Dear Dr. Babooner,
My 7 year old son Jimmy has a problematic relationship with the truth.
He simply cannot leave a fact un-tortured, particularly if it implicates him in some kind of wrongdoing. Whenever we say he has done something, Jimmy denies the charges.
But that’s not the worst of it.
He also takes facts that dispute his claims of innocence and he re-imagines them as evidence in his own defense. When we challenge this mis-interpretation of reality, Jimmy goes on the attack and then retreats to a place of victimhood, saying we don’t listen to his arguments because we’re against him.
For example, last week we docked his allowance $5 to help pay for the repair a lampshade he had damaged while playing Frisbee in the house – an activity that is strictly forbidden. Jimmy immediately went into defensive mode, claiming that we had dramatically increased his taxes.
We pointed out that we were simply asking him to pay his fair share of the cost of rectifying a bad situation that diminishes us all (the bare bulb makes the living room appear very much like a gulag), and he called us socialists who are bent on stealing his wealth so we can throw it away on overpriced furnishings.
I offered that Jimmy would have no “wealth” without us, and he became very, very upset and called us “wards of the state.” My husband almost had a stroke and said if anyone in our house was a “ward of the state,” that would be our son, since we pay for the infrastructure that supports his very survival.
Jimmy then argued that he was, in fact, a “job creator,” because by knocking over the lamp and smashing the shade, he made work for the lampshade mender, whereas we did nothing for the economy but simply “handed money out and made demands,” like a branch of government.
I have never seen my husband’s face that particular shade of crimson.
Jimmy then pointed out that the Frisbee is something he purchased with his “earnings”. If we were going insist on penalizing him for utilizing this capital expenditure, the long term effect on the economy would be dire. He would have less incentive to by more Frisbees, since we seem bent on enforcing these unenforceable rules and regulations. The only logical choice for him would be to stop all his expenditures until the uncertainty subsides.
Sigh. We caved and took on the whole cost of fixing the lampshade but I’m concerned that he’s now learned to argue his way out of a bad spot and to never, ever accept responsibility for anything.
I’m not sure if he gets these embarrassing tactics from Republicans or Democrats, but I have noticed whenever we simply assert our authority because he’s only seven and we are, in fact, “the boss of him”, he asks to see a photo ID to be sure we are not just some creative and mischievous strangers determined to cause havoc.
Dr. Babooner, I’m concerned for Jimmy’s future when I see him willfully misinterpret the truth to press his own advantage. But perhaps I’m overdoing it. He’s only 7 and there’s plenty of time for him to outgrow this contentious behavior. Isn’t there?
Flummoxed in Fridley
I told Flummoxed that Jimmy could very well outgrow this fact-twisting phase, but she should hope he doesn’t! Political operatives in both parties are paid very well, and his ability to toss a fact so far away from it’s starting point that it appears to be a reverse of itself is a talent rivaling that of the greatest Olympians. Jimmy will do well in the Brave New World if he manages to keep his hubris.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?