Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'm so Devious!

I used to despise people who avoided a direct confrontation. I assumed they couldn't win by reason, therefore they must be working evil and resorting to deceit. Then I had children.

First, nothing is more futile than reasoning with a toddler. Have you ever watched a mother trying? Mothers never fell for such nonsense when I was little. At least my mother didn't. Now most mothers seem to feel obligated to reason with people who can't understand how to blow their own noses. "I said blow, dear, that was a sniff." Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?

I say mothers because fathers are somewhat less prone to falling into this trap. They may answer the first time a child asks why he has to do whatever it is he doesn't want to do, but when the child responds with a second "Why?" Dad usually says, in effect, "Because I'm bigger than you, and you're going to do it my way." This is sensible and effective when it's time to leave a party. It is completely ineffective when you want him to eat his vegetables. Then you need an entirely different strategy. Yes, strategy. You can do things the hard way, but why not find a way to let the kid do the right thing and think it was his idea? Why fight when you don't have to? Save your strength for times you really need it. Diplomacy is not always the coward's way out; done well, it is the art of letting someone else have your way.

I think that's why I hated the indirect approach. How could I be sure I wasn't being manipulated if I didn't know what the other person wanted? (I was a very cynical kid. You get that way when you want to automatically trust everyone. 90% of them will take advantage in one way or another. Even as an adult, I've had very few problems result from being too cynical. Virtually all were from not being cynical enough. Be careful, and you will save many men from the sin of robbing you.) So meet manipulation with subtlety. Measure out trust wisely. If it be possible, as much as it lies with you, live peaceably with everyone. But use this power responsibly. God is watching. To those of you with sophisticated innate social skills, this will sound obvious, simple, even amateurish. Those of you on the spectrum will understand. Those of you not on the spectrum, but living with it, may understand if you make the effort.

Today was what I call an "irregular" school day. MB was sick, and home from work. GL had his continuing difficulties and continued giving the rest of us difficulties. BB had had about all he could stand, but wouldn't stay away from GL. GL was missing no opportunity of annoying BB. It was work a little, rest a little, break up a fight, work a little, break up another fight, get lunch, wonder how much we could get done, and how late we would have to work to make that happen. I had bragged recently in a forum that no matter what else doesn't get done, I make sure we do our reading, writing, and math assignments every day. I was wishing for a sauce that goes well with crow.

Then The Story of the World Volume 4 arrived. The audio version read by Jim Weiss. BB spent an hour listening to it. Math didn't get done today, but I didn't tell him that he spent an hour listening to his history textbook.


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