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We need to talk

I've discovered how to communicate with kids

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Get ready to be excited, Modern Parents, because I have stumbled on the secret for communicating with our kids.

I will reveal that secret to you in a minute, but first I'd like to explore the problem in a thoughtful, intellectual manner, unless that proves too difficult, in which case I will resort to making amusing animal noises.

From my perspective, as a communications professional, the mistake modern parents make when conducting conversations with their children is they waste time on old-fashioned methods, such as trying to communicate with them via their ears.

Based on research conducted in my own home, I have discovered the ears of modern children have evolved to the point where they are unable to hear sounds produced by people they consider embarrassing dweebs, such as their parents.

For instance, I will routinely try to communicate to my daughter the concept that her room resembles a battlefield in Afghanistan, only with more CD cases, fashion magazines and empty makeup containers on the floor.

Me: "Sweetheart, could you please clean up your room?"

My daughter (Sound of her rolling her eyeballs back in her head): "???"

Me: "Sweetheart ...?"

My daughter (Sound of her door slamming): "YOU'VE RUINED MY LIFE!!!"

Always willing to embrace modern technology, I have even tried using social media to achieve the desired result.

My tweet: "OMG! Cln yr rm. LOL. #oldfart."

My daughter: "I demand DNA evidence you're my real dad? #liferuined."

What I'm trying to say is that modern kids, especially teenagers, have evolved the ability to tune out anything their parents are trying to say. It's the same with our dogs, who, regardless of what we are trying to communicate, just stare blankly to convey the concept they'd really like a biscuit.

I could walk into our den and, at the top of my lungs, scream "FIRE!" and the dogs would remain snoozing on the carpet, emitting potentially toxic aromas. But if I were to sneak away and, as quietly as a ninja, tear open a potato chip bag, the sound would instantly penetrate their tiny brains and cause them to stampede into the kitchen in search of salty snacks.

At this point, most of us have forgotten the point of today's column, which was me promising to reveal the secret for communicating with today's modern tech-savvy children.

I discovered the secret this week when I visited Joseph Teres Elementary School in the wilds of Transcona as part of I Love to Read Month. Before reading to the kids, I warmed them up by displaying a poster of my main dog, Cooper, a basset hound with a huge appetite and a brain the size of a cashew.

"Awwwwwwww!" is what the kids said in unison.

Then I showed them a poster of me after being turned into the Lizard King from Outer Space by a world body-painting champion during Mardi Gras celebrations a few years back.

"Ewwwwwwww!" is what the kids said in unison.

The real highlight -- and this is where the parenting breakthrough comes in -- was when, at the school librarian's request, I led the kids (about 500 of them) in a rousing game of Simon Says.

The educational idea was the game would help the kids see what they had in common with their classmates.

"Simon says, if you have blue eyes, stand on one leg!" I shouted over the microphone. And: "Simon says, if you speak more than one language, hop up and down!"

These were amazingly polite and well-behaved kids, which gave me what I thought was a brilliant and non-hazardous idea. At the end of the game, just for fun, I roared: "Simon says, go out in the parking lot and wash Uncle Doug's car!"

In all sincerity, I thought the kids would just laugh and roll their eyes. Instead, dozens and dozens of them squealed with delight and scampered out of the room towards the parking lot. This caused the teachers to give Uncle Doug "the look," the one he normally only gets from his wife after spilling an entire container of salsa on the carpet in the den.

"I'm just kidding!" Uncle Doug shrieked wildly into the microphone as the kids scuttled off. "No, wait... Simon says, I'm just kidding! Simon says, COME BACK!"

In the end, they did come back. So what I'm suggesting is the rest of you modern parents might want to test my "Simon Says" technique on your own unruly offspring. It definitely worked for me. But, of course, I'm a communications professional.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 A2

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