A no-fail way to cope when your child won’t shut up at the movies

Posted on January 17, 2012


Bring your child to work day

Welcome to this week’s installment of WTF Wednesday, where the quality of our answers is matched only by the inverse of the quality of your questions.

This week’s question comes from Julia Warrender, owner of Life With a Parasite and tweeting as @jwarrender, who writes:

Dear IBMP,

When you learn your child is one of “THOSE” people who won’t STFU during a movie, what do you do? “I know he fell down, sweetie. I’m watching the movie too. Now shhh, please” doesn’t seem to be working. Should I use more profanity in my instructions, or pretend she’s her father and ignore her?

OK, I should probably stop laughing and answer your question, so here goes.

First, let’s clarify for those readers who aren’t as hip as Julia and me what STFU means. It’s an acronym that means Stay There and Fill Up, which really makes no sense to me.  I don’t know why she said that. I don’t see anything wrong with a kid that occasionally likes to stay at a movie and fill up. It’s just not a big deal.

But let’s consider for a moment a different question, one that I think is much more relevant than her silly one: What do you do if your child just won’t shut the fuck up at a movie theatre? Now that’s a good question. Julia, I hope you don’t mind if I answer that one instead.

We’ll start by analyzing the options you’ve proposed.

Treat her like you would her father and ignore her

The logic of pretending she’s her father seems, to the untrained eye, as quite solid.  And trust me, guys are actually quite thrilled to be ignored as we don’t really want you paying attention to what we’re up to most of the time anyway. But in order for treating her like her father to be believable, you need to do more than just ignore her.

Think for a moment about your typical movie experience with her father. You will need, for instance, to ask her to stop texting during the romantic scenes. That will probably confuse the hell out of your daughter who probably doesn’t own a cell phone. On the upside, though, it might shut her up for a minute while she tries to figure out what you’re talking about.

Also, in the name of realism, you’ll need to guard the popcorn as if she’d scarf it all down in 5 seconds if it were left unprotected. That will probably just piss her off and could escalate into a full-scale mid-movie tantrum—something you want to avoid unless you enjoy being pelted with Junior Mints and Mike and Ikes.

I would also suggest saving the ignore her technique for when it’s really most beneficial, like when she’s screaming about having to pee right when you’re finally next in line at Starbucks.

The Shhh Technique

Unfortunately, the Shhh Technique isn’t especially effective either. This is largely due to the fact that the “shhh” sound, to a young child actually means, “Say that thing again only this time with a louder, whinier voice.”

Adding profanity to the Shhh Technique

The addition of profanity (or more than you’ve been using already) to the Shhh Technique is frequently employed in the movie-viewing context. Whispering profanities generally results in the child responding–at three times the volume–with something like, “Mommy, you just said Fuck. Why’d you say fuck, mommy? Isn’t fuck a bad word, mommy? You should never say fuck mommy, you said so yourself. Fuck, fuck, fuck, mommy said fuck. That’s bad luck. Hey mommy, I made a rhyme, wanna hear it again?”

By this point, the Usher will be headed your way, penlight in hand, ready to escort you and your darling little angel out to the parking lot.

Fine, so what actually does work?

Voice-activated in-helmet radio communication devices

You’ve seen these things in use by bikers to talk with their passengers. With the face guards down, you and your daughter can chat at a moderate voice level without disturbing those around you, unless they want to see over your huge bulbous headgear. There are no downsides except an inability to see or hear the film you’ve paid for.

Get a job working in the projector booth and participate in Bring Your Child to Work Day.

This has the added bonus of earning you minimum wage while attending a movie with your child. Also if your child gets bored of the movie, they can always make shadow puppets to keep them entertained.

Umbrellas and foul weather gear

The Ignore Technique isn’t entirely ineffectual. The key is to know whom to ignore. In this case, it’s the rest of the audience, who are throwing everything they can possibly spare at you. The trick is to be prepared with the proper clothing and a large golf umbrella. While an umbrella at the movies will undoubtedly result in greater quantities of airborne refuse, it will also effectively deflect just about anything coming your way. The foul weather gear will take care of anything that skirts in under the umbrella.

Use the snack bar as it was intended

There’s a reason the theater sells popcorn in 50 gallon drums. A full mouth is a happy mouth, and a happy mouth is quiet. So go ahead and buy that $30 vat and let her have it.

Another good snack bar option is the jujube. When applied properly, this candy-like substance can glue a young child’s teeth together for well over an hour. And it’s perfectly legal in most countries.

The surefire method

In my 10 years of intensive experience with one of those children, there is only one surefire method that is guaranteed to solve your problem:

Stay home. Netflix was invented for people like us who have children like them.

Problem solved. You’re welcome!

Posted in: Advice (bad)