Are you tired of listening to your kids argue? Does it seem like a single ill-timed comment can ignite a cascade of escalating attacks and complaints? Are you sick of playing referee?
Tim Cook on an iPhone
This weekend we came up with an innovative strategy for stopping the sibling conflict cycle. To implement this plan, you need:

1. One or more iPhones
2. Two or more conflict-prone children who are familiar with said iPhone
3. A household in which Apple CEO Tim Cook is a familiar character

Still with me? If you’re one of the seven people in the world who answered yes, then here’s our story.

We told the kids Tim Cook asked us to beta test the next generation of Apple voice recognition. It can synthesize someone’s voice, and block what they’re actually saying, and replace it with the phrase of your choice.

Apple thinks this can be a powerful tool for conflict resolution and for business, we explained. But since they don’t want to test it only for making conflicts go away, they made us promise that just as often, we’d use the tech to create conflicts.

So if you hear your sister saying something nasty, assume it’s actually our beta technology, synthesizing her voice and blocking out what she is really saying. And if your brother says something rude, it’s probably just a synthesized comment coming from the iPhone.

I’ll admit it: the kids were skeptical. But they were intrigued enough to run some tests, and quickly became more interested in the logic of our supposed alpha test than they were in responding to successive taunts. As is so often the case, their skepticism had to do battle with the kid inclination to fully buy into any imaginary scenario.

So on reflection, I should probably add a fourth item to my list of ingredients:

4. A dedicated savings fund for your children’s future psychotherapy.