Stress does something to the words that sometimes escape through our lips. One of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever encountered is parenting, from both sides of the aisle. You gotta admit, parents say some ridiculous things at times. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty sure I’ve said most of these things at least once if not more.
“Don’t make me pull this car over!”
To a kid fully embroiled in “he touched me” argument strapped into the back seat of the car, this statement is just so much flotsam whizzing past the window. What the parent really means to say is, “If I hear the two of you whine or argue one more word I’m going to lose my mind.” A threat to stop the car feels more powerful, but is really a losing proposition. You can’t really leave the kids on the side of the road, as tempting as it sound. And pulling over is only helpful if you can stomp into the woods alone, let loose a few guttural primal screams, kick some really big trees and hurl some large boulders down the side of a cliff. Then you’d be able to return to the car and continue to your destination safely and with less insanity boiling over.
“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”
Actually this one has some truth to it if the punishment is grounding. Taking away a child’s ability to leave the house, or do regular activities, leaves the parent still dealing with the kid days or weeks or months after the infraction. For some parents, enforcing rules is a painful process as it ruins their popularity standing with their kids. Who wants the moniker of the no-fun parent? You do, if you want to emerge from the parenting experience with your sanity intact. Repeat after me: Parenting is not a popularity contest.
“I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Crying is not an inappropriate behavior. It’s a weird form of communication that very few people have been able to translate correctly. Sure crying is annoying sometimes, and can interrupt your day, and might even go on for hours. Getting angry about it, threatening more reasons for tears is really counter productive. You might want to reconsider before letting this one slip through your lips. I know, I know, it’s an instinctive reaction based on years and years of hearing your own parents say those exact same words. Fight the urge, be creative, invent a new phrase your children can mock you with in thirty years.
“If your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump too?”
Most kids would answer with a resounding “Oh, yeah, baby!” Whatever their friends are doing is always more fun than anything else you could dangle in front of them. Even if it’s taking out the garbage at their friend’s house. The point is to be with the friend, always, forever, no matter what.
“What were you thinking?”
They weren’t thinking. They were rolling on pure emotion, acting on impulse, going with the flow, riding the wave of adrenaline, sucked into the vortex of peer pressure, rocketing through the wormhole of hormones. (See cliff jumping above.) Logic doesn’t really enter into the equation. Actually, there really isn’t an equation other than the following: “I want it = I get it.”
“What am I going to do with you?”
“Take me out for ice cream, drive me and my friends to the mall, do my chores for me.” I’m certain most children have plenty of ready answers to that question. I have heard of the exceptional child with the ability to think up appropriate consequences for an inappropriate behavior, but that is a rare and gifted child with blessed parents. The whole balancing act of crime and punishment is resting squarely on the shoulders of the grownup. Sorry to be the one to break that to you.
Brave Souls, Intrepid Warriors
It’s a brave soul who takes on parenting. No owner’s manual, no instruction booklet, lots of well-meaning and misguided advice dispensed freely. Here’s my “two cents worth.”
Hang in there. Laugh as much as possible. Hug that kid every chance you get. And never, never, ever give up.