Friday, January 2, 2009

The Poker Face, or How to Discourage Child Informants

Today I'm avoiding housework as well as "work" work...I have a minor mountain of papers to grade, so here I am blogging instead. The kids have done a fairly decent job of keeping the house livable, if not clean, so today I'll give them a break...if only because they are currently not fighting with each other and I'd love to keep the status quo.

SOOOO, I've decided that my parenting tip for today is: Develop a poker face. Now, I'm a rotten poker player because I can't remember what is good and what isn't and it rather spoils everything when I have to keep asking if it is better to have all the black clover thingies or a bunch of numbers all in a row. Plus I have a tendency to jump up and down and yell with excitement when I get a good hand (which isn't often). Finally, I find poker a bit boring. Then again, I don't drink so that may contribute to that particular problem

Where was I? Oh yeah, the poker face. I have gotten really good at keeping a perfectly plain face at whatever the kids tell me. It drives them nuts. Especially when they are tattling on each other, because that is when they want me to react. It goes something like this:

TATTLER CHILD: "Demon Brother and his Demon Friend have tied the dog to the trampoline and lit a bonfire underneath to see if her fur will catch fire before the yard does."

REPLY YOUR CHILD WANTS: [Shouted by Mom with a look of shock, horror, and a wish that Tattler Child had been her only child]: "Good Gracious Mary, Joseph, and Martin Luther King, whatever will I do? Please, Tattler Child, go put the dog out (literally) while I prepare a dank cell for Demon Child in the basement where he will live until the age of thirty-seven on fruitcake and diluted grape kool-aid. Oh, Tattler Child, I wish you were the only child because you are so perfect in every way!"

ACTUAL REPLY: [No change in look, while you get the fire extinguisher]. "Oh. At least I won't have to take the dog to the groomer this week and I won't have to mow the lawn. Pretty cool."

OK, so I am evil and heartless. But it really does drive the Tattler Child nuts, and better yet, serves as punishment because what they fail to realize but you remember all too well is that Tattler Child participated in exactly the same kind of activity in their past. (After all, where did Demon Child get the idea?) Perhaps The Poker Face is not really punishment, but at least revenge.

One may question this, because it could be argued that you want to encourage Tattler in their reporting, especially in this case, at least for the sake of the dog. Trust me, though, the dog will escape mostly unharmed. Plus, if the bonfire burns the house down then you don't have to worry about cleaning it.

As every mother knows, the worst part about children getting into trouble isn't whatever it is that they do, but the fact that you have to find out about it and then act as judge, jury, and executioner. It is much better to just not know. The Poker Face is very helpful in this endeavor.

Best of luck to all, and if someone can let me know whether it is better to have a hand of all the black-clover-things or all the numbers in a row I would appreciate it.


  1. Since the kids did not live under the same roof as me (or each other-by the time I got in the picture The Boy was at boarding school) I never got the whole tattling thing. I can however, share some of the stories on "How to Embarrass Your Teenager" Hubby Poo (HP) turned that into an art form for a while.

    I love this story, it didn't take you long to find your "voice" in the blogosphere did it?

  2. Hey there, welcome to the blogging world, ain't it great. Love your advice. Just don't forget its okay to jump up and down, because it's your game and your house. In the end they all don't mind having a crazy parent, it keeps things interesting.