in fear of some kind of major apocalypse.
Another time, after joining a game of tag long enough to possibly pass out, several merciless young delinquents begged me to play a little longer (perhaps until I’d require an ambulance.)
The point is, kids will take advantage of our good nature and trusting instincts time and time again. They were, in fact, born with necessary skills to do this and we must remember to be vigilant.
This is why if you allow them to eat in front of the TV one night, expect conversation at the dinner table for the next five to 10 years to begin with, “Because I said so, not this time and maybe when you’re 30.”
But if they’ve finished eating and ask to be excused, remember that it’s now your turn to say, “Five more minutes, just one more green bean” or “but you stayed until dessert last time.”
Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at [email protected] or pamjhecht.com.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Funny business of parenting: Don’t fall for it!