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A Kid's-Eye View on Talking to Us

Alec Greven may only be 10 years old, but he's got lots of thoughts about how to talk to parents. So many, that as a follow to his book, "How to Talk to Girls," he's written two more: "How to Talk to Moms" and "How to Talk to Dads."

Here are some excerpts via the "Today" show, which interviewed Greven earlier this week:

Moms like:

  • Nice notes
  • When you don't fight
  • When you clean and help out around the house
  • Lots of hugs -- and not just when you want something
  • Clean, polite, mannered kids

As for dads, Alec says they're different from moms:

  • They let girls, particularly little girls, get away with more than boys.
  • They expect you to work hard.
  • They won't let you run wild.

There's also an 80 percent chance that Dad will say yes to something small that Mom has already rejected, Alec says. He suggests staying on Dad's good side. Dads, Alec says, don't like sibling fights and when you tattle on Dad to Mom.

Watching Alec, I had to smile. Sure, I like all the things he mentions. But I also like kids who don't try to play me off my husband! (We combat this, by the way, by immediately asking what the other parent said and holding firm.) And kids who do their homework without being nagged. And who let me sleep in every so often. Plus, I don't mind the roly polys and beetles and other assorted bugs that manage to find their way into my kids' hands (something Alec's mom, apparently, isn't so fond of).

How about you? What do you like from your kids? What could you do without? How much truth is there in Alec's thoughts?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 29, 2009; 12:07 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
Previous: Black Dad, White Daughter | Next: Not-So-Safe Cribs


"What do you like from your kids?"

The same thing I like from adults - honesty.

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 29, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I like it when DD listens to me the first time I say something. (well, at least I think I'd like it. I don't think it's happened yet).

I like an imaginative argument for why something should be allowed. I probably still won't give in, but when DD responds well to "give me one good reason why," I'm more apt to be persuaded.

I like when DD is honest. If she asks me the same question for the frillionth time, I may get annoyed. But if she just comes out and says "Mommy, I need more attention," she will likely get it.

And I really, really hate the "play mom against dad game." Luckily, at 3, DD isn't exactly a master at sneakiness. If one of us tells her something she doesn't like to hear, she will immediately turn and ask the other parent, even though we're all standing in the same room. I hope by the time she figures out the sneaky aspect of it, she'll have learned that Mom and Dad stand as a unit and will back each other up, even if we privately disagree.

Posted by: newsahm | April 29, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I actually like dirty kids, it is proof they were outside being kids. Don't get me wrong, I like clean kids just as much, but dirt doesn't bother me. I also like first time listening when it happens and kids who eat who dinner without complaining the whole time about what vegetables they hate.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | April 29, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Jezebel wants honesty but only gives snark-i-lee

Posted by: anonymous_one | April 29, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

It would be nice if I didn't hear excuses, complaints and crying about every little thing: your homework, bedtime, cleaning up toys, and so on. It shouldn't be a shock that you have to do homework every night, go to bed and clean up after yourself. This happens EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and I don't have to hear about it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

You don't hear me whining about how I have to make you meals, get you drinks, get you ready for bed, help you with homework and the other million things required for your care EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

It would also be cool if you listened to me and Papa - especially Papa so I don't have to listen to him blow up at you and the inevitable crying that occurs after you have incurred his wrath.

The rest of it? I don't mind it. I like your hugs and kisses and drawings that you make. I like snuggling up to read with you. I like taking you with me to the Farmer's Market. I don't mind the fact that you keep up the chatter from the moment we leave the house until we get home... even if that means you have been talking for 2 hours straight. I like being told I am bee-u-ti-ful. The kids do lots of great things and I enjoy them.

Posted by: Billie_R | April 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Stacey, NewSAHM: If I see my DD doing something that I told her she couldn't, and she tells me that Mom said it was OK, she now knows that she is in trouble with BOTH of us for doing that, and will not be able to do that activity or will lose that toy for quite a while. (Same thing applies the other way around, but I probably say no more often, so it's usually Mom who is used as the "second chance".) But we rarely have this problem in our house, probably because of the way we handle it.

Posted by: MaxH | April 29, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I read "How to talk to Girls" and it was cute and to the point. Alec seems to be quite the entrepreneur.

There seems to be a lot of truth in Alec's assessments of moms and dads except his claim that dads won't let kids run wild. I've come home from work dozens of times and found the house swarming with kids, on the verge of disarray, and my husband sitting calmly on the couch or front porch. Kids buzzing around and wreaking havoc doesn't seem to bother too many dads I know, esp mine. I put the kabash on it before it gets too loud or out of hand and try to keep order as the chaos ensues, but my husband is way more relaxed. The benefit is that our kids have their friends over all the time, we feed them and they like it at our house and I want it to stay that way. I just don't like cleaning up after them or continually prodding my kids to clean up.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | April 29, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I like when my 2 year old sits in my lap or my wife's lap when we are winding down in the evening. I could stay like that forever.

Posted by: Dadat39 | April 29, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I like it when my 7-yr-old speaks like a normal person instead of a budding 14-yr-old ("whatever," "yeah yeah right mom"). I like it when they ask for something nicely instead of whining -- our rule is you can't be angry until you've given me a chance to say no! I like it when they get along and play nicely instead of jockeying for position/attention. I love it when my daughter comes home and says, "I'm just going to do my homework now, so I can't get it out of the way and won't have to think about it the rest of the day." (!! Yes, this has actually happened!). I love it when I walk into my 3-yr-old's room in the morning and discover him already awake, happily playing with his toys. In short, I like it when they give me a glimmer of hope that they will someday be reasonably civilized, productive, independent people. :-)

I like it when my 3-yr-old starts babbling some story that I can barely follow, until I realize it's something that happened 3 months ago that I didn't even remember. I like watching my husband quiz my daughter on the square root of 49, and seeing the pride in her eyes when she proclaims "seven!" And I love Love LOVE sitting on the deck, watching them run around and play on the swingset (happily and by themselves) for hours, then come in, devour every scrap of food in the fridge, and sack out without complaint!

Posted by: laura33 | April 29, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I don't like lies, tattling, having to nag, whining for the sake of whining. I wish we had an easier time getting school work done.
I like that DH and I work well together either in line with each other or complementing each other.
I do like honesty (especially if DD got in trouble at school and told me first). I like dirty kids. I love the wind-down time in the evening when we read the same book for the 47th time in a row.
Mostly, I love the Happy Dance when I come home from a trip and my DD's assessment that God put her with me because He knew we needed each other (and that this concept makes her so happy).

Posted by: StrollerMomma | April 29, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I like it when my son is spontaneously helpful, and when he listens and obeys without me having to threaten consequences. I like our special mother son outings, even if it is only to California Tortilla and the library. He actually talks to me about stuff during these special times, and we really connect. I like it that he can get his own breakfast and keep himself occupied on Saturdays, so that the baby and I can sometimes sleep in.

About my 17 month old daughter. I like it when she sings Old MacDonald had a farm, eee I eee I o. The Old MacDonald part is a little garbled, but the eee i o part is pretty darn clear. I like it when she gets that blissful look when she nurses, and then falls asleep in my arms, with her little fingers holding mine. I love it when she sleeps late. I love it when she sits at her little table and eats on her own with her little baby fork. I even find her tantrums cute. What I don't like so much is when she bites to get her way. But this too shall pass. Babyhood goes by in a flash.

Posted by: emily8 | April 29, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I would like them to learn how to properly mix an apple martini and how to rub mommy's feet!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | April 29, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

LOL moxiemom. I'm with you there. I have to teach my son to fix my morning coffee.

I actually forgot one thing that I love doing with my son: reading in turn. We have read some great kids books together, with me reading a few pages aloud and then he doing the same. Our favorites so far are the Great Brain Series. A lovely way to connect, improve reading skills, and find entertainment.

Posted by: emily8 | April 29, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I like when my 8 year old wants to talk to me for hours on end about all the ramifications of each star wars character's actions, words and the meaning of every detail. Although it is quite taxing to try to remember every minute detail like he does.

Posted by: pwaa | April 29, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I love it when my kids read to me. Nothing like falling to sleep to "Go Dog Go!" as narrated by a 1st grader, or the Sunday comics by a tween, or a few pages of whatever I caught my oldest reading at the dinner table. (Although a few times I was sorry I asked)...

And what father wouldn't love to hear the words "Hey Dad, I want your help." from a teenager every now and then. (as long as it isn't for bail money or something like that)

And I just *Love* kicking back in a hammock during a weekend family backyard BBQ listening to the kids laugh, play and tell makeup stories as the aroma of the dogs and hamburgers permeates throughout the neighborhood...


When one of those hyperactive, out of control, stinking little brats decides to take a run and flying leap and land right into my groin, OUCH!!!! I absolutely hate it, hate it, hate it when that happens.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | April 29, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

About my 17 month old daughter.... I like it when she gets that blissful look when she nurses.

- ew

DD's assessment that God put her with me because He knew we needed each other

- ew ew

Posted by: i8neo | April 29, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I liked it last night when younger son wrote the next parapraph on his essay assignment in about 10-15 minutes without whining or daudling for 45 minutes first.

I liked having his help getting dinner ready.

I liked that older son came home from his after-school class and fed the cats without prompting before he fed himself.

I liked it when younger son was *surprised* that it was bed-time already, but he saved his game and signed off the computer without stalling or trying to weasel another 15 minutes.

I like it that older son takes out the garbage and recycling every week without comment or complaint. And he usually remembers to pull the bins back from the curb as soon as he's home from school without anyone having to remind him.

I like that younger son is gracefully accepting a little bit of teasing about girls, instead of bristling and getting embarassed. I like it that I remember to make just one comment, and not tease him too much.

I like that older son practices piano and sometimes sits down and just plays spontaneously for the fun of it.

I like when the older one plays the younger one's games with him, even though he's not that into-whatever-it-is himself.

I like that neither or them gets nearly as bothered by DH's shouting and anger as I get by it. Sometimes I get really rattled, but they almost never do.

I like that when I tell them, "I'm the world's meanest mom," they answer, "no, you're not," and make me laugh.

Posted by: SueMc | April 29, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I love watching my 6 1/2-year-old reading a book out loud to her 2-year-old sister, or watching them play outside. Off the wall comments to something are also hilarious, especially when one doesn't expect a kid to have such mature and yet funny insights. Several years ago, my older daughter started memorizing her favorite bedtime stories and would recite pages a step ahead of me or butt in and read the page before I could (Who's reading to who here?). It always cracked us up!

I like it when older daughter does her chores without having to be told more than once (unfortunately, not often the case). Walking to school is also a good time because then we have our talks, and it gives me a chance to teach her something new on occasion as well (you'd be surprised how you can sneak a science lesson into talking about nature or the weather!). Weekends when she gets her own breakfast and takes care of her little sister for me so I can relax a little bit are always good.

I like it when the younger daughter learns something new, and the look on her face when she accomplishes an objective that she's been trying to master for a long time cannot be beat!

What drives me crazy is when you have to tell them to do something more than once (such as clean up their rooms) and they either act like it's in one ear and out the other, or smart off at you when you bug them for the tenth time.

Don't even get me started on when Older Daughter tries that playing-Mom-against-Dad routine! And when we say you need to clean up your room, we mean ALL of your room. And don't even THINK of trying to cheat by shoving everything into your closet or under the bed-we KNOW that dodge!

Oh, and when we say you're not allowed to watch certain channels on TV, we MEAN it. Do NOT try to override us just because we're not in the room. No means NO!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | April 29, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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