Is that a threat or a promise?!

When I was pregnant with our first child I made a personal decision, that any threat or promise I ever made to the child(ren) would always be followed through. At the time it was “I’m going to be the perfect mother and this is the way it will happen. If I try hard enough it shall come to pass”. Yeah. Oh how we learn, and how quickly.

But it is something that has totally stuck with me. The kids are well aware that I don’t dish out empty threats. All it has taken is follow-through on those on a few occasions, and they know I mean business. As a mom, how many of us say “next time I catch you doing x I will punish you”. They do x, you are on the phone, busy with laundry, the discipline takes a back seat. Kid gets the message that mom won’t follow through. Lack follow through enough and they know the threat will never happen. My record isn’t perfect, but I really try.

I distinctly remember one subject that I followed through on. Little children, boys in particular, take great joy in using potty words at inappropriate times. I usually ignore the first utterance because I know it is being said for effect. Sometimes ignored potty words don’t get repeated. After a while one of the kids was obviously experiencing great enjoyment calling his brother a stupid poopyhead. I explained to my then 5 year old, that we use our mouths to kiss our mommies and to daven to God, we shouldn’t dirty it up with nasty words. We were all threatened as kids that if we cursed we would have our mouths washed out with soap, right? Not fun. Hot Tabasco sauce – much more effective. The kid didn’t stop, so I warned him next time I heard a bad word from him I will give him hot sauce on his tongue. Bad language burns. Too young to know better, and stubborn enough to test me out, he looked me in the eye and called me a stupid poopyhead. Then stuck his tongue out ready for the hot sauce. (Oy did he look cute and I was biting the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing). I poured a glass of milk first – I am not THAT mean that I would let him suffer for too long. Then put a teeny drop of the sauce on his tongue. His face scrunched up with burning indignation, I put the cup of milk in his hand and he gulped it down. (Milk is the best thing when you burn yourself with hot spicy food). The Tabasco was on his tongue for maximum of two seconds, but long enough for the message to come through loud and clear.  Next time he wanted to say a bad word, he stopped. Remembered the sting. This happened which each child, ONCE. Lesson learned. Now when I threaten things like “If you don’t pick up your room by 7pm tonight, I will take a garbage bag and throw out all the stuff that’s not put away” – they know I mean business. I have also done that too.

But when it comes to promises I am just as consistent. I refuse to allow myself to promise them something I cannot deliver. This past summer I kept a promise that I had made 9 months before. We have a Dollar Cinema not too far from us, where they play popular movies from a few months back, and it costs 2 bucks a person. When money is tight, it’s a cheap and cheerful outing with the kids. The kids had been extra well behaved, and as a reward I said I would take them to the movies. I won’t take them during term time, so we had to wait till the next school vacation to go. So happened that nothing appropriate was playing at the times we wanted to go. Eventually we went to see Night at the Museum 2 – and even though it was months since the promise, they remembered. I was thanked for keeping my promise.

Parents promise things all the time. “I promise you it won’t hurt” at the dentist. “I promise I will buy you this if you just let me finish doing this”. Etc. After a while promises mean nothing. How are our kids supposed to learn that our word is our bond if the adults in their life don’t show them?

All actions have consequences – good and bad. Children need to learn this in the safety of their home, in a nurturing environment.

It has been hard recently. “When are we moving, Ima?” When I tell them hopefully by Chanukah, they want to hear me promise. But I cannot. When we had the medicals recently, they wanted me to promise they wouldn’t have to have shots. I refused to promise something that I had no way of keeping. Even to placate them. Sometimes I wish I could be just that cavalier with my promises, the kids perhaps would worry less…

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  1. I agree 100%! While I hardly ever really came down hard on Evan as a little boy, he was confident I would and never disobeyed me. I take a lot of parenting advice from you actually…my next move is the garbage bag in the bedroom!!!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Very sound advice. I hope that you find a way to pass this along beside this blog. You did not mention if you had the support of your ex-husband while implementing these rules. It is vital to be a consistent with childen.

  3. Z! says:

    you do NOT want to get on this lady’s bad side!

  4. Z! says:

    Let’s just say you know when to follow through.

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