Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Manager

My boys are no different than other kids when it comes to listening to their parents. We get the runaround, the hems, the haws, the sighs, the rolled eyes and all of the other typical, defiant behavior associated with "the rules." I explain that we have rules to follow to make our world a little more reasonable and our society a little more fit for human habitation. As long as we have rules, we have some semblance of order. To a toddler, however, that sounds more like, "rules really stink."

I found out really early on that when I tried to enforce the rules I had to repeat myself too many times for it to take effect. My boys would simply push boundaries until we were both exhausted from stating our cause. My voice would get louder as my kids got wilder. I was sick and tired of being the bad guy. Something had to change. My light bulb moment occurred when almost pushing a button on a plane trip to North Carolina. I discovered the power of blaming someone else for the rules.

My son Nicholas was kicking the seat in front of him to the intense irritation of the occupant. He was only 2 years old at the time and keeping those little legs perfectly still is next to impossible short of hogtying the boy to the flight attendant's drink cart. The aforementioned seat occupant was getting really hot under the collar and I wasn't in the mood to rationalize a 2-year old's behavior to a sneering, ornery old coot. I showed Nicholas the flight attendant's call button and said, "if you don't stop kicking that seat in front of you I will push this button and call the pilot. If the pilot has to come out of the cockpit to talk to you, you will be in b-iiiiii-gggggg trouble." I put my finger next to the button and Nicholas stopped kicking immediately. He looked at me with wide eyes darting back and forth to the front of the plane and said, breathing heavily, "is the pilot coming out?" I explained that I wouldn't have to push the button if he did as I said and behaved for the remainder of the flight. Let's just say we had a smooth landing.

I told the pilot story often. What a simple concept! The more I told the story, the more I realized I could use the pilot analogy in other situations as well. If we are at the grocery store and the boys can't keep their hands to themselves I threaten to call the grocery store manager. I tell the boys he is watching them from his hidden cameras in the store and the grocery store manager does not like boys who misbehave in his store! As we are walking down the aisles the boys point to a stranger and say, "is that the manager?" By the time they determine who they think is the manager our shopping is done. When we are at a restaurant and the boys are misbehaving I threaten to call the chef. I clarify that if the chef has to stop preparing meals for everyone in this restaurant to come out and talk to the boys not only will the chef be angry but so will everyone else who is waiting for their food. Don't make me call the chef! My younger son usually asks me, "is the chef the manager?" I always say yes because it's much easier to relate to a "manager" since most stores or businesses have managers. Most of the time I threaten to call "the manager" and my boys know exactly what I am talking about regardless of what type of business we are frequenting.

I have had so much fun blaming the manager and equally as much fun watching my boys look around and try to figure out just exactly who this elusive figure is. Is that the manager over there in the red shirt? Is that the manager behind the counter talking on the phone? Is that the manager in the suit wearing a tie? The "manager" has saved my sanity on numerous occasions where my simple, "because I said so!" isn't working.

In all the years we have been using this ruse, I have never actually had to place the call. The threatening gesture of simply picking up my phone is enough. My oldest son is so enamored with the supreme authority of the manager and the allure that comes with that much power. It's not rocket science to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. When Nicholas is asked this question he answers without hesitation; the manager!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for great advice - I'm sure I'll be using that one by the end of today!


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