html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Ask the Engineer:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ask the Engineer:

Slate’s new advice column includes a letter from parents who despair that their son is awake all night. They’ve taken away his login, so he can’t be online all night, looking at who-knows-what*, but can’t figure out a way to “eliminate the videogames and TVs” so that sleeping is a more attractive option. I’ve had this conversation in real life, with a woman who said her teenage daughters were regularly staying up until 4:00am, then slept in class and for hours when they got home from school. “What could she do?” she cried. She had to sleep eventually, and when she did, her daughters got up again.

Are they fucking kidding? They have no idea how to resolve this problem? Can’t think of anything? They’ve tried pleading and scolding, and nothing works? I murmured sympathy at her and said nothing, but I would have that problem for exactly one night. Get a flashlight and set your cellphone as an alarm. Flip the breakers off, padlock the fuse box, and sleep sweetly for the rest of the night.

And I’m telling you missy. You can slam your door at me once. You do it twice and I’m springloading that fucker. Some problems I just won’t have.



*We all know exactly what.

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually stay up all night looking at this
or or stuff like this

I don't understand how parents can't control kids. You're bigger than them.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey hon,

And you own the house they live in. My parents would NEVER have put up with that. They didn't believe in autonomy and self-determination for children.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

damn it, all that work, and I still hosed up the links. Oh well, next time. Stupid HTML. No one should know that language, that's why God invented WYSIWYG editors.

Anyway, yeah, I started staying up late in HS I guess, but, usually just sitting in my room reading. My parents could hear me walking around the house at night, so playing video games until 4am wasn't going to be an option.

And, my dad would always come yank the covers off my bed in the morning yelling, "No rest for the wicked." So I usually got up.

Justin

2:55 PM  
Anonymous fasolamatt said...

At one home I knew, a door slam resulted in the door being removed, rather than spring-loaded. 24 hours of no door resulted in about three years of cooperation.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Am I the only one who plans to scare my future children crapless? It's the only way I can think of to keep chaos from overtaking me. I'm already practicing being scary, just ask T.J.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Moms are way more scary than Dads. Moms have The Look, and sometimes the Quiet Angry Voice. Dads can be reasoned with.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Nice idea about the door. A zero-length spring is what you need...

6:50 PM  
Anonymous ananda said...

If I don't go downstairs and stop her right now, my wife is quite capable of staying up all night making dollhouse-scale vegetables out of Sculpey.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About locking the fuse box... If your kid is anything like you, s/he might get up the next morning and go learn how to pick locks. That would be cool, having a kid with that kind of initiative. But in the end, you might not be able to win that fight using technical means alone, and you'd have to rely on your authority as a parent.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the Peking University dorms, they turn off the power around midnight.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

I guess i don't see the problem, i stayed up till 3:00 or something every night reading or listening to music and slept through 2 classes every day.

I'm going to have the worst "when i was a kid" hardass stories ever.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

8:07 Anonymouse:
Hopefully, I would be starting based on my authority as a parent, and we wouldn't even be having this problem. I meant the advice for parents who evidently have forfeited their authority and have to resort to physical solutions.

Yoyo:
Not in my house you wouldn't, young man. (Well, you could now, if you were a guest and if you wanted to.)

10:33 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

of all the things i regret in life, sleeping through HS classes only makes the list for one reason.

i neglected flirting with one of the hottest girls in my class (and like she wanted me) because i was sleeping through it, and i was already crushing on my friend.

I plan on mostly letting my teenage kids do whatever they want as long as its not drive crazy speeds or committing felonies. will that get me and my teenage kids kicked out or can we keep crashing?

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'The Engineering of Souls'

Technical problem. Technical solution.... How depressing!

12:24 AM  
Anonymous James said...

The way I see it, the kid can always win. You take the door off? He can break a hole in your wall. You turn off the power? He can burn the house down.

This is the same problem colonial occupiers have, and everyone knows they always lose.

I see two ways to solve it:

1. Make it clear you will do *whatever* is necessary to stay on top. If he breaks a hole in your wall, you'll chain him to the floor. If he burns the house down, you'll cut off his arms and legs. Most parents and colonial occupiers aren't really up for this.

2. The elephant and string approach. My grandfather once told me that they tie young circus elephants up with huge ropes tied to huge stakes in the ground, and they keep making them bigger and bigger as the elephant grows. At some point, it decides it can't fight it. After that, they only need a little stake and a piece of string. So, from birthday number zero, you give the kid some room and a good life and make completely clear what the boundaries are, and during the time when they actually still need you to live, you really never let them win. By the time they're older, they won't even know how to fight it.

3:50 AM  
Blogger amanda bee said...

Can't figure out how to eliminate the TV and videogames?

Is this such a puzzle? Does no one know how to put a padlock on a closet anymore?

5:46 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I don't understand the zero-length spring.

6:20 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

More "Engineer" oriented than parenting, but if you haven't commented on this yet, it might be interesting:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/24/2144206

7:12 AM  
Anonymous thelonious_nick said...

1) If you're going to bed earlier than the kids, than you're also waking up earlier than them. So what's to stop you from waking them up? My dad used to regularly wake me up around 6AM to work in the yard on Saturdays.

2) Second the point made by others that this never should have become a problem in the first place. Had the parent been a parent all along, the kids would be obeying all through the teen-age years simply out of respect for parental authority.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an 18 yr old brother, who is up till all hours. I used to do it when I was younger too. It's only when you start to work, that you value your sleep. They grow out of it.

8:20 AM  
Blogger SydneyDawn said...

As a parent, I can't imagine whining because you can't figure out how to keep junior off the TV/computer/video games. Just take it away from them!

It's unfortunate that too many parents want to be their kid's best friend instead of their parent. They're doing a great disservice to their children.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

"By the time they're older, they won't even know how to fight it."

I thought the goal of parenting was to raise a psychologically healthy child who is ready to function in the world, not a beaten down slave.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JMPP, there is a significant difference between "a beaten down slave" and a child who respects parental authority.

You should never let them win. That way they grow up respecting you and the rules that you set. Additionally, you treat them fairly and with respect. I obeyed my parents and got along with them. Now I still respect them but I don't do whatever they say. I've grown into an adult, not a beaten down slave.

Cheers,
Tim.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yoyo:
Of course you and your kids are welcome. I have very different expectations of my kids and my guests.

All:
I totally agree with all the "be a parent, not a friend" advice, but I have a suspicion that it is hard for people who were basically good kids to imagine how hard it could be to discipline a defiant kid. I would never have disobeyed, simply out of respect. So I can't imagine what I would do with a truly disrespectful kid; the things that worked on me might be completely ineffective.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a parent of two young kids, I can tell you two things:
1. You will do things as a parent that you swore you would NEVER, EVER do before you had kids because you are sleep deprived or desperately need a moment to yourself. I swore I would never let little ones watch TV. Twice a week though, my eldest (who is almost 3) enjoys 45 minutes of Clifford the Big Red Dog while I do anything but take care of kids. It's the only time I get to poop with the door closed.
2. Sometimes, the kids get to win. Because sometimes, they are right. And that doesn't mean that your authority is taken away, it just means that you are fair.

To those of you who don't have kids and swear you'll never buy an electronic toy or let your kids watch tv: Remember this post. You will. But the TV/Video game late night thing? Sheesh. Lock it up, take it away, make him sell it, whatever. That seems like an easy one.

12:13 PM  
Blogger MamaBlue said...

As a parent of two young kids, I can tell you two things:
1. You will do things as a parent that you swore you would NEVER, EVER do before you had kids because you are sleep deprived or desperately need a moment to yourself. I swore I would never let little ones watch TV. Twice a week though, my eldest (who is almost 3) enjoys 45 minutes of Clifford the Big Red Dog while I do anything but take care of kids. It's the only time I get to poop with the door closed.
2. Sometimes, the kids get to win. Because sometimes, they are right. And that doesn't mean that your authority is taken away, it just means that you are fair.

To those of you who don't have kids and swear you'll never buy an electronic toy or let your kids watch tv: Remember this post. You will. But the TV/Video game late night thing? Sheesh. Lock it up, take it away, make him sell it, whatever. That seems like an easy one.

12:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home