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Tanks

The art of war and parenting.

During his time in the military, a man I know served in Psychological Operations, or as it is better known, PSYOPS. Psychological Operations are designed to attack the enemy’s morale, undermining confidence and introducing fear.

Stationed at South Korea’s border with the North, my friend’s job was to create soundscapes. By mixing sound effects loops, he created the audio illusion of an apparently endless procession of armored vehicles. To the North Koreans, who could not see what was on the other side, it sounded like an immense army was mobilizing at their border.

My wife recalled this story during a dinner last night at an elegant restaurant. At least, it was elegant until we showed up. Our two-year-old daughter had missed her nap and was conducting a series of terror attacks on the linen, cutlery, and staff.

In an effort to save the restaurant from destruction and our family from shame, we tried bribing, coddling, and various distractions. When nothing else worked, we resorted to an escalating series of empty threats. Eventually, if only for a moment, we prevailed.

Gently removing sauce from her delicate blouse, my clever wife observed that parenting is like PSYOPS. You want them to think you have the tanks.

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Principal & Creative Director, Automattic, Inc. Founder & Publisher, A List Apart. Co-founder, An Event Apart design conference. Publisher & co-founder, A Book Apart—brief books for people who design, write, and code. Have written two books, notably Designing With Web Standards, 3rd Edition. Faculty, MFA, Interaction Design program, School of Visual Arts, NY. Host, The Big Web Show. But what I really want to do is direct.