Thursday, April 28, 2011

Threat Level Midnight

Recently, our children have gotten into the habit of using threats in an attempt to get their way. The problem (for them) is that many of their threats are, well... not threatening at all. For instance:

-"That's it! I will NEVER be your grandfather!" from Eva, upon being denied candy before dinner. She has also threatened to not be Daniel's father anymore.

-"Fine. If you make me leave now, I will NOT wear my coat outside!" from Daniel, upon being told that it was time to go to school. He was unmoved by Kyle pointing out that this does not make anyone else cold on a 40-degree morning.

-"I am going to walk out of this room right now, and you won't have ANYONE to fight with!" said Daniel to Eva when she wouldn't give him a toy this afternoon. Wouldn't that be a shame?

Sometimes, though, the threats are annoying, childish, and repeated so many times that I think I might lose my mind:

-"I will not be your friend ANY MORE!" said in response to any perceived injustice.

-"If you don't stop that I'm going to flush you down the toilet!" is a new favorite, a special gem introduced to us this week by Daniel's buddy Gus.

Occasionally, the threats get dangerous, abusive, or just totally out of hand, like when Daniel threatens to jump out of the moving car and actually pulls on the (thankfully child-safety-locked) door in the backseat during any of he and Eva's auto altercations. I've also recently overheard:

-"You aren't allowed to come play at our house anymore!" to their friend Peter, after an argument over a toy.

-"You are getting kicked out of this family."

-"If you don't we will rip your arm off," said Daniel to Eva (on the way home from church, no less), in support of Kyle politely asking Eva to remember to keep her hand in her lap instead of pulling on her hair in the car.

Really, it's these last ones that get me. Did they hear them from some tyrant child somewhere, or are they exercising their creativity in a seriously misguided way? Even considering my less-than-perfect parenting, the kinds of threats we make around here are, "Do you need a time out?" and "Should we move your behavior clip to yellow?" Certainly we don't use violent limb removal as a deterrent, and I'm fairly sure Eva's grandfathers have never mentioned disowning her...

Does Daniel threaten kids like this at school? If so, are we on some DFS watch list?

As funny as it can sometimes be, I hope this is a phase that passes quickly. I feel like the threat of threats is constant around here, and like I am a drip of water, trying to wear away a stone of unpleasant behavior. I've tried explaining, imploring, reminding how these words make people feel, suggesting alternate ways of solving disagreements, praising their kind words, repeating myself, complaining about the issue. I have downright forbidden talk of stunt-jumps from our moving vehicle. I am officially open for reader suggestions.

Seriously, though, if they don't stop it soon, I might NOT let them come play at our house again.


  1. That's it, Erika, I am NOT going to be your uncle anymore.

    We've been hearing some random threats of violence around here lately, too, and I have no idea of the or how to address the issue.

    I can only say, it sounds like our kids are pretty normal, and some days I totally get why my very own grandmother used to threaten to run away, "far far away..."

  2. Hey, I was enjoying the humor :) .

    Since you're officially open to ideas . ..

    It sounds very normal and I don't think you should worry about DFS being on your trail :)

    I think I would acknowledge the feelings and offer a script for the frustration, while giving a reality check to the threats.

    So, in response to:
    "I will not be your friend anymore!"
    I might say,
    "You're very upset that he took your toy (or whatever). Friends get mad at each other sometimes. Being mad doesn't mean you stop being friends."

    "You are getting kicked out of this family."
    "I see that you are very mad. No one is getting kicked out of this family."

    You've probably already tried that, I suppose. But really, I woudn't make too big of an issue over it. They're just looking for something powerful to say, right?

    In the meantime, keep posting the funny ones!

  3. Too funny!

    Don't you get the feeling that for the rest of our lives things are going to just mutate into new developments of behavior we can't stand? I mean first there's unintelligible whining before they can talk. Then it's a simple, angry "NO". Now complex verbal threats.

    If my childhood memory serves me correctly, a future step in domestic warfare is destroying/"losing" your sibling's favorite toy, making fun of them in public and creating a emotionally scarring catchy nickname based on their most noticeable flaw.

    Ahh, the innocence of childhood! :) But seeing as you turned into such a pleasant, well-adjusted adult and your mom probably had as few tools to work with as we do (although you are some kind of counseling ninja, right?) I'm sure you're doing the right thing.

    Oh, and my angelic children who never raise their voices in anger at each other will NOT be over to play with yours. (Which after my blog about littering, maybe you are happy about...)

    Playdate soon? :) Or just another Girl's Night of venting?

  4. I think I will put "Counseling Ninja" on my next business card. Yes, Janice, we should have a playdate soon. Maybe park today?

    Ellen, thanks for the suggestions. I think I've maybe tried a version of empathizing with reality check, but mine is way longer and lecture-y, like "I understand that you are frustrated with your sister, but telling people we're not going to be friends with them anymore is not a good way to deal with our frustration or keep our friends..."

    Yours is much more to-the-point and kid-friendly. :)

    I agree that they're just looking for something powerful to say. Hopefully we can help them find something more effective soon.

  5. I am much better at coming up with a script for someone else than thinking of the appropriate thing to say in the moment. What has actually been said in our house is this: