(Strip Number 4440, Original Publication Date, 24 September 1984)
Panel 1: Elly tells the kids that there will be no supper until the house is cleaned up to her level of satisfaction.
Panel 2: She calls it "work to rule". Given that she's turning "malicious compliance" into "an offer they can't refuse", Panel Three should have Mandy Patinkin show up and tell her that she's using the phrase wrong.
Panel 3: Instead of having a man with a sword correcting Elly's English, we watch terrified Lizzie asking horrified Mike what those new and scary-sounding words mean.
Panel 4: A freaked-out Michael (who also has just heard the phrase for the first time) misinterprets what Elly means and tells Lizzie that it means they work while Elly rules.
Summary: Chalk up another entry in our big-ass file of "Things No Kid Would Really Say." This is because in the real world, Mike and Lizzie would be able to determine that when Mom says 'work-to-rule', she means that unless they do their chores, they don't get supper no problem. What it actually means is less important than what Mom means by it, you see. (Note: Elly doesn't actually know what it means either. As I said, I kept expecting Inigo Montoya to show up and tell her that it doesn't mean what she thinks it does.)