How To Control Kids: Question Quotas.


Whether you’re a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent, or some other source of influence on children, you know kids are wild cards, unruly quasi-citizens who require reigning-in.  Without structured discipline these diminutive devils will run us into the ground.  I’m all for fun, but there’s a time and a place, which leads me to my most recent parental practice: question quotas–I limit the number of questions my kids can ask in a given day.

Having just finished McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning John Adams, I realize the colossus of independence would roar in defiance, but this imposition is mental survival considering the mind-numbing number of questions kids are prone to pose.  So there’s a quota, limiting free speech.

This dictatorship flies in the face of constitutional rights and ACLU lawsuits, but I’m ok with that as my agenda falls under career development–I’m preparing my kids for the workforce as many occupations require quotas.  I’m doing them a favor in service of their future careers.  Oh!  I’m so magnanimous.

Case Study:  Son Jack, a hearty boy, soon to be age 7.  It’s around 9am, Saturday.

“Dad…  Dad.    Dad.  What are we doing today?!”

“We have an agenda.”

“What’s that?”

“An agenda is stuff we have to do.  You have a finite number of questions you can ask today.  That number is 10.”

“What’s finite mean?”

“Good question.  In this context, it means you can’t ask more than 10 questions. You have 9 left, for the day.”

Furrowed brow, “What’s context mean?”

You could say I’m crushing his quota on purpose, maybe I am.  “Context gives us an idea on how to understand stuff. 8 left.”

“Ok. Are those pancakes?”  Mommy is, as always, industrious in the kitchen.

Wasted question!  You can see and smell what’s going on here.  Why ask what’s obvious?  7 left.”

“What’s obvious mean?”

“Ok, you get a pass there (again, so00 magnanimous).  It means you can already know what’s going on so you don’t need to ask.”

“Oh. Thanks, Dad.”

The rest of the day goes swimmingly.  Jack asks a boatload of questions, mostly good, so I’m lenient on the quota.  This system is a great cat and mouse game.  Our conversations are intense, anticipating the thread, we’re totally engaged in how we relate.  I didn’t anticipate this side-effect and I’m loving it.  However, nearing bedtime he makes a fatal error.

“Dad…  Dad.    Dad.  How many questions do I have left?”

“That was your last, son.  Wasted question.  What books do you want to read?  Pick two.”

“How come you get to ask a lot of questions?”

Abandoning my dictatorship, “Good question, Jackie-boy.  I’m your Dad, that comes with certain rights and privileges.”

“Oh, can I ask what that means?”

“You got it, my man.”

We round out the night with a couple Fly Guy books and I couldn’t be happier.  Like Pink Floyd said–All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

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