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Con of the Week: Mother’s Little Helper

May 4, 2010

You know how it is: your kids never listen to a thing  you say. The upside is that, beyond a basic and vague acknowledgment that they’re speaking, they really have no expectation that you’re listening, either. Enter: the earplug.

My wife started using these a couple of years ago at bath time, when the tile-enhanced cacophony was enough to drive her screaming (I mean this literally) from the bathroom. I’m willing to bet that of all the items in the Children’s Toolkit of Manipulation, sound is the most effective and most used. Everyone knows that parents seem to be wired to be uniquely affected by their baby’s cry (as an aside, this is an interesting study on the subject), but believe me, it doesn’t end with infancy. Older kids use their whining, crying, complaining, incessant questioning, and teasing to get your attention in just as effective but more sophisticated ways. Yes, it’s true that, at times, your children are trying to actually communicate something important to you. But in my experience, very little important communication with children occurs between the hours of 4 and 8 pm.

Earplugs are like wine or beer, but better. They take the edge off. You can still hear your kids, and if you get the idea that they might be saying something you need to hear, you can even concentrate, lean in, and make out exactly what it is. But the rest? Just let it pass by with a beatific smile. Advantage: parents.

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