How to Defeat the Rule-Changer

Strategies for winning when your kid is constantly changing the rules.

With some kids a simple game of catch can turn into a competition faster than a political discussion at work can turn sideways. Before you know it, there’s a rather fluid list of rules and procedures longer and more confusing than the Itunes terms and services contract.

  • “No! That wasn’t a point because I touched it!”     
  • “That was MY point because I was standing outside the imaginary circle.”
  • “Wait… that didn’t count because I wasn’t ready, and you didn’t hold left leg and stand like a flamingo.”

My son once told me I lost all my points because I was sitting the wrong spot. I calmly explained that he never fucking told me that I was in the wrong spot! I was under the impression that I had 8 points!! He can’t just change the GOSH DARN RULES!!!!!! THIS ISN’T HOW REAL LIFE WORKS, SON!!! He won that game. 

Unfortunately, kids can and will change the rules because that IS how their “real world” works. And it’s OK. They probably just want to laugh and run around with you right now, and sometimes that’s more valuable than a life lesson. Instead of turning into the get-off-my-lawn old man screaming about tradition and rules, it’s more fun just play by their rules. But losing sucks, so here’s how you can still win.

Bloggy Advice

  1. Write Down The Rules – Believe it or not, kids are more likely to follow rules that are written down, especially if they’ve already started school. So make them stop and write down every crazy rule that pops in their crazy head. They’ll eventually become more selective. This strategy requires extra work, but if the game you’re kid is creating is actually fun, it could be worth it the long run.
  2. Use Your Length– make a scoreboard and hang it too high for them to reach. This way you have complete control, so the score doesn’t fluctuate like a the stock market.

Petty Advice

  1. Holdout– Great athletes sometime have to holdout to get the contract they rightly deserve. You’re a great athlete; hold out to get the point you rightly deserve.
  2. Out-rule Change Them – Keep it simple. Change the rules more frequently than they do in order to preserve your lead. Maybe they’ll start to understand the injustice of it and change their ways.
  3. Threaten to Play With Someone Else – Works every time, especially if there’s a sibling.


Author: Joel Menking

English teacher, turned stay-at-home dad, turned guy who made a website.

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