Your son asks you to play trains, so you get down the track from the shelf. Your daughter wants to do a puzzle, so you start laying out the pieces. But for some reason, it seems like every time you do this, every time you do what they say they want, they suddenly lose interest. Or they won’t play by the rules or ask for something else. Now they want to move to a different room.
The problem here is actually a miscommunication. Or at least a misunderstanding. You see, you are the toy. What they want is to play with you—they don’t want to be given a puppet, they want you to be a puppet.
When you understand this, everything is easier—no matter what age they are. Why is your teenager rebelling? In part, to get a rise out of you. Why is your middle schooler being a smart aleck? To see how you’ll respond. Why is your toddler calling for water from their bedroom, only to change their mind to juice, only to explain they meant the other juice, only to now ask to go to the bathroom. Because it’s funny. Because it’s a game. Because they’re playing with the little bit of power they have in this crazy, uncontrollable world: Their power over the adults who have power over them.
So relax. Just go with it. Understand what’s happening. It’s not about the puzzle. It’s not about anything. You are the toy.