Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Flies, Honey, Vinegar, and Opium

They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I've been trying to teach this concept to the kids for years now.  At first, it seemed like a useless cause.  Forget about the behavioral lesson, I had to stop to teach them what idioms and metaphors are.  

Why would you want to catch flies?  I thought flies were bad.

No one is really trying to catch flies.  It's a metaphor.  I'm using an example to show that you'll get better results if you ask nicely than if you demand things in a rude way.

What's vinegar?

That smelly sauce that I like to dip dumplings in.

I don't like vinegar.

Well, neither do flies.  So if you wanted to catch them, you're better off using honey.  So in this case...

I thought we didn't want to catch flies.

No, not really.  Remember what I said about metaphors?

Do you have to use honey?  Could you use sugar instead?

I guess you could use anything sweet.  Basically, all I'm trying to say is to ask for things nicely.

I like honey.  Can I have some honey on my cereal?

It's been a lesson in patience for me.  It must be the Chinese in me to try to use an idiom rather than to just come straight out and say "you'll get better results if you ask nicely."  I remember my dad always prefacing things with "you know the Chinese have a saying..." and then spouting off a whole bunch of nonsense, like "swallowing raw and skinning alive" (which I think ultimately refers to plagiarism) or "pricking your thigh with an awl" (which refers to studying hard).  Thanks Dad, that made things a lot more clear.  

BTW, I'd like the record to state that my dad was not trying to teach me to study harder and stop plagiarizing....

Anyway, I've been trying to teach the kids that throwing temper tantrums won't get what they want.  Hitting each other, or me for that matter, won't help.  Ask nicely, with a "please."  And if I say "no", temper tantrums and fits won't make me change my mind, they will just make me angry and I'll probably end up putting them or their treasured items, or both, in the penalty box for a while.

So, over the past couple months, Ellington started picking up a bad habit of pinching me to get my attention.  At the dinner table, he would interrupt conversations, and if I didn't immediately answer, he would pinch me.  Hard!  To teach him that this was unacceptable, I would make him wait 5 minutes after the pinch before talking to him, and if he threw a tantrum, I would add more time to the wait.  

It took a couple weeks, but the lesson finally came to fruition today!  During dinner, Ellington started to interrupt a conversation I was having with Guinness.  When I didn't respond, he picked up my arm and started kissing it up and down like a little Cassanova.  Talk about high grade honey!  How can you resist that?  I broke off mid-sentence, looked down to find him staring at me soulfully through his long eyelashes, and exclaimed "what a nice way to let me know you have something to say!  What did you want to tell me?"

Guinness meanwhile started squawking (rightly so) since I hadn't finished my conversation with him.  Sorry!  There must be some Chinese idiom or proverb to cover this.  I think it goes "honey may attract attention, but opium keeps it."  Good luck finding a drug more potent than Ellington's juicy kisses!


Joanne said...

so funny! My mom tried to teach me so many lessons in 4 word chinese idioms! In the end it ended up being a lesson in idioms instead of life lessons, but i sure do know a lot of chinese idioms.

Mamie Chen said...

Yeah, I'd always wonder why my dad bothered with the 4 word idioms. Why not just come out and say what you are trying to say? But here I am, doing the same thing! You can't fight genetics.