Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mocking Children for Fun and Profit

This will come as a shock to parents, but it has to be said: children are deeply flawed. Yes, even yours. Sorry. The job of parents (as I often reiterate to my own hellions) is to try to correct these flaws before they are released into the wilds of adulthood.

When these flaws manifest, there are many ways to deal with them: 1) Screaming; 2) Yelling; 3) Time-Outs; 4) DHW unapproved physical discipline; 5) Loss of privileges; 6) Grounding; 7) Lecturing; or, my personal favorite, 8) Mocking.

Mocking has several benefits for both parent and child. The child is impressed with the utter futility and foolishness of his flawed behavior while the parent is better able to retain her hair, her vocal chords aren't torn raw by shrieking (actually, this has never happened to me--why do you ask?), and she can maintain an aura of adult superiority while still acting like the child she has always been inside.

The applications are vast.

Toddler throws full-blown-kicking-screaming-on-the-floor tantrum in PUBLIC? Don't be embarrassed: point and laugh. What an entertaining show your progeny is putting on. Accept tantrum tips from nearby parents and enjoy connecting with kindred spirits until peace reigns anew.

Five-year-old declares (for the very first time) that he HATES you? Don't feel hurt: you've passed an important milestone. While your heart swells with pride, engage in a little cathartic No-You-Don't-Yes-I-Do back-and-forth with your wee one.

Nine-year-old announces that he will NOT be doing [insert recent parental proclamation]? No need for a health-endangering rise in blood pressure: level your pint-sized prince with your best "Who's the Boss" stare, raise one eyebrow, then burst out laughing. Wait out the tantrum, then reiterate [insert recent parental proclamation]. Repeat as needed. See? All better.

As you may suspect, this method has applications for more literary babies, as well (and no one will think you're a bad parent for suggesting this method for correcting flaws in your manuscript).

Did you send out your newly-completed-and-rough-polished first draft to alpha readers only to realize (a day and a half later) that the plot is a screaming mess? It's too late to keep your darling home, so point it out and laugh. Encourage others to join in. The points your readers mock the most? Change those first. Thank them for helping focus your revision efforts.

Realize (not for the first time, alas) that you are dreadfully bad at (picking a completely random example) description? Don't fret. Accept the blank canvas that is created by all your invisible characters wandering over your white landscape, pull out your crayons, and engage in a little cathartic coloring.

Has your hero declared that he will NOT be doing [insert recently realized plot-pivotal action]? Don't toss your computer into the street. Pull out your bag of Horrible Happenings, allow a maniacal laugh to issue from your lips, and provide him with the proper motivation. Repeat as needed. See? All better.

All in all, mocking is much more entertaining than screaming. Trust me on this. You'll see that I'm right.


In completely unrelated news, I've recently "completed" my WIP to the point that I can let a few select brave souls read it. My mother, predictably, finished first (aren't mothers cool?) and (with complete objectivity) called my story "Fascinating." (Yes, I'm totally quoting her in my query letter.)

Then, last night, she spend one and a half hours explaining all the ways I'd screwed up. Most notably by including a host of nameless, faceless, personality-devoid parents for my teenage characters. Oops. She kept apologizing for being so negative and I just laughed (oh, yeah, look at me, practicing what I preach): she had so many solid ideas for making it better! Why would I be sad?

Mocking is good.

Now excuse me while I go scream at my children.... Anyone have a throat lozenge?

12 comments:

  1. My six-year-old's favorite new line: "You can't make me (do my homework/clean my room)." I'm going to try the point-and-laugh technique :)

    Congrats on getting your WIP to the point that it's read for test reads! And I agree--it IS exciting when you see how to make your book better! Good luck!

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  2. Thanks, Stephanie! Be sure to report back on how it works for you.

    My MIL's favorit parenting line is "bet ME and lose." :D

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  3. You made me smile, Robin. Oh, how I remember those days. Mocking is really a very clever approach. Kids are really good with the hook (think fish hook here, not story hook). They say things with every expectation of getting a certain response from you. It's the only power they have, and they use it mercilessly. A friend years ago who was going through some counseling to help her with a wayward child said she was instructed to put her little finger in the side of her mouth and pull her face to the side whenever the child through out one of those 'hooks'. Both parent and child knew what was meant--that the parent understood what the child was attempting ... and it wasn't going to work. Those hooks children use are great ways to distract the parent from the real issue.

    The parents are devoid of personality? Wait.

    *runs back to look again*

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  4. Donna--she was mostly upset that the parents didn't have names of their own and were defined only by their relationship to their POV children. We agreed that it was less awkward to, um, name them. And assign hair color. Things like that.

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  5. I LOVED THIS POST! Tweeting forthwith.

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  6. Amber--I think that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me! :-D

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  7. I think it is a very important trait to learn to laugh at ourselves and to not take ourselves so seriously. :)

    That being said, as a child who was ceaselessly mocked for everything, well, I don't think this carries well over to children. Showing the ridiculousness of the situation works, but not when it becomes personal. :o)

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  8. Thanks Danyelle--it had to be said that you can absolutely take mocking children too far.

    Mocking your own manuscript, though, is always good. Most of the time. :)

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  9. I notice when my kids say something naughty that I realize they probably heard it from me in the first place! I love my kids, but boy do they know how to test me!! Great post! Thanks for stopping by my blog! It's nice to meet you! I also noticed you were going to Storymakers! Me too! So excited!! :D

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  10. MY kids learn all their swear words from their FATHER. :) Then I get to yell at everyone. :):)

    I noticed your Storymakers badge and was going to comment (truly) but forgot. Thanks for stopping by! Nice to meet you, too!

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  11. My kids don't like me when I yell - but they run when I smile. Mini -Me is now almost 12 - hate when he looks at me placidly and smiles "if you say so mom" ----- I can freak out the yellers into compliance - him - well lets just say "thank goodness If all else fails - money talks"

    im stalker #30 -

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  12. HowL--you'll notice I had no tips about teenagers. I have (*gasp*) only three years (!) to figure them out before I have one.... I'll have a pre-teen in... when are they considered pre-teen? My oldest is about to turn 10.

    I'll remember the money thing. Hope I'm rich by then....

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