Attack of the Empty Threats

We are in a crack-down zone here in the Motherfog house.  With the “half-year” theory (equilibrium-disequilibrium) proving its validity with a vengeance, we are tightening the reins and nailing down boundaries. We are committed to regaining our status as The Parents.  AKA, the ones in control.  Sadly, the roles have recently reversed and those under three feet tall have staged a hostile take-over.

I could give 75 examples, all from before 10 am today, but I’ll pick one from the top five and keep it short. We have been struggling with following through. Just as an example:

“Zachary, if you continue to throw water on your sister’s head, we are going inside”. Followed immediately by Isabelle waddling toward me, drenched and screaming. Great. Now I have to go inside on a beautiful day and figure out how to entertain two toddlers who have been stuck inside for three days due to inclement weather and fevers.  Inevitably, I retract my threat, chipping away at what little authority I still have.  Clearly, mommy doesn’t mean business.

We’re done. We’re not doing them any favors by letting them create their own “routines” or their own rules. This applies to EVERYTHING. Meals, bedtimes, grocery store behavior, and respectful sibling play-time interaction.

Day one of crack-down:

I have a standing Mommy-Zachary Saturday morning date with my two and a half year old. Nothing is more exciting than our weekly trip to the Recycling Depot. The employees look forward to seeing him and fellow town recyclers watch with adoration as my little cherub divides the plastics from the cardboard and tosses them in to their respective bins.

This morning, as we were in the midst of the black hole that appears while attempting to dress two toddlers, Zachary found much merriment in an adorable new game.


Spitting on Daddy. Spitting on Mommy. Spitting on Baby sis.  He was calmly but sternly asked multiple times to stop this gross and unacceptable behavior and each time responded with maniacal giggles.

Finally, I got him to make eye contact and with deliberate weight and seriousness informed him that if he did it again, he would NOT be joining me at the Depot.

One millisecond later, I was wiping saliva from my knee. I picked up Isabelle, left his room and headed downstairs for the front door.  He ran after me crying, “I will stop, Mommy! I will! I will”. I turned to him and said,

“It’s too late, Zachary. You can go next week”, and closed the door behind me.

Windows open, I could hear him screaming in hysterics all the way down the street. “It’s not too late, Mommy!  It’s not to late!  I wanna go with youuuuuuuuuuuuu!”

It was a somber trip to the recycling yard.  I missed my little helper. Not that I don’t adore my daughter, but rusty cans and sour cartons just aren’t her thing.

Why do I share this?  Because I feel you all will benefit from my reiterating a basic concept of Parenting 101?  No. Hundreds of experts have and will continue to explain it better.

The punchline is what makes this story blog material.

As I emptied my blue bins, our friendly Public Works employee asked “Where’s the little guy?”

As I explained this morning’s salivary problem and subsequent unfortunate consequence, a ball of spit escaped from my mouth and hit him on the head.

I chose to ignore it rather than point out the irony,  but I giggled all the way home.

Blogger’s note:
Zachary’s listening skills dramatically improved throughout the rest of the day. I think we’re on to something!

Let’s get ready for Crack-Down Day Two

Would you Be so Kind as to help me out by clicking? Thanks!


17 responses to “Attack of the Empty Threats

  1. I’m a horrible, horrible person, but I find crackdown weeks fun. I know that if I give myself no leeway at all and insist that I follow through on my own threatened consequences, shit will get much better really fast. And it takes all the anger out of my reaction. If:then. “You are choosing, buddy.”

    I revel in the freedom and the consistency and the easy decisions.

    But the top of the fridge is CLOGGED with toys-in-timeout by the end of every day.

    Good luck!

    • oooooo…..the top of the fridge….I think I may steal that time-out location! Zachary is really into the two choices thing. Except when the third choice, the one he actually wants is not one of the two listed. He is KILLING me right now.

      • Least favorite phase ever! Except for all of Three, which reduced me to tears hourly.

        I offer fewer of the “this or that” choices when they go through that phase and issue more singing demands. A little sing song-y “put on your shoes so we can go outside” repeated over and over as you point to the shoes gets a lot done when they’re being shit heads…ah…I mean growing and developing.

      • Christine – the song idea is great – we used it often when mine were younger. Always good to change it up on them a little. One of mine, when she was about 4 or 5, noticed that you can make things sound nicer if you sing them. I wonder if it can work the same magic with tweens & teens? I’ll have to give that a try.

  2. Yup! Not sorry I cracked down on Nate and the pooping-in-the-pants issue…who knew that taking away tv time would work even better than screaming my head off? (Oh…is that where he gets the temper tantrums from?).

  3. Wait…. I thought if they spit on you – you just spit right back at them?

  4. Good luck with the crackdown! Gla to know I’m not alone.

  5. Hello Emily,
    My name is Jordan, and I’m with TLC Book Tours. We coordinate online blog tours for authors and publishers. I’m working with TLC Book Tours on a tour that I thought you might enjoy reviewing on your blog, Motherfog. The tour I’m currently working on is the novel, “A Simple Thing”, by Kathleen McCleary. Set in the rural San Juan Islands in Washington State, this novel is about a mother who moves cross-country with her two troubled children to re-examine her haunted past and discover what it means to love and forgive herself.
    If you were interested, we’d have the book sent out to you in exchange for your posting your thoughts on the book on a mutually agreed-upon date in late July to mid August. We don’t require positive reviews, just honest ones. 
    I’d love to have you on this tour if you’re interested! I look forward to hearing from you!

  6. Ha, my wife and I are the King and Queen of empty threats. Somehow its worked for us so far.

  7. Oh the joys of parenthood! I hope the crackdown continues to be successful for your household. It is that delicate balance of crackdown on child behaviors versus parent meltdown that makes it so exhausting.

    My oldest is the one who has tested our mental toughness the most – even still at almost 14! The discipline dance with him has always been a bit different than with the others. He needs proof that we mean what we say. Repeatedly.

    And the comment you made about your intense qualities showing in your kids – I can relate! Mine possess a certain stubborn determination that I am positive came only from my husband ;).

  8. you had me in hysterics, especially with the spit incident…I hear you on the empty threats..I am usually good with following through, i tend to tell my kids we will stop doing something that doesn’t hurt mommy…is that bad? lol. I once heard a story from a friend saying that she was telling her 3 year old that she would get something taken away as a form of punishment if she didn’t stop and her 5 year old said mommy she knows you won’ t do it….oh how little they are, but very smart! god bless you. xoxo

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