Most parents have heard by now that consistency and follow-through are essential tools for parenting (also, Benadryl (for them), wine (for us) and M&Ms (everybody wins here). For instance, you can’t allow hair-pulling during Wrestle Baby one day, but then prohibit it the next. Those kinds of mixed messages are confusing to kids. (“Wait, so hair-pulling IS allowed today? And what’s the current ruling on scratching and biting?”)
We know that we should carefully pick our battles and then stick to our guns. In theory.
BUT we’ve all been there when, in the heat of the moment, you pick a battle you regret picking and then make it worse by issuing an ultimatum you reeeeally don’t want to (or can’t possibly) follow-through on.
A few examples:
“I am NOT kidding… if you don’t floss your teeth tonight, we are NOT taking that trip to Disneyland.”
“If you don’t get dressed RIGHT now, you will NOT leave the house all summer.”
“Pick up all 271 of those Legos or you can NOT go to your grandparents’ house for the weekend.”
“Help your sister or I’m throwing your bike away!”
(*Please note that almost none of the above are my real life examples.)
But this next one is. This happened in my house. Last night.
My older son is currently in the phase that I believe they call “The Torturous Threes.” (Wait, no one calls them that? Well they should. Either that or the “Mom Deserves a Medal for Not Killing You Right Now Threes”… but that’s not as catchy.)
So, it was the Bitching Hour and there I was, sort of DONE for the day and the Mini Terrorist and I exchanged this pleasant dialogue:
Me: “D, please pick up the clothes you just threw on the floor.”
Torturous Three-Year Old: “No.”
Me: “I’m going to ask you again to please pick up the clothes. And if you say no, you’ll have a Time Out on the steps.”
TTYO: “I NOT picking up the clothes and I NOT having a time out. You NOT making me do that.”
Me: <not hitting my kid> (Look at me! Not hitting my smart-ass kid! I’ll pause for praise.)
Me: “OK, let’s go, Time Out.”
TTYO: <running away>
Me: <embarrassingly chasing him and physically dragging him to Time Out.>
(Oh no, that’s even not the crazy part.)
While he’s in the Time Out, caffeine-and-sleep-deprived Me says, “First name, Middle name (because that really scares him… NOT AT ALL) after this Time Out, you’re going to pick up those clothes or you will NOT play with the iPad ever again!”
I’m sorry, what the wha??
Why? WHY would I say that? Who cares about the damn clothes on the floor?!? I could have SO easily picked them up myself in two seconds but noooooo, I had to pick this stupid battle and them make a stupid “This Will Hurt Me Waaaaay More Than It Hurts You” threat. If I can’t give this kid the iPad in the morning, then who’s dragging her ass out of bed at 5:30am?!? ME. (Or more likely, Daddy, but that’s completely beside the point.)
Of course once that threat is out there, the only thing left to do is PRAY. (And softly hum the “Backyardigans” theme song to send a subliminal message that life without the iPad would suck.)
So I waited the three minutes while he sat in TO and thought about what he’d done cookies and trucks and then I calmly said, “Are you ready to pick up the clothes?” [pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes] and he looked at me and said, “OK Mommy.”
YEEEESSSSSSS!!! Crisis averted!! I can still let an electronic screen take care of my child before sunrise! Victory is mine!
Where’s my Mother of the Year plaque?
PS. Wouldn’t “Kids Are Like the Moon” make a great book title? I could write a whole book on how kids go through horrible phases and there’s really nothing we can do about it. I would totally pick that up and read the back cover … and then probably not buy it because who the hell needs any more parenting books when you already have a shelf of them that you haven’t picked up since your first pregnancy. Nevermind.