Who Wants To Play?

How do you help your children develop a growing sense of independence and autonomy by the age of seven? How do you deal with the increasing independence of your adolescent? The process begins as your toddler learns about play and social activities. However, your child is not able to play unless he knows how to play. He learns the idea of taking turns from people who allow him his turn and insist on their turn. He learns to be appropriately assertive without being excessively self-centered and aggressive from you and other adults who deal with his temper tantrums. He learns not to be too passive or compliant when you and other adults encourage him to stick up for himself, to speak up when it is his turn or when his rights are infringed upon.

Social development begins when you relate to your children as friends and playmates. Yes, you are a parent first; but part of the time (especially with your small children) you are friends and playmates. Within this playmate relationship, your child learns how to ask someone to play with her. She develops a feel for situations in which people do not want to play with her. She learns to accept an invitation to play. Occasionally, you may ask your toddler or preschooler if she wants to play a video game, accepting your child’s judgment about whether or not to play. Similarly, your child learns to ask you to play, accepting your judgment whether or not to play. Peek-a-boo played with your infant becomes hide-and-seek when she is a toddler or grade schooler. Working puzzles with your preschooler becomes assembling models or playing X-Box with your grade schooler or adolescent. Helping your preschooler fix her bicycle becomes helping your adolescent fix her car. Playing Fish with your preschooler becomes playing Scrabble with your adolescent. Making mud pies with a preschooler becomes helping prepare supper with your teenager. Friend and playmate relationships begin quite young and continue throughout your lives. Establish the playmate relationship with your child while remaining a good parent, and the fun and good times can go on for a long time. …

Frustration Factor

Come Play With Me?

•           I am a perfectionist

•           Either it is right or it is wrong

•           Rules are rules

These types of phrases frequently come up when you try to manage warriors. Interestingly, players who use this technique are likely to make their pronouncements when others are around and will overhear. When focusing their play on one person usually a subordinate warriors like to be sure others hear so they learn not to test the player. They have been forewarned.

Warriors step on the feelings of others

Since most people are at least a little insecure about their competence and ability to work with others, these players play on others’ insecurities. Some phrases from an office environment are instructive.

•           That is trash

•           More of the same old stuff

•           Dragging your feet

•           Out of your area of expertise

•           Roadblock

•           They followed by any negative pronouncement

Add any other phrase or statement to the list implying that the other person is at fault, incompetent or less skilled and cooperative than the player. The key is to get them where it hurts. …


I Forgot or perhaps The Dog Ate My Homework – Audio TidBits Podcast

Real memory problems are uncommon. But forgetting or not remembering to remember is very common. If it only happens once in a while and seldom involves important things, it is no big deal. It is a problem if forgetting is a regular reason for not doing things. It does get to a point when “I forgot,” is not just one of those things.

It is tempting to accuse your child of lying or not paying attention. Either may be true. If so, they are themselves problems needing your attention. More likely are several other explanations.

First, your child did not see the assignment or expectation as important enough to remember. He thought it did not matter that much. Dealing with this is not complicated. It also is a good place to start when you first notice the sign. Talk with your child about how important you think the assignment or expectation is. Stress with him how important you think it is for him to treat it as important. This often helps a lot all by itself. …


Children Get Bored Too – Audio TidBits Podcast

Boredom is a condition seen in infants, children, and adults of all ages. Much of the time, your infant entertains herself. She really seems to enjoy just being alive and involved in the world. At other times though, she becomes fussy, irritable, unhappy, and generally discontent. What is wrong with her? She is bored.

For your infant and toddler, boredom is a frequent state of affairs. This fact is partly why your toddler is always getting into everything and always under foot. Nothing holds his attention very long. He is always looking for new things to get into and novel ways to deal with boredom. Further, he spends a lot of time trying to get you to relieve his boredom.

Your preschooler experiences boredom less often, since his attention span is longer. Nonetheless, he becomes bored fairly easily, especially on rainy days or when he is sick and has to stay in his room, or when he is full of energy and has no good outlets for it. You understand what boredom is (an uncomfortable low level of stimulation) and understand it is a problem for children when they do not have enough to occupy their active minds and bodies.

When children are bored, then, what should you do about it? You have three options for dealing with children who are bored.


Toilet Training – Audio TidBits Podcast

When should toilet training begin? First, it should not begin until your child seems to know what the potty is for and can relate the idea to “making messes” in her clothing. For most children, this relationship does not become clear until they are about twenty-four months old. By that age children have enough bowel and bladder control to participate in the toilet training process. If you wait until your child is about thirty months old, she will probably start training herself.

Some parents have children sit on the potty immediately after meals, as if they will eliminate the food just consumed. But since it takes several hours for foods and liquids to pass through their systems, it makes more sense to encourage your child to use the potty when you use the bathroom. She likely will be willing to try to “go” while you are in the bathroom modeling appropriate toilet behavior. Even if she does not use the potty, she will enjoy the attention and verbal interaction.

Since people typically use the toilet immediately before going to bed and immediately after getting up in the morning, encourage your children to try to potty at those times. It also helps to encourage them to sit on the potty a few minutes every four or five hours. Once in a while, they urinate or have a bowel movement when sitting on the potty. At such times your enthusiastic approval reinforces the behavior. If your child wants you to look at what he has done, it is only fair to visually inspect the product of his efforts.

In addition, consistently help your child change clothing after each accident. Tell him calmly he has made a mess and has to put on clean clothes. If you disapprove of the mess, so will your child. Infrequently, children discover messing or wetting their pants is a very good way to upset you. If this happens, simply ignore the behavior for a few days. Even so, you have gotten into quite a bind with your child. …

Frustration Factor


Have you ever been driven up the wall by a mainliner? “What’s a mainliner?” you ask. Read on. You likely are already familiar with the type and how they can cause havoc in your company.


Mainliners cannot be bothered with elementary groundwork.


These players will plunge into any project without so much as a pretense of preparation or planning. They rely on their instincts and agility. They are usually from the group who never bothered to do their homework in high school. Later, they wrote their college papers the night before they were due, without inhibiting themselves with trivia such as a trip to the library. In a pinch, they used someone else’s notes. The solution is always at hand if the player is observant enough and clever enough to recognize it.


Mainliners assume that actually knowing how to do a job is irrelevant.


The essence of this technique is seeing that “knowing how” only limits and inhibits the range and flexibility of expert players.


The blind spot here for non-Players is in understanding what “knowing how” refers to. The uninitiated think that “knowing how” means you have specific knowledge and skills related to the task or problem. They also think that related experience is useful.


Dyed-in-the-wool mainliners understand that, for them, these kinds of things are not important. The only skill they need is an ability and willingness to dive in and to keep poking. Usually, things have a way of working out. If not, truly creative mainliners either abandon the task or call in a specialist, taking full credit for saving the day. — Read and learn.


Liz is an engineer assigned to troubleshoot a lockup problem with a computer installation at a small retail business. For some reason, the main application and the operating system are not interfacing correctly. The result is that the system is lockingup and the business is having trouble staying open.


Liz’s first approach is to say that the people operating the system are causing the problem. When this does not hold up, she next attributes the difficulties to a hardware problem or bug in the operating system. Again, the explanation does not stick. Finally, she reverts to type as an experienced mainliner.


There are a few minor deviations from specifications in the way the business uses the system. One part of the application is one no other customers use.


“You are the only user who has tried to use this function. It’s only an add-on to the main application. We did not expect it to be used on a daily basis. That is what your problem is.”


“Well, it’s important for us to use this function. How soon are you going to fix it so it doesn’t keep locking up?”


Sure, Liz knows just what to say. “This problem is unique to your system. You will need to exercise your support agreements with the hardware and operating system vendors. They will need to straighten out your problems with their installations before we can help.”


“We bought the system from your company. Aren’t you going to stand behind your sales?”


Liz is again ready. “We will support you 100 percent. Just as soon as you get the other problems worked out, I will see you have a specialist assigned to the problem.” A specialist? Yes indeed. That is someone, anyone other than Liz. That’s the way to pass the old buck!


Mainliners start before understanding what you expect.


This technique is axiomatic for mainliners. To find out what you expect is a waste of their time. Adroit players have no intention of doing anything other than what comes to hand. This is called “winging it.”


Someone once said that if you do not know where you are going, you probably will not get there. Mainliners figure that if they do not know where they are going, wherever they end up is where they were headed. If played right, the people who count define it as the only place to be. Ultimately, no one likes admitting getting taken for a ride, especially to somewhere you did not want to go.


Managing Mainliners:


Understanding mainliners’ motivations is easy. They do not want to be found out. They do not know how to do the job you need done and would rather foul everything up than admit the truth. Their goal is to bluff their way through, no matter what the cost to you and your company.


With this in mind, counter play proceeds like this. Do not accept excuses and explanations that are not factual or do not have a ring of truth. If things are getting worse, if problems are getting out of hand, if business is going down the tube, the likelihood is that you have a mainliner at work.


The best counter play starts with a clear notion of what your goal is. It then extends to defining what progress is. Finally, counter play sets specific criteria for deciding if things are moving toward or away from your goal.


If there is no movement toward your goal or especially if there is movement away from it, it is time for individual accountability. Listen to the excuses and explanations and then hold the responsible person accountable.


Much of the time and especially in technical jobs or in complex situations, knowing whether the problems are the work of a mainliner or are unavoidable is difficult. Frequently and especially in smaller businesses, individuals get into positions where only they are qualified to judge their work. The result is that they have no accountability to anyone who can knowledgeably and objectively evaluate their performance. They have, for all intents and purposes, a free rein.


The issue with mainliners is that no one knows how to separate problems caused by the mainliner’s behavior from situations that are going sour despite reasonable and skilled action. If you have an active situation, the best counter play for you is to develop a strategy to evaluate the project and the people objectively. The key here is to be sure that your strategy includes outside people who are experts in the problem area.


For you, the best counter play is to know that mainliners can and will do in your company while they drive you up the wall, given the opportunity. Since you may not detect them until it is too late, any important project should be mainliner-proofed in advance. Build into every critical function in the project an evaluation or monitoring process separate from and not integral to the project itself. This process needs to include people who are qualified to judge every aspect of the project. They also must have the proven ability to tell when circumstances are the problem and when the people in the project do not know what they are doing. Just be sure that the monitoring activity is not itself a haven for a mainliner of its own.


Now you know and there you go.




All infants have a strong and very real need for physical contact. Without it, the deprivation is very real and may be permanent. Your baby’s need for touching and cuddling is like food for physical and emotional growth. Your infant’s need for physical contact strongly suggests this physical/emotional/social being also needs to be “fed.” Without such contact, your child “starves” physically, emotionally, and socially.

What to do? That is fairly simple. Pick up your baby, cuddle him, talk to him and make noises at him. Try to spend a lot of time talking with him and physically interacting with him. When giving him a bottle, hold your baby instead of feeding him in the crib or playpen. Several times a day, pick him up and walk around, sit in a chair and rock, and be sure his playpen or walker is not in a room by itself. It’s better for him to be around other people than to be by himself. Talk with him and encourage other people to do the same. If someone says, “What a nice baby,” ask them if they want to hold your child. Your baby needs maximum physical contact and interaction with a variety of people. …

Frustration Factor


During the fellowship hour after church, a few parishioners mingle but most take their usual places near their usual companions. A scattering of conversations can be overheard.


In a small group toward the back of the fellowship hall, things are getting a little emotional. A teacher has just said, “I think I’m going to give up teaching one of these days. It’s getting to where the children just have no respect. It was all right but the new ones in the class just add to my problems. I don’t know what happened to the traditional family.”


The group is sympathetic except for one young mother at the fringe. Abruptly, she sets down her coffee cup and rushes away.


The teacher says, “What got into her? She and her children have only been coming here for a couple of weeks, so I don’t know her very well.”


Across the fellowship hall, the preacher is saying to an extremely agitated man, “Melvin, I agree there may be a small problem; but I doubt if it is as bad as you are saying.”


Not to be appeased, Melvin presses his point. “I don’t think we should just brush this incident with Carolyn off as a minor problem. The next thing you know, the parents will be up in arms and then the church itself may be in trouble. If we lose members over this, everything we’ve worked for will be in jeopardy.”


Just at the moment Rev. Lewis thinks he has managed to get away from Melvin without getting him more upset, another agitator steps up. “I couldn’t help hearing what Melvin said to you, Reverend. I don’t want any bad feelings and wouldn’t upset anyone for the world. I just have to say this. Carolyn is doing her best and deserves our support.”


About twenty minutes later, Rev. Lewis feels a tug on his sleeve. As he turns, he hears, “I think you better talk with Carolyn. She has a right to have you tell her to her face what you said. She is my best friend and I’m going to stand by her.”


Looking directly at Carolyn, Rev. Lewis says, “I did not say anything about you except you and I would talk. I would like to talk soon except this is not a good time or place. How about tomorrow sometime?”


With obvious sincerity, the friend says, “Carolyn does not need this hanging over her head.” Turning to Carolyn, she says, “You are not going to let him put you off, are you?”


Unsure what to say, Carolyn says to the preacher, “So, what do you have to say to me?”


As the preacher fumbles with what to say to Carolyn, the agitator says, “I can see this is getting a little personal. If the two of you don’t mind, I will be headed home. I have a hungry family to feed. I will call you later Carolyn.”




The stock-and-trade of the agitator is being able to embellish and shape any information to increase its importance. An effective way of doing this comes from Melvin. “I don’t think we should just brush this incident with Carolyn off as a minor problem.” Melvin is an exceptional agitator. According to Melvin, what Rev. Lewis thinks was a minor incident has put the church itself in jeopardy. With the church at risk, Melvin has no difficulty getting most anyone to listen and take him seriously.


The teacher in the illustration provides an especially cruel example of agitating. She splits her play into two parts. First comes, “It was all right but the new ones in the class just add to my problems.” After the young mother sets down her coffee cup and rushes away, this agitator asks, “What got into her?”


Suppose another member of the group suggests that the teacher upset the woman. The teacher acts shocked and says, “I have no idea what you are talking about. I was not talking about her and her children.” It matters little anyway. The mother and her children likely will not be back. It is a variation of the hit-and-run play, except here it is hit and the other person runs.


There is yet another agitator getting in her two cents worth whether anyone wants to hear it or not. “I do not want any bad feelings and would not upset anyone for the world. I just have to say this.” Of course, she knows there will be bad feelings and someone will get upset. The trick is to deny any intent although the player well-knows what is going to happen. It is like saying, “I would not hurt you for anything,” and then punching the person in the nose.


Having given a disclaimer of any malicious intent, the player says, “I just have to say this.” She does not want to but has to say it.


What if someone interrupts and says, “No, you do not have to say anything.”


The player then says, “I’m sorry but I do have to say it. It has to be said.” Only the totally unsocialized refuse to back off and let her say her piece. Sooner or later the agitator takes center stage with a receptive audience.


There is one last complex gambit. It starts with, “I think you better talk with Carolyn. . . . I think she has a right to hear it to her face.” This opens the interchange on just the right note for the agitator. The preacher is immediately on the defensive and the player is ready for the assault. The stage is set.


Rev. Lewis tries to put it off but the agitator has none of that. “I think we should settle this now.”


The agitator presses on in spite of the preacher’s efforts to calm the troubled waters. “You are not going to let him put you off, are you Carolyn?” If Carolyn says, “Yes,” she is a patsy and someone who lets others kick her around. If she says, “No,” the confrontation is inevitable. Most people do the face-saving thing and say, “No, I will not be put off like that.” It is human nature that helps the player succeed.


The closer for the gambit is, “I can see this is getting a little personal. . . . I will be headed home.” The agitator creates the scene, encourages the participants, and sets the stage for the confrontation. Her work is done. On cue, she exits and lets the scene play itself. Her motto is Why don’t the two of you go fight?


Tips for handling agitators:


Understanding the motivations of agitators is not too difficult if you look at their behavior and then ask yourself why they are behaving that way. More to the point, what do they get out of it? Their motivations are in the payoff or what they get.


Agitators will say anything no matter who gets hurt or feels badly. They get a cheap moment in the spotlight. Just keep in mind that agitators will say anything about anyone, including you.Agitators also get their kicks from complaining.  This too gets them in the spotlight. Of course, there is always a little more power in that position.


Players make things seem bad, people seem incompetent, and everything appear worse than it is. They get attention, get a little more power for a little while, and are seen as in the know and on top of things.


Given the behavior, its varieties and its motivations, how can you handle agitators? Listen to what they have to say and then say, “You are a trip. You can find more ways to look at things negatively than anyone I know.” Call them on their agitating behavior and make it clear that you have no interest in what they have to say.


Is this approach too rude and direct for you? Think about this. If you passively listen to the agitator and say nothing, you have tacitly become part of the problem. People who seem interested, go along, and do not take a stand are fueling the agitator’s defamatory game.


In another example, a player is agitating and says something negative about someone. The classy response is, “I am surprised to hear you say that. I do not think it is true.” The player will likely press on with, “It is true! I. . .,” then going on to say some more critical things.


Your response can then be, “You probably would describe the tooth fairy as a thief.” Now comes the real trick. No matter what the player says next, do not respond. The game is over.


As with most people who drive you up the wall, the trick to handling agitators is to do what needs to be done and then quit. Players can only play with people who will play. For agitators, just be sure they get minimal attention and no additional power or status from you. Quietly and calmly call them on their behavior and then let it go. When others do not play, the game will stop.


Now you know and there you go.


Extra: Pass It Along (remix) – Audio TidBits Podcast

This is a remix of Pass It Along, thoughts about passing along character to children. Please enjoy.

Frustration Factor

Committee Players

The Frustration Factor Society International (FFSI) advances the art and science of driving people up the wall throughout the world. The committee on methods is meeting in Chicago a week late. They were to meet in San Francisco, but the location subcommittee neglected to reserve a hotel. Only a few of the sixty-three members are present because of a little snag with the meeting notices. Even with this glitch, the committee is now meeting.


Mark Brown, a charter member, is trying to make a motion to raise “Not Me” to a recognized method for driving people up the wall. “It may be that we might want possibly to consider Not Me as a method.”


Another member asks, “Are you making that as a motion?”


Mark says, “Well, not exactly. Maybe we can talk about it and see what everyone thinks.”


Steve clears his throat and starts the discussion. “It’s the kind of thing where it is easy to see both sides.” Steve squirms a little in his chair. Seeing that no one else wants to talk, he says, “I could come down on either side of this one. If Mark is solid with this one, I am not saying I could not be persuaded.”


Sharon Lewis, from Texas, hesitatingly joins into the discussion. She says, “I thought, well, I have been at a few meetings where the person who brings up an idea makes the motion. I would like to suggest Mark puts his idea in the form of a motion.”


Mark nervously jumps in. “Oh, no. I don’t think I should be the one to head this up. It should be someone with more experience or specific interest.”


Brad, from Philadelphia, thoughtfully enters the debate. “I want to hear some ideas from the rest of you before coming to closure on this one. Whenever we decide to break, it might be well to chew on this one a little over lunch.”


Sharon is quick to agree. “I’m going to hang with Brad on this one, unless someone has a better idea.”


Tim, from Maine, feels like it is a moment tailor-made for an apple polisher like him to say a few words. “I believe in consensus and think we can all agree on one thing. The members who are here today have struggled with this important decision. We have to tread lightly in sensitive areas like this. It’s people we are talking about here. The extent to which any decision might offend someone has to be considered each time.”


Jami from Oklahoma sees his chance to contribute. He says, “I have been thinking about the issues we have before us. I wonder if it might be a good idea to call a few of the members who are not here to get their thoughts on things.”


Jami’s idea stimulates instant, positive expressions and the project is under way. Because no one has a committee membership list, Jami makes a list of the members those present can remember. The committee manages to divide the list; and as Jami gives Ted, from Ohio, his names to call, Ted says, “Not me. I would like to help but I have some stuff here I had to bring along to work on. I can’t step away from it. Either I’m going to whip it, or it’s going to kill me first. The pressure is too much sometimes. You know how it goes.”


Let it suffice to say that looking in on more of the meeting would be redundant.


●He who hesitates is lost


●Strike while the iron is hot


●Victory belongs to the swift


These statements represent the thoughts of a moron from the committee player’s point of view. Any second rate player knows that the truth lies in a different set of wise sayings.


●Follow the leader


●Fools go where angels fear to tread


●Look before you leap


●The early worm gets caught by the bird


Yes, this sounds more like philosophy for the committed committee player.


Managing Committee Players:


As is true when managing most people who drive you up the wall, the key to effective counter play is in your seeing through the game. Committee players’ motivations are in their desire to get special concessions, preferential treatment, or exemption from most responsibilities.


Once your best judgement says that a game is on, the counter play is straightforward. If the player waits for someone else to take the lead or make a decision, say, “I will wait for you to take a position on this.”


Now, wait and be sure what the committee player says is actually a position or decision. If he is just jumping on the train, say, “You are just jumping on the train. This was not your idea and as far as I can tell, you have added no ideas of your own. Get on the train if you must, but do not think that I am playing your game.”


Rough treatment? Sure, but the player’s game is no less objectionable. The point is not to buy into the player’s behavior and to refuse to accept his excuses. Set the same standard for action and participation for him as is held for others. When the player does not come up to your standard for participation, call him on it, making it clear the game will not work.


Does this mean you must be rude or abrasive? It may. But usually, it only means that you need to be assertive and honest. Typically it is enough to state what you think about the player and his behavior. This is exactly what he is counting on never happening. His game is dependant on it.


Counter play also needs to be pursued for the “apple polisher.” It can be harder to call these committee players on their behavior. It may be tough for you to say, “I am tired of your apple polishing.” Nonetheless, that is the idea that needs to be expressed. Here is an example of how the point can be made with style.


Suppose Bill is the player and you are in a committee meeting with him. You say, “I sometimes wish I had Bill’s ability to emphasize the positive in others.” Polish the apple just a little yourself. “I wonder if we would not all do well to focus on the real and critical issues at hand though. I would like for us to consider. . .. This seems to me to be where our efforts will be most productive.”


As a skilled manager, you are careful but should counter the committee player on a continuing basis. The idea is to directly or indirectly point out the behavior and encourage discussion and action more related to the task at hand.


Now you know and there you go.