One day not long ago, I was at home with the kids. Mark was somewhere else, the boys were being noisy, the girls were fighting, Karis was crying, and I’d had it up to my eyebrows with household drama. No one in my house but me seemed to care that I had work to do. Important work! For money! So I said something: a sentence my parents used to say to me and that I swore I’d never speak to my own kids, because it’s just so, so ridiculous.
“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
My powerful threat accomplished nothing. If anything, the tears actually increased because how scary did Mommy just sound? What is that threat supposed to mean anyway? You’re crying now but you’re about to cry a lot more because I am within two seconds of resorting to catastrophic violence? Of course not. It’s just an empty threat. A play on words. A stupid ultimatum that does no good. So why did I say it? Why did it just roll off the tongue like that? I guess it’s because I’d heard it said before.
So have you. We’ve all said dumb things as parents. Threats and warnings and laughable statements that we have no business saying. Not because they’re needlessly violent or graphic or mean, but because they are stupid. And completely untrue. And in violation of all of our parenting values.
Here are a few:
1. If you roll your eyes, they’ll stick that way.
Funny how no one ever says, “Keep blinking like that and your eyes will stay closed … FOREVER.”
2. Move your hand, or I’ll chop it off.
But not before putting down some protective plastic because cleaning your blood off the couch cushions is the last thing I want to do.
3. If you ask to watch TV one more time, I’m giving it away.
Like I would really punish myself that way.
4. You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
Unless you are a rapper or poet, rhymed violent threats only come across as playful silliness. That’s why Dr. Seuss did not pursue insult comedy.
5. If you don’t finish that food I’m going to send it to a child in Africa.
My grandmother was fond of this one. I’m sure children in Africa appreciate being brought into this.
6. I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!
Another violent, murderous threat, this one courtesy of kindly educator Bill Cosby.
7. You better wipe that smile off your face before I do it for you.
And then, when Child Protective Services hauls me away, I can justify it by telling them you were smiling. (Please tell me no one actually uses this one anymore.)
8. If I have to pull this car over, I’m leaving you by the side of the road.
Not a chance. Because then I’d have to take the other kids home and the come pick you back up. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
9. If you don’t brush your teeth, they’ll turn black and fall out in the night.
That’s only true if you use meth.
10. If you don’t put up your clothes, I’m going to throw them all away.
Sometimes I consider this one, because it’s preferable to doing laundry.
11. If you sit that close to the TV, you will go blind.
Not really, kids. It’s masturbating that will make you blind.
12. That bump on your tongue is because you told a lie.
If only it were that easy.
13. If you don’t do a good job washing your hair, it will all fall out.
The next thing I know they’ll be scolding my bald friends for their negligent hygiene.
14. You just wait until your mother/father gets home.
I am incapable of disciplining my own children, so I’m going to ask my spouse to deal. Sharing is caring.
15. Don’t make me come back there!
Seriously, don’t. I’m actually pretty comfortable right now.
Those are a few of the stupid parenting threats I hear … or have said … or had said to me as a child. What are yours?