Monday, February 27, 2012

How To Annoy, Embarrass, And Otherwise Irritate Your Children

If I were to consider myself an expert in any area of life, it would have to be in a tiny subset of parenting called "Annoying Your Offspring." I do believe I could write a book. It's sort of my theory that if your children don't find you annoying, embarrassing, or otherwise irritating, then you aren't doing your job as a parent correctly.

I can make no claims on tricks to make children behave. I have no great understanding of raising children to be Respectful Young Adults Who Are Responsible Citizens Of The World. But driving my kids nuts? Stand back. I got this.

Here are a few things that have led me to excel in this particular area:

1. Insist on dental hygiene. At a certain age, this is the number one way to annoy your child. For some reason, they have no concept of why teeth brushing is important. They have even less concept of how their own rancid breath can make others want to curl into a fetal position to avoid the stench. So insisting that they brush their teeth once a day is akin to asking them to rebuild the Great Wall of China. Asking them to brush twice is devolving into utter madness. This is what you are aiming for.

2. Insist on dental hygiene, Part 2. Older children who have orthodontia are the targets here. Make sure to remind them 999 times a day to wear their rubber bands or retainers. Remind them that the more they do these things the better off they will be. Teenagers, in particular, are reluctant to take good advice. And hearing it more than one time will set off a chain reaction from their brain, causing neurons to fire and eyeball rolling to occur. You know that you have done your job here when eyeballs are rolling.

3. Ask them to pick up their dirty laundry and transfer it to a designated location. This is especially effective if you ask them to do it in the middle of their favorite television show, while they are in the midst of a video game firefight, when they are heading outside to play, or when they are staring at the wall doing nothing and they insist they are busy. Success is achieved when there is stomping by one or more of your offspring.

4. Or, the converse of number 3--Ask them to come get their clean and neatly folded laundry and put it away. Follow the same time/activity/success guidelines as stated above.

5. Dig for details on where they are going and who they are going to be with. You get bonus points if you volunteer to be the parent who drops them off at their designated location.

6. Be the parent who drops them off at the mall/movie/friend's house. You get bonus points if you yell something that cannot, on it's face, be construed as embarrassing but nonetheless is, out the window at them as they walk away. I have found "I love you!" to be the most effective for this. You'll know you are successful when you see their back stiffen and they walk quickly away pretending that they didn't hear you. Bonus points if they request the other parent to take them places.

7. Talk to their teachers. Note: this is really only effective with boys in the 3rd through 6th grade. Females seem to be impervious to this one. In fact, they often encourage it. You'll know you've met your goal when your child blushes, hides his face, or goes off to a far corner with friends and pretends not to notice you.

8. Make them all sit together someplace for an extended time (e.g. over 30 minutes.)--like church or the dinner table. Occasionally this will lead to the opportunity to both annoy and embarrass them. For older children, just acknowledging that they have parents and that they didn't spring forth fully formed from an American Eagle store at the mall, and having to be in their parents' presence in public is all that is needed to embarrass and annoy. For younger children, it's about placing expectations upon them that they not act like rabid ferrets in public, that will cause the annoyance/embarrassment. You will know that you have achieved success here when: a) they whisper "I hate you",  b) they fight with their siblings before, during, or after (or on particularly successful ventures, all three!) the occasion, and/or c) they ignore you and/or afterwards, they stalk off to their bedrooms and play very loud music.

9. Wake them in the morning. For younger children this is effective on weekdays when school attendance is compulsory. For teenagers, this is effective on weekends when school is not compulsory. Success is achieved when at least one child mutters or screams that "school/waking up is dumb and stupid and who ever thought of it anyway?" Bonus points if your child invokes the Free Country defense. (You know: "I don't have to wake up! It's a free country!")

10. Ask them to apologize. Any type of apology to any person for any offense will often result in blustering irritation. This is good. You will have achieved success if they deliver the apology in a sullen manner. Bonus points if the apologist (the person doing the apologizing) goads the apologee (the person receiving the apology) into an argument that causes the apologee to have to become the apologist.

So there you have it! 10 simple things that you, too, can do to annoy, embarrass, and otherwise irritate your children. It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it!

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