Threats

I didn’t sleep well last night, so I’m (extra) grouchy today and short with the kids. In response, they’re (extra) belligerent. O the joys of parenting!

A friend suggested recently that I tell Evan he would lose out on Christmas gifts if he kept being naughty. I had tried the “Only nice kids get presents” line, since Evan has decided that Santa is real – I might as well use this logic while I can. Unfortunately, Evan is also quite certain that he’ll get presents no matter what. I didn’t take this approach very far, because I couldn’t really bring myself to make Evan have such a miserable Christmas morning (my friend said to give him presents later in the day, if he was good). But something has to be done about Evan’s ongoing refusal to listen to me.

(He did have one really good day this week where he listened every time, and yesterday started out ok – but he got ornery by mid-afternoon.)

This morning we were talking about stockings and Evan told me that Santa puts toys and candy in them. I reiterated that only good kids get stuff in their stockings. And Evan still flatly refused to do what I asked him to. Now that the moment is passed, I realize I should have put him in time out, but instead I warned him that he’d have an empty stocking on Christmas if he wouldn’t listen. He threw an extra-ornery “No! That’s not what will happen!” at me and stormed off to his room.

At the moment I feel obligated to follow through on this. I’ve already bought stuff for his stocking and I know he’ll be missing out. But I’m considering offering him some chances to redeem himself between now and Christmas – starting with getting dressed this morning (the thing I asked him to do in the first place). What are your thoughts? Make him an offer, or give him an empty stocking? Or am I horrible for even considering leaving his stocking empty?

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13 Comments on “Threats”

  1. Kimberlee says:

    I believe you’re in the right. I like the idea of giving it to him later in the day once he gets the message. Just my two cents…

  2. Sposita says:

    I think one of the hardest rules of parenting is to never make a threat you won’t follow through on. I would say – yea, he doesn’t get it. But maybe he can get the things inside on a day-by -day thing – like, show him the toy/candy and say, “here is your reward IF you behave for this hour/day/minute..” You can even make it “Santa” that told you to do it this way since he heard he was being naughty but trying to learn to be good. ;)

    • Mika says:

      I will follow through on it, but I’d really like to give him a chance to earn the stocking back first. And I have an especially hard time with Evan because lots of times, a later reward IS enough to convince him to be good, like going to Grandpa’s house tonight or having a friend come over in a few days. It’s hard to remember that he’s only 3, and his memory isn’t perfect, he’s still learning how to behave, and I can’t expect him to act like a rational adult. (Not that I know many.) This is what comes of having smart kids. Beware, everyone.

  3. Megan says:

    Yeah Brooklyn can’t talk and already I feel like she knows when our threats mean something and when they’re empty. I would follow through with the no-stocking thing Christmas morning and then maybe tell him he’ll have a chance to get those presents back later in the day and in the following days if he is able to listen and be good.

    • Mika says:

      I was really consistent earlier this week with consequences for not listening – and after a few days, he was a fantastic listener. I really think part of the problem is that I let emotion cloud my judgment – isn’t this the hardest part of life? – so when I’m extra tired and grouchy, I feel more spiteful. And I tell my son he can’t have a stocking on Christmas. He did start listening later in the day if I reminded him that what he was about to do would definitely mean no stocking, but praised him for good choices that would help him get his stocking back. I really wish Evan had come with a manual. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing here.

  4. Bridget says:

    I am a full believer in following through with threats. If you don’t than they mean nothing. I was thinking however, you may need to try a more immediate consequent with Evan. I know that you already do this a lot, but maybe something that he really doesn’t like. For example, my sisters often got to the point of threatening their kids with vinegar, hot sauce or mustard–in each case it was something that tasted so vile to the kids, they feared it more than anything. My sister’s would put a little on their tongue and make them hold it in their mouth for a minute with no water or something like that. It seems cruel as I type it out, but it worked really well.

    • Mika says:

      I’m definitely not willing to do sauce on his tongue. I can’t exactly articulate why, but I wouldn’t feel ok about it. Which is perplexing given how quick to anger I am with him – I know I need to be more patient with him, because I get so riled up and I hate it when I’m mean to Evan. Even if he deserves punishment, I often regret the emotion that drove my punishment. Hot sauce on the tongue, though, goes way past my comfort zone. I might be more open to the idea for an older kid, but I feel like Evan would see a distinction between “My mom put me in the corner for a time-out because I was being naughty” and “My mom is inflicting physical pain on me right now.” I’m personally not a spank-my-kids person for the same reason. To me, it just feels like a different type of discipline that I’m not comfortable with – in my own house.

  5. Samara says:

    So, as someone who doesn’t have her own kids, my advice is only speculation. Could you try a listening-to-mom chart? Every time he does listen to you he can earn a star and if he earns 10?20?100? (Whatever number you decide) before xmas he can earn his stocking? Or maybe for certain segments of the day (getting up and dressed, meals, errands w. mom, etc.) he can earn a frowny smiley or neutral face on the chart and has to get a certain amount of smiles to get his stocking? My school kids love charts for things like that. I think the visual tracking and short term feedback and immediate follow through helps them get into it. Just my not-a-mom thoughts ;)

    • Mika says:

      I love this idea. Thank you!! Don’t discredit your opinion, you have lots of experience working with kids and I’ve only dealt with two. Ever, really. I’m definitely going to try the chart!

  6. Gina Wallace says:

    I like the idea of a chart. We have friends that have a laminated chart with happy faces and sad faces. When they have so many happy faces in a row, they get to go for ice cream. And it’s something like, happy faces for a week. I think they get something like three chances before the sad face goes up. This obviously doesn’t work for Christmas, but maybe further on. You could fill his stocking with rocks with a picture of what he’s missing out on. Then he can work to earn those. I agree with giving him something of a chance to redeem himself before Christmas, but he may have to have kind of a sucky Christmas morning to get it. As with all the other replies, you have to follow through somehow.

    • Mika says:

      Thanks for further explanation – I really like the idea of chances before a sad face goes up. I’m absolutely not just going to cave in and say, “Just kidding, here’s your stocking even though I said otherwise,” but I want him to be able to see that good behavior is rewarded. Hopefully he can behave better with a combination of things people have suggested. One thing we’ve contemplated lately is the place for mercy in parenting. At this age I do think it’s important for me to show Evan that there are consequences for his actions, but I also want to demonstrate that sometimes, we’re given another chance that we don’t necessarily deserve. It’s something I want to incorporate, but I’m not sure how, or if I need to wait until my kids are a little older.

  7. Carole Lewis says:

    It does seem as though an opportunity to “turn his attitude around,” or to redeem his actions in some positive way (perhaps “giving to,” or “serving” someone else–maybe even Mom or Dad or June) would help. It would be a positive thing for him, and keep you honest, but also compassionate. I’m sure you can think of many things he could do–or help you with. You might not even have to explain it in advance, but compliment him for his positive actions, or improvement in his behavior, etc., and comment that his behavior or attitude had demonstrated ________ [fill in the blank]. I have always had trouble with the “only good children get Santa gifts. . . ” approach, because no matter how stubborn and ugly his behavior can be, Evan is still, overall, a very good boy! Perhaps defining the difference between a “good boy” and “bad behavior” or “bad choices” would also help (as though you haven’t already worn yourself out doing that by now!) define the difference for him, and focus on his own decisions and their consequences. I do think he is smart enough to catch on to that. Remember, at some point in his life, his desire to “be good for Santa” will clearly disappear, and he may have memories of being bullied into doing something good for a reward that was less-than-legitimate.

    Good luck with this, Mika! You are a great mom, and only one of millions who battle these things every day. I have confidence that you will find an honest solution to this–and other–challenges to raising these bright little ones!


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