Thursday, 21 September 2017


Image result for syndrome you caught me monologuing
Syndrome almost falls prey to that classic villain weakness - Monologuing - a critical weakness of fathers, as well.

There are many reasons to watch The Incredibles - not the least among them the hilarious and doomed Syndrome. Syndrome almost falls for that old hero trick - monologuing. You're familiar with it, I'm sure: the villain has the hero right where he wants him - tied to a log in a lumber mill, suspended over a pool of mutated electric eels, or his private parts coated with honey and him staked out on a bulldog anthill in Australia etc. - but the hero plays on the vanity, insecurity or grievances of the villain to get him to start talking at length. Meanwhile, the hero extricates himself or waits until rescued by his sidekick.

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Flip the switch already. Monologuing will be your downfall.

Why? Why? Why do villains continue to fall for this? (Some might make sly comments how we can see in real time how cartoonish ego-maniacal bullies, even after achieving world domination, can't keep their big mouths shut. They just love to hear themselves talk. Some might, not me.) I can't speak for villains as I never graduated from the academy - I dropped out to go to law school instead - but I can speak for fathers to say it is an almost irresistible urge to monologue when you have your child as a captive audience.

I was talking with my good friend about this. He was tutoring a kid with a successful, ambitious, well-spoken father. The conversation among the three of them about how the son could thrive was totally hi-jacked by the dad going on at length about something in-my-day something grit something stick-with-it-ness something ambition. Bored, my friend's attention and eyes wandered to the son in question and saw the light in his eyes flicker and die as he went to his safe place. He realized with sick horror that,"Oh my god, that's me. I do that with my kids." And he resolved to change his ways. By the way, this is a real friend, not just me talking about myself. Although, I'm guilty of this as well.

Your kids, at least your boys, have a very limited amount of time and attention available to you. When delivering a message or advice or instructions, think of it as if you're leaving a voice mail message. If you go on too long you get cut off before you even get to your point. If you want to communicate something to your kid, take a moment, think about what you really want to say. Cut that in half. And then in half again. Can you say it in one pithy sentence? Maybe an enigmatic faux-zen koan? Like:

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Keep it short, like Yoda

Try to be quotable, or at least memorable, for godssake.

This is especially applicable to teens. Your ranting is likely as ineffective with your younger kids but the teens will actively demonstrate their disengagement and eye-roll right over you.

Lately I'm taking a hostage-extraction approach:

1) Consider best entry;
2) Plan exit strategy ahead of time;
3) Quickly enter, perform mission (in this case advice delivery);
4) Exit immediately,:and
5) Stick to the mission!

Whatever you do, don't try and have the last word. Don't fall for it. I've seen too many good men lost that way.