How to brush off annoying kids...
Boy, do we love our children. And goodness me, do we want to snap them in half now and again. Here's how to handle some of the common parenting problems.
After all, what parent really wants to endlessly wash dishes, pick up wet towels and put away takkies? Or yell dementedly, ‘Turn that radio down!’ or ask sarcastically, ‘Were you born in a barn?’ or horrify themselves by saying, ‘Because I’m your mother and I told you to.’

Parenting can be a thankless job, and it’s certainly a relentless one. Here are some of the most common parenting problems you're likely to encounter if you have pre-teens in the house... plus some quick fixes.

The phone phenomenon
A parent on the phone is a Pavlovian signal to children: As soon as your child sees you with the receiver clamped to your ear, he’ll say, ‘Mom?’ You’ll signal to him the obvious – that you’re currently otherwise occupied, and that he’ll have to wait a minute. Your child, an expression of desperation on his face, will whine, ‘But Mom…!’ So you’ll ask the caller to hang on and say to your little darling (who’s clearly in distress), ‘Yes, what it is?’ ‘Can I go and play at Jason’s?’ (or something equally innocuous) he’ll say.

Once you’ve completed your phone call, you’ll explain to your child that non-urgent requests can wait until you’re finished on the phone. The next time the phone rings, your child won’t say, ‘Mom?’ Instead, he’ll materialise at your elbow as you pick up the receiver and plunge up and down like a Dalmatian; then, when he has your attention, he’ll make semaphore-like hand signals that could mean either ‘Mom, the kitchen’s on fire’ or ‘Mom, can I go and play at Jason’s?’ Because you don’t want to risk ignoring him in case it’s the former, you’ll ask the caller to hang on and say, ‘Yes, what is it?’ Invariably, it will be ‘Mom, can I go and play at Jason’s?’

The solution: Make all your phone calls in the mornings, while your child is at school, or do them at work. If your child is around when the phone rings, send him to the bottom of the garden to collect four different kinds of leaves (also good for developing his natural-history knowledge).

The toilet terrorist
You’d think 10 undisturbed minutes on the loo would be the ultimate human right of all members of our race, wouldn’t you? Why, then, does your child wait until you’re comfortably ensconced before rapping peremptorily on the door and saying, ‘Mom?’

‘What is it?’ you’ll ask wearily. ‘Can I go and play at Jason’s?’ he’ll say. You explain to your errant offspring that privacy in the smallest room in the house is paramount. Then, the next time you’re on the loo, you’ll be astonished to hear a furtive rustling outside in the corridor, and then watch, with increasing disbelief, as a note comes sliding in under the door. Hurling the magazine you were reading aside, you’ll snatch the bit of paper up off the floor and read a hastily scrawled message: ‘Mom, can I go and play at Jason’s?’

The solution: Try to re-set your body clock so that any and all evacuations take place after 10pm, when your children are in bed. Or hermetically seal your bathroom.

The on-your-heels harasser
You’re hurrying through Pick ’n Pay, and your little darling, who’s so close behind you he could lick the sweat off the small of your back, stands on the heel of your shoe, causing you to lurch sideways into a stack of ‘on special’ tins of chopped tomato.

Or you’re walking through to the kitchen to check the pasta on the stove, when the phone rings, and when you turn to go and answer it, you have a spectacular collision with the 12-year-old who’s been dogging your footsteps all the way down the passage, trilling, ‘Mom, can I go and play at Jason’s?’

The solution: As much as you’d like to, you can’t kill your child in these situations. Go ahead, if you want, and have a heart-to-heart talk about the importance of personal space; or save your breath (and just hold it until he leaves home).

The constant critic
You’re getting dressed one Saturday morning and your 13-year-old, watching you with keen interest, says, ‘Wow, Mom, you’ve got lots of dimples on your bottom.’ Or you’re letting loose with a bit of a boogie around the living room to your favourite ABBA track and your resident prepubescent remarks, under his breath, ‘Talk about the amazing electrocuted woman.’ Or you’ve sweated over a hot stove to produce a delicious, nutritious meal for your family and, when you serve it up, your child says, ‘I wish I lived at Jason’s. They get take-aways all the time.’

The solution: No matter how cutting, cruel, insensitive or unjust your child’s comments might be, you have only one option here: Ignore them. You’ll get your own back one day when they’re raising children of their own and you can sit back and watch them squirm.

The fly
Judith pops in after work for a glass of wine and a chat. She’s a wild girl and a wonderful breath of fresh air for you, married with children as you are. You can’t wait to hear all she’s been up to, and yet as soon as you settle down on the sofa for a good, long chin-wag, your little darling slinks into the living room.
‘Sweetie,’ you say, ‘don’t you have any homework to do?’
‘Done it,’ he answers.
‘Why don’t you go and listen to a CD in your room?’ you suggest.
‘Don’t want to,’ he says.
‘Go and read a book, then,’ you say, a little more snappily.
‘Read them all,’ he replies, making himself comfortable in the easy chair.

The solution: As delicate as puberty is in a child’s life (you don’t, after all, want to humiliate him and then have him blame you for his borderline personality disorder when he’s 30), you’re entitled to your life, too. Say, ‘Honey, go and play at Jason’s.’ And mean it!

What tactics have you used to deal with annoying kids? Share them in the comment box below.

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