Ever heard the saying that goes, “Be careful what you wish for (because it might come true)?” I have another one, directed mainly at parents: Be careful what kind of threats you make (because your witty offspring might call your bluff).
A few days ago, my wife went on a long shopping trip with our kids—the daughters, who were looking for Easter dresses, shoes, and swimsuits, and also boy wonder Caleb, who got dragged along for lack of anyone to watch him in their absence. Apparently, it was torture for him. Several hours into the ordeal, he was acting up a lot… complaining, dragging his feet, plotting to murder everyone and burn down the mall… the usual stuff.
Momma got tired of his whining and thoughtlessly issued the following warning: “If you don’t stop acting like this, I’m not bringing you with us next time.”
His response was an immediate “Did I want to come with you?” I would have used something along the lines of “Can I get that in writing?” or just a flippant “Promises, promises…” But his rhetorical question was effective enough. There was not much momma could say at that point, or so it would seem.
Momma’s been doing this a while, though, and she’s pretty good. Make that very good. Within a few seconds, she’d come up with a perfect threat to make Caleb straighten up. All she had to say was, “Maybe we should pick out a suit for you.” That broke him, and his behavior improved right away.
As I type this, Caleb is undergoing what momma likes to call “marinating the boy.” She runs a tub of warm water, throws him into it, and makes him soak for 20 minutes to loosen up the crust of dirt and we-probably-don’t-want-to-know-what-else that builds up on him at a remarkable rate. Soon she’ll go in to scrub him down, trim his claws, wash his hair, and then let him out of the tub, at which point the crust will immediately begin forming again. I’m not sure how she gets him to stay in the bath for so long, but I imagine she issues horrible threats, like putting a necktie on him if he gets out.