A Contrary Kid

Dear Wombat and Dingbat,

My five-year old grandson (and other kids I know in that pre-school/early elementary age — especially boys) are very quick to deny whatever an adult says to them. E.g. “You’re dragging your sleeve through your scrambled eggs!” “No, I’m not,” even when he has egg all over his sleeve. “No, you’re wrong” seems to be the implied response to almost anything an adult says to him. Not only is this not helpful in moving life along, it’s really annoying!

–Annoyed Grandma

Dear Annoyed,

You should send your grandson to me, and I would be happy to clean the scrambled egg off his sleeve. I love scrambled eggs. Also five-year-olds. Especially if you cover them in scrambled egg.

I don’t really think that’s an adequate solution to the problem, which does sound genuinely annoying. For one thing, you are the grown-up and he’s the kid, so he should expect you to know better than he does. But more than that, he’s also demonstrably wrong. However, the question comes whether it’s easier to change his reaction or your reaction.

Now, I am a dog of both rationality and integrity, so it hurts me to say it, but it is possible that people could be allowed to be wrong without your having to do anything about it. Especially if they are five. The Human and I aren’t sure whether people should be allowed to be wrong on the internet. We have discussed it with no conclusion. But in this case, chances are that arguing back will only reinforce the bad behavior with your attention and provide an opportunity to practice a behavior you don’t like.

I think covering five-year-olds in scrambled eggs is a very good behavior.

I’m talking about the “No, you’re wrong response.” Which we have agreed is annoying.

No it isn’t.

Don’t be ridiculous. Annoyed already said it was. That’s why we named her Annoyed.

I never called her that. I want to call her Doris.

What? We’re not going to call her Doris. Why would you think that because someone is a grandma her name is Doris?


What? Oh. I suppose I get your point. “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did!” is a game that is really only fun for children. Or those who are childish. You can choose not to play. There is something called the Least Reinforcing Stimulus (LRS), which is basically doing something that is neither reward nor punishment, but just not very interesting. I would suggest a noncommittal “Mmmmm….” It isn’t agreeing or arguing, it just says that I hear you, but I’m not going to get involved.


OK, I am not following what your point is.

No point. I just like to hum. Mmmmmm….

Pretty soon I am going to change my name to Annoyed.

Could you also get us a five-year-old? That would be awesome.

The Human might beg to differ.

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2 thoughts on “A Contrary Kid

  1. How does one love with a person who is never wrong? Because they are never wrong they don’t apologize or say there are sorry. It’s never their fault! Any suggestions are much appreciated.

  2. OH my gosh…..I am laughing so hard! Thank you sweet puppies.

    And my takeaway is this.
    “Now, I am a dog of both rationality and integrity, so it hurts me to say it, but it is possible that people could be allowed to be wrong without your having to do anything about it.”

    I admit to shutting up more as I get into the higher numbers ( I refuse to say aging.) But this is a lovely reminder.

    Thank you so much!!

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