Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Debug System Failure

My son, being nine, has honed driving his older sister absolutely crazy into an art form. Button pushing isn’t a choice for him, it’s a way of life.

“Ignore him.” I explained when her brother was playing Safari and kept shooting her with his fake gun and saying, “I bagged a hippo, I got bonus points…I got an elephant…extra bonus points…you know why you get bonus points don’t you?”
She sighed, “Mom? Don't I get credit for not punching him?”

"Yes." But this was insufficient praise for not having the satisfying smack of hitting her brother, so I tried diversion. “Help me make breakfast.” I was making muffins. She considered the prospect and agreed. There was a momentary cease fire in the fight.

Teasing only works if the victim is being actively tormented. His other older sister simply put on her MP3 player. His younger sister wasn't outside and his younger brother wasn't a big enough target, so the safari king came in to hunt his favorite quarry.

I tried a preemptive disarmament strategy. Handing him breakfast with the added point, “Your sister made it.” Didn’t garner a positive response, simply an affirmative grunt, but the teasing had been momentarily suspended by the presence of food.

Now it was lecture time. Mom spoke in her Mom lecture tone…and I saw the brains tune out. I felt like the UN. I needed a more effective model for obedience than my home persona so I pulled out the teacher voice and became Mrs. Antonetti.

“What do they teach you at school about teasing?” I asked my son.
“The Debug system. We need to ignore the teasing. Then we need to walk away. Then if it continues, we say in a nice firm voice, “Please stop.” If that doesn’t work, we get a teacher.”

“Okay. I want you two to Debug each other from now on, instead of running straight to me. Pretend I'm a teacher. I used to be. I have the degree.”

“Won’t work.” My daughter added. Both of them were agreeing.

“Why not? You both know it. You both understand it. I could give detentions if that would help.”

“Mom! You can't give detentions. If they're done at home, they're just time outs."
"Fine, I'll drive to school. You can stand in a corner there."

"Mom, you're not going to load up the car to drive us to school to stand in time out. Besides, if it happens after 7pm..."
"Then you'll just go to bed."
"Teachers don't do that."

"Look, just don't listen to him when he's being rude...and you....Stop Being Rude!"

"I can’t ignore him.”
“Yeah, and she bugs me.”

“Look,” I said, giving them both my undivided attention, “Just pretend it’s me talking. Pretend it’s me saying, “Clean your room. Hang up your coat. Put away your shoes, clear the table. Read. Do your homework.”

“But those are boring things to do.”
“Exactly. Whenever your brother teases you, pretend it’s me. Whenever your sister annoys you, pretend it’s me.”

They blinked, as if they hadn’t heard. One was digging his elbow into the other’s as they stood at the kitchen island not hearing my lecture. “Just like that.” I explained.

At this point, my husband walked by, “I’m not sure that’s the lesson we want taught.”

“Don’t worry love,” I answered, “they weren’t listening.”

1 comment:

MightyMom said...


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