The Shadiest Disciplinary Techniques I'm Ashamed to Admit I've Tried
About a hundred times a day, when my kids are acting up, I'll remind them, "Hey, I'm the boss!" They'll fall in line briefly, just long enough to assure me that they respect my authority, and then as soon as I turn my back they'll misbehave again – to an even larger degree. That seems about right. Isn't that how everyone treats the boss?
In return, I handle the situation like any good boss does -- by getting openly petty, pouty and desperate. I'll try anything to bring them back in line, even things I swore I'd never do as a parent. I'm not proud, but here are a few of the things I'll resort to if things spiral far enough out of my control.
I know America’s Supernanny says you're supposed to get down on your kids' level when you're scolding them, because that's a fair fight. But sometimes, I don't want a fair fight. I want them to be FREAKING QUIET AND LISTEN TO ME! If snarling down my nose at them gets them to back down, I'm not above it. Look, I'm not a large man. I'm exactly as physically intimidating as Prince or a hunched-over George Stephanopoulos. Tom Cruise could act in a scene with me and not have to stand on an apple box. That's how small I am. But there are two people who live in my house who think I'm a giant, and for as long as that lasts, I'm going milk it for all it's worth.
Bribing them with food.
I'm not above bribing my kids when I need to, but I'll usually start small -- stickers or maybe a balloon. Those usually do the trick without causing too much emotional damage to them or expense to me. But sometimes, when those don't work and I really need them to cooperate, I bring out the big guns -- sugar. I know it's awful. Nothing says "Daddy's desperate" like "I'll give you fruit snacks if you stay quiet for 5 minutes while I'm on the phone." That's not all it says, of course. How about "Eating is a great way to calm yourself down", or to put it more bluntly, "I'm OK with giving you an eating disorder if it means I can call the credit card company in peace"?
Pitting them against each other.
The first time I instructed my kids to, "Work it out yourselves," I can say my intentions were good. Conflict resolution is a valuable life skill, right? Now I know that asking 3-year-olds to settle their own dispute is tantamount to shouting, "LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLE!!!" and what invariably ensues is a Darwinian free-for-all where only the strongest survive. This is one of the benefits of having twins, though. They're the same size, so at least it's a fair fight. A good one, too. It's Ali vs. Frazier -- or Miyagi vs. Sato -- every time. And I have ringside seats!
Ratting them out to Santa.
My mom came up with this one, but I have to say I've kind of made it my own with my intense commitment. I start by picking up my cell phone.
"Hello, North Pole? Yes, I'll hold...
"Yes, hi. Santa, please... Yes, I'll hold...
"Hi, Santa. How's the Mrs.? Oh, good, tell her Daddy says hi. Listen, I wanted to let you know my kids have been fighting a lot and not listening to me...
"Yes, I know they're usually very good kids, but I think this year, they might have to go on the naughty list...
"Wait, hold on a second. They say they're never going to do it again...
"Well, what do you think, Santa? You think I should give them one more chance? Yeah, me neither...
"Oh, OK. They're promising me they'll be good forever and ever. They're hugging now, Santa. It's actually very sweet. I guess you should hold off on putting them on the naughty list for now, but I'll text you if they misbehave even one more time."
This one's not pretty, but it sure does the trick. I'm just glad my mom didn't come up with this tactic when I was a kid.
Man, that really could've messed me up.