Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Friends, the Matron has restrained from doing so until this point. Moralizing that is. Each to him or herself or indeterminate gendered self, right? That's all groovy with her. Beyond do unto others, establishing a moral code is pretty rough.

Except for ONE THING. The bane of her existence -- 'tone of voice.' Let's just straddle that phrase: bane of her existence. And she's moralizing.

He Who Cannot Be Named: "Why can't I go to the batting cage right now instead of waiting for you to make dinner?" Key? This is not a query but a battle call, freighted with annoyance at -- of all things-- being inconvenienced by dinner.

Scarlett: "Why can't I have a peanut butter sandwich in my lunch instead of turkey?" Key? Now, this could be a very benign question. Consider how one orders food in a restaurant.

Patron to waiter: "May I please have a peanut butter sandwich and forgo the turkey?"

Waiter: "Of course!"

Instead, at the Matron's house. . . .

"Why can't I have a peanut butter sandwich instead of turkey?"

Matron: "Why are you yelling at me as if I'm the indentured servant on a ship in the 18th century?"

Yes, she says things like that to her children. She likes to think they'll thank her for that someday.

Merrick: "Whewe awe my gween pants!!!!!"

Now, this question more or less sounds like someone announcing nuclear death for the entire planet -- with rage.

Matron, over and over and over and over again: "Can you say that in a polite or neutral tone of voice?" Now, she doesn't pull out this line when her children are genuinely emotional or upset -- a disappointment, denial, fear, uncertainty, etc. Just when there's, well, a demand.

HWCBN: "You and tone of voice. I'll remember that until the day I die."

Matron: "Pardon me? Can you say that in the same tone of voice you'd use for a teacher?"

Because, dear reader? You and the Matron know that we're the primary teachers.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely! My own related peeve is demanding instead of asking. I say "Can you make that a question?" and they follow-up "I need some milk!" with a roll of the eyes and "May I have some milk please"?

Anonymous said...

We had a similar approach to whining in our house. The first time either kid whined we whined back. I don't think either of them (now 21 and 26) ever whined again. Good for you. Civil discourse begins with a non-judgmental tone of voice. We can only hope that the tone of voice translates into attitude.

Anonymous said...

This primary teacher put herself in a 3-hour "time-out" yesterday for yelling. Tone of voice is important for both parties.

Lena . . . said...

When Lovely Daughter was a little girl we used to have those whining issues also. I wonder how many times I said, "It isn't WHAT you say, it's HOW YOU SAY IT!!" I still have to say that to Ole sometimes (chuckle).

Deb said...

Tone of voice is important, no matter what the age!

And I still cringe over whining, wherever I hear it. Sometimes I'm out in public and hear a child talk to her mother in a whiny voice, a voice you can tell they just use all the time...completely cringe inducing. I'm not sure how I managed to avoid, for the most part, whining with my own children, but I am thankful.

Maybe it had something to do with the "No Whining" button my husband found on a trip to England?

unmitigated me said...

As a teacher, I used to challenge my students with a homework assignment, always right before fall conferences: Go home and behave for one evening for your mom and dad the way you behave for me in school. That was the assignment, and the next day we would discuss what happened. My favorite part? "Mom, may I please go to the lavatory?" Totally threw the parents for a loop, but when they came for conferences, I was able to tell them believably that although their child may be a real pistol at home, they were generally pretty well-behaved at school. It was good for parents, I think, to see the other side of their kids' behavior.

Daisy said...

If only our little darlings could hear themselves!

Anonymous said...

Ugh. TONE. Makes me NUTS!

ilyanna said...

My DH always tells the kids "I don't understand Whinese" and won't comply with anything until they take a deep breath and ask politely. They hate it, but man, it makes talking to them so much more pleasant!

Suburban Correspondent said...

Totally - I'm a nut about this myself. And I do give my children the "indentured servant" line...without hesitation.