'Why Do My Kids Behave So Much Better At School?'

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Reader WTF writes,

I continually observe that my kids behave like angels when I'm not around, or when they don't see me watching them, like at school or with a sitter. Why don't they act this way with me?

Dear WTF,

I know, right? Also, why are your best hair days when you have nowhere to go? Why is it sunny on work days and rainy on weekends? Where's Alanis Morrisette to weigh in on these subjects for us? Nowhere, so I'll take a stab at it.

The reasons your angels are demons at home is the same reason most people act chipper and friendly and work but then exhausted and irate at home. It's because you're comfortable at home and you don't have to be "on." Kids are the same way, when they are comfortable and don't have to impress anyone, they act less.... impressive. Sometimes really much less impressive.

Another issue is that teachers, sitters, and so forth usually have very clear expectations and routine. If it's naptime, they are napping. If it's mealtime, they are eating. So, there isn't a lot of wiggle room. When parents are in charge though, there is frequently more leniency, schedules move around, there are special activities, and all that kind of thing. So the kids never know if naptime means nap, or "if I complain enough, there's no nap."

So basically, what this means is: congratulations, your kids have learned how to successfully navigate social situations, and make themselves lovable in situations where people are not evolutionarily guaranteed to love them. This is a good skill for a mammal in a group. Also, if you want more adherence to rules at home, keep expectations and routines very consistent. Kids do best when they know what's coming next, and when they know that no amount of whining will change what happens next. Like when they know that Mommy is going to check her email for the next 15 minutes unless they are bleeding or vomiting. But that's not an example that I know anything about personally.

Good luck, and until we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Whose Kids Also Get Glowing Reports At School, To The Point That I Wonder If There Are Two Kids With the Same Name in Their Classes.

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