No one ever talked back to Mr. Rogers

No one ever talked back to Mr. Rogers

Every parenting book I read tells me to be consistent and have a firm hand. Set rules and boundaries. Show them who’s boss. They have sleep books, parenting books, collections, videos, and Supernannies all there to help me be perfect. And self-help books in case I go crazy in the process.

But the truth is, parenting isn’t about perfection, it’s about drawing the line in the sand. It’s their job to try to get away with stuff; mine to stop them. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing personal.  I don’t want to fight about things–I’m low-key. Sure, watch your show, but when I want teeth brushed, healthy foods eaten, and the finger out of the left nostril, these things need to happen.

Sadly, they often do not.  I have to resort to extreme measures.

One of my favorite measures is “Extreme Idle Threat.” Threats so scary that I could never execute them. Like once, I threatened to feed Fluffy (favorite stuffed sheep) to the evil minions. Evil minions are scary–we have a spray that defeats them every night** And I will not hesitate to let Fluffy be their snack.

Another effective threat is anything that includes “forever,” or “delete” in the body of the threat. Such as “I will delete Netflix,” or “You will lose the computer FOREVER.”

That usually results in much sneaking trying to get around my password, which he’s done twice (at age five) by creating guest user accounts, but then I say, “I’ll put a double-secret password that can’t be defeated. And if you try to do it again, it will delete your movies automatically.” Time to up the ante with lies. That’s spineless. I should just say “no.”

Another spineless parenting strategy I use to avoid fights is hiding stuff. My stepdaughter used to come home with clothes we didn’t like–slogans that would be great for a teen but not so wonderful for any third grader who wasn’t named “Honey” or something similar…like pants that said, “I’m sexy,” or “Hot.” Mysteriously, they all got lost in the washing machine. The same washing machine that always ate one sock, starting an entire teen fashion of mismatching socks.

Hiding stuff works well with Declan, too. I have relocated boxes of blocks, toys, ankle breakers, and assorted other traps and trinkets. I just hid his tape measure. When I was rebuilding our old cellar, I thought getting him a little one would be good so he could do construction with Mommy, but then I realized that the sides of tape measures, especially when whipped around and retracted quickly, are like little razor blades. Not to mention that one shouldn’t use it as a lion-taming whip or for poking eyes. Just to measure, and only that which should be measured. So, I hid it.

I’ve hidden Legos, blocks, puzzle pieces–so much easer than saying “No, you can’t have that” or “Clean that up,” and arguing.

One sneaky parenting strategy that used to work was changing clocks. It still works for teens because so many of them don’t know how to use an analog clock these days. But Declan is learning to tell time–he can. If something seems suspicious, he’ll leap from the big clock to the digital–“Nuh-uh, Mommy, it’s NOT 8.”  It’s impossible to change all the clocks–I consider myself defeated.

I reserve the “fabricated reward strategy,” for the most important things. This where I make up a reward that was going to happen to make him comply. After an hour of fighting over homework–which at kindergarten level is one math page and a sheet on which he has to write his name, the date, and some sentence encompassing the meaning of life, I was tired. Both of these should have been done in school, but he goofs off.

“Too bad. We were going to have an ice cream party. Make our own sundaes. But we can’t because it’s only for after homework.” Exactly one in a half minutes later, all the work was done. And done correctly.

Yes, it’s their job to outwit us. It’s our job to stay one step ahead. This isn’t always easy, but with careful thought, foresight, and a scheming heart, it can be done. If you’re a Gandhi-loving pacifist like me, one who hates discord, you might have to be a bit more clever, but you can win.

I promise.

You could be upstanding, honest and explain your reasons, but sneaky and spineless is much quicker and more effective in the end.

Parenting should be easy–by any means necessary.