Do you ever find yourself spluttering out threats to your children which you probably have no intention of ever enforcing? I know this is bad parenting. All the experts say never to threaten punishments you can’t follow through on. I’ve heard myself saying things like ‘Right, because of your behaviour, we are never going to the park. Ever again!’ Yeah, not likely. So it came somewhat as a surprise to me when I followed through on a threat that I’d been casually making for some time.
Annoying little brothers
My daughter is 8 and, probably needless to say, has a somewhat volatile relationship with her 4-year-old brother. I get it. He can be totes annoying. And I give her a whole lot of leeway in having space from him. She has her own room (a privilege, I keep reminding her, that I did not enjoy until high school). She keeps precious things in there that he isn’t allowed to touch. Her LEGO castle which took weeks to build. Her collection of snow globes. Random trinkets and charms which she gathers from who knows where.
But the one thing I can’t stand is when she runs away from him into her room and then slams the door in his face. Every time I see it, I cringe. His little fingers outstretched, dangling precariously close to the door hinge as she shoulders the door shut with all her might. Every time she did it, I would tell her that it was noisy and dangerous and she had to stop. I’d threaten ‘If you keep doing that, I will take away your door!’ Not only was it loud and probably creating cracks in the ceiling, but I was just waiting for the day when his fingers would get jammed in it.
And then they did
It was a Saturday morning and they’d been niggling each other for hours. She had something in her hands that he wanted and instead of reasoning with him or coming to me for help, she did her usual routine of tearing through the house towards her room, followed by his shrieks and screams that would rival Tolkien’s Nazgul. She thundered up the corridor to her room, turned and slammed the door behind her. This was met with another shriek – the other one that mums know as different – the squeal of pain. My daughter sheepishly came out of her room knowing she’d crossed a line as my son held his fingers, sobbing, ‘She shut them in the door!’
The follow through
I realised the door slamming had to stop. So I decided to follow through on that random never-going-to-be-enforced threat and I calmly said, ‘You have slammed that door one too many times. I am confiscating it.’
Oh the tears as my husband got out his drill and unhinged that door! Oh the sobbing as he carried it to the garage! Oh the remorse as my daughter realised her room was now completely open for all to see!
I explained that she would not get her door back until she learned her lesson. If she needed privacy, there was a bathroom she could change in (although at 8 years old, this is the child who still frolics merrily around the backyard like it’s the Garden of Eden. Privacy was not going to be an issue).
A lesson learned
And you know what? She did learn. She learned that she needed to try to negotiate with her brother. She learned that she needed to calmly come to me if he was infringing on her space.
We did put the door back on a week later. OK, it was actually because I was hosting my somewhat raucous little Wine Club … ahem … I mean, Book Club and for the sake of her sleep she needed her door back. But ever since then, there has not been one single slam.
And my son’s fingers are still intact.
Which obscure threats have you had to follow through on?