"That's Not How Tina Says to Do It!"

by Tina Blue
October 21, 2000

          It's fascinating to watch the way children manipulate the adults in their life by playing one off against the other.

          One little boy named James, who had begun attending my home daycare when he was just two months old, was one of the most effective little politicians I've ever encountered. When he was about three years old, his time at my home was punctuated all day with appeals to the authorities whose precedence could not be questioned: "But Daddy says we should do it this way," or "My mommy says I don't have to have a sippy lid on my cup." No matter what the issue, he was ready to resist me with an irrefutable argument--Mommy or Daddy did it differently, or said to do it differently.

          No problem. The kid had a right to respect his parents and to value their standards and their directions. I would just reply calmly, "That's fine, Jamie. When you're at home you should always do it the way Daddy says to, even though we do it differently here."

          Or I would say, "If that's what Mommy says, you should listen to her, and when you're here, you should listen to me."

          I found out one day from Jamie's mother that when he was at home he reversed the procedure. All the time it was, "But Tina says to do it this way," or "That's not how Tina wants us to do it." His mom was amused by Jamie's attempts to refute his parents' directives by appealing to mine, especially since she was well aware that at my place Mommy and Daddy were Jamie's preferred authorities. Daddy, on the other hand, was perhaps a bit put out that he was always being challenged by Jamie's constant appeals to the babysitter's way of doing things.

          One weekend, Jamie was playing the "But Tina says" note every time his father told him to do something. It was, "Tina says" this and "Tina says" that, and Daddy was getting pretty darned tired of what Tina had to say, especially since to hear Jamie tell it, Tina had something to say on just about every subject in the world.

          Finally, when Daddy was helping Jamie brush his teeth that Sunday evening, James told him, "Tina says we should brush our tongue so we won't have bad breath."

          His father, who could no longer contain his exasperation, snapped, "Will you just shut up about what Tina says!"

          After a moment's silence, Jamie replied firmly, "Tina says we don't say 'Shut up.'"

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