“Just-a-Minute” Syndrome: Have We Caused It?

This entry is courtesy of my dear friend, former high school teacher turned full-time parent, Betsy Whitehouse. If you’d like to pipe in about a topic pertaining to parenting or education (or a place where these world’s collide), please feel free to let me know! I’m glad to shut up from time to time!


photo from joleenieweenie @ flickr.com

I never said boo to my parents. When they told me to do something, I may have slumped my shoulders, but it never occurred to me to reply. I do not mean I wanted to object but showed restraint and held my tongue instead; I mean, the thought of disobeying a parental command never floated across my synapses. How has this tradition not been repeated?

When I ask my son, age 11, to put down his book and come to dinner, I first get silence.

I say, “Please come to the table,” and then I get, “Just a sec, Mom.”

Me: “Fritz!”

Ungrateful child: “I’m coming!” Then silence, followed by no movement from the couch.

Some people will no doubt snicker as they read these words because the child I’m complaining about is reading and not playing video games or texting friends or screwing around on Facebook, but my frustration level is the same, and my dinner is congealing. My mother would whistle up the stairs at me like a dog, and I’d come running.

Why are kids different this generation?

Because it takes work to give kids consequences. We often think that the grounding or the taking away of the hand-held video-game or the cell phone is uncomfortable enough to be a deterrent for the child, but really, it’s uncomfortable for us. We want to teach our kids the right way to live, but how far out of our way are we willing to go?  Not far enough. We are slow to react to bad behavior because it’s disappointing for dad to come home to a child who’s unavailable, banished to her room; because – without a cellphone – it’s inconvenient for us to be unable to call the kid to tell him you’ll be late at pick-up; and, let’s be honest, it can be distracting to have one’s pre-teen PSP-less and yammering while you’re trying to clean, cook, manage. Setting consistent limits for our kids means parents have to suffer the consequences, too. We have to be willing to live with, and be strong with, whatever punishment we mete out.

I never really wanted to turn into my mom; maybe I could just have that one, confident, in-charge, diligent piece of her.

8 responses to ““Just-a-Minute” Syndrome: Have We Caused It?

  1. blake schifferstein

    Till this day, I really can’t stand it when someone tells me when to eat…or what for that matter.I would be so upset if I came home, took off my boots, grabbed a beer and opened a book-only to then hear my wife whistle at me to come eat. Thanks for cooking a great meal – and I promise I will enjoy it to it’s fullest when I am ready. . . .just sayin’🙂

    • Blake:
      My friend who authored this blog entry called me in response to your comment. She said, “This guy doesn’t have kids yet, does he?” LOL!

      Forget the food analogy. How many times would you like to have to repeat yourself before someone actually acknowledges your presence, that the things you have to say or need to have done are actually important? Imagine how it would feel at work if you were waiting for one essential guy to come to the meeting, but he is hanging around in his cubicle, just killing time despite the fact that he knows everyone is waiting on him. Are you annoyed yet? That’s how it feels when your kid is dragging his heels – like he is controlling your destiny.

      (And we’ll see about the book and the beer when li’l dude/dudette shows up! Just sayin’)🙂

  2. I loved this article! Soooo, true! Handing my kids down punishments is actually punishing me! LOL! I’ve learned to pick my punishments carefully. If I get so mad and yell, “I’m taking that phone away for a month!” Then by God, it has to be gone for a month, or they’ll never believe anything I say! Maybe it’s a good thing; it makes me think, before I just spew out a list of punishments, because I’m angry, then spend the rest of the month kicking myself.

    Plus, I think my generation spends too much time rationalizing everything: Will my child hate me? Will theyl be angry at me? Am I a terrible parent? When really, it’s good for them to feel some discomfort. I also think our moms used to be home more often, but actually spent more time on just tending to children and home. I know. I have a career, and I want a career, I love my kids, but I want “me” time too, so it’s trying to find that balance, ya know!

  3. Renee,

    I dug this post a lot. I like them all, but this one took a lot of introspection and self-honesty.

    What a great child you were! I can’t say the same for myself. I remember my mother calling us and calling us and calling us to come to dinner and no one moving. I also them empathized with her frustration, but still never changed my slow response time.

    I have a new method now that I started using to call my kids for dinner, which actually works. I good-naturedly walk over to each one of my kids, touch them lovingly on their shoulder, and say, “Dinner is ready sweetheart, please will you come now.”. And they do. I guess it’s hard to resist that kind of effort and warm invitation. I also think they’re so absorbed in whatever they’re doing that it’s too easy to ignore a verbal call from mom, but a touch up close does draw them out of their absorption.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and blog. I’m really enjoying your reflections.

    • Dahlia: You know I didn’t author this piece. My friend Betsy was the guest writer today. I was far too anti-authoritarian to never say boo to my parents. I said waaaay more than boo! And that’s why I’m kinda tough as a momma. But I love Betsy’s honesty. We all have our areas of strength as well as weaknesses. I can’t remember how old your kiddies are. Is anyone over 11? Things may change over there! LOL!

  4. I just wanted to add that, since following through on punishments is a big effort and often inconvenience for parents, we do have to pick our battles wisely. I have learned that technical solutions often do lead to success, and the relationship can stay positive and punishments can be saved for only the really serious issues.

  5. Been there …done that. I can appreciate each of the comments in turn. Dahlia’s approach is delightful…and shows an awful lot of respect for her kids…I’m going to keep that in mind for ‘next time’.

    However, Blake points out the first step that (I believe) Dahlia has just understood intuitively and didn’t mention. Our kids deserve the same respect that we would offer a guest in our home.

    So I see a balance somewhere between expecting others to ‘jump’ when we have asked them to. And allowing our children the autonomy and respect we would offer a guest.

    At the same time, the earning of (maintaining) that respect is deserving in kind of their respectful responses.

    Even when I have done something ‘for’ my child (almost 13), such as prepare dinner, I recognize that this is the role I chose when I chose to create a child. Asking her to come to the table may be contingent on what she is in the middle of at that moment – have I given her fair warning?

    So maybe whats MOST important is trying to teach her that and absent minded, “In a minute” is not an appropriate response. But a logical and thoughtful, “I’m almost finished with this chapter, I have one more paragraph, then I’ll join you” is a reasonable expectation from and an equally reasonable response from her.

    Maybe it’s just the lack of thought or ‘consciousness’ that lies in the “Just a sec” response that really is truly frustrating?

    • I love that! Look at you, taking something from everyone, and bringing it around so that everyone feels good. I, too, will be discussing this with my l’il monkey. I think, perhaps, a “fuller answer” might go a long way to increasing calm and feeling respected!

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