I try to stick to funny or noteworthy stories about my family and stay away from parenting advice in this space. Who am I to tell you how to raise your kids?
But when I find a parenting trick that’s 100% effective, I think I owe it to you to share. Understand that what I’m about to tell you is rather unorthodox and would probably not be sanctioned by any psychologist or child-rearing expert.
But it works.
One day several years ago my boys (ages 7, 9 and 13) were fighting over something silly. My middle son, Aden, came upstairs from the basement weeping, complaining that his brother had done him wrong. It could have been anything from taking a toy, to teasing, to excluding him from play. The sin didn’t matter, it was punishment he sought.
I tried to reason with Aden and ask all the right questions, to take blame out of the equation, instill a sense of self-reliance, and foster harmony and brotherly love.
He was having none of it. His brother was mean and he was pissed.
I’m not sure what came over me that day, but after employing all my sensible parenting methods– likely including distraction and even bribery– I took a different tack.
“How would you like it if I just went down there and punched him in the nose?!” I said emphatically.
As soon as I said it, I felt sheepish and remorseful, knowing it was not the optimal adult response. But that all disappeared when Aden’s face lit up. He started grinning and screamed, “Yeah!!!”
And a new tool was born.
I thought it was a fluke but then tried it with my other kids and the reaction was universally positive. There’s something about picturing your adversary getting punched in the nose– at the hands of your mother no less– that makes everything ok.
Of course the first time Wilson heard me say it, he gasped in horror.
“Nice, very nice. Don’t say that– you’re, you’re promoting violence!”
He judged but I didn’t care. Still don’t.
Now mind you, I have never actually punched anyone in the nose, or anywhere else. Most of the time I don’t even have to pretend to carry out revenge on the culprit. Just the idea of it usually suffices to get my kids over their anger.
I thought about it today when Aden came home from school and said a substitute class aide was being mean and giving the students a hard time. I told him that wasn’t ok, but that didn’t bring much relief. He was sinking into a mood. Then I asked if he wanted me to punch the aide in the nose, and he cracked up… and like that, it was over and he moved on.
All anyone wants is to be heard and understood. And sometimes all the right words don’t make a kid feel any better. But allowing them to imagine someone getting just desserts for bad behavior is comforting. And having me be the dragon slayer (or nose-puncher as the case may be) in the situation makes them not only feel heard, but protected.
Like all good parenting techniques, this tactic shouldn’t be overused. I bring it out on select occasions so it has maximum impact. I’m gonna keep coasting on my empty threats until my kids tire of it….or Child Services comes to get me.
Do you have any controversial parenting tools you’d like to share? You can comment anonymously so don’t be shy!