|image from disney.com|
A couple was ready to leave the pool and had already gathered up 2 of their 3 kids. The third was still in the pool and when they asked her to get out, she refused. Mom went to reach for her arm, but she swam just out of reach. When Dad walked around to the other side of the pool, she swam away from him, too. I can hear your gasps from here. Nothing is worse than chasing your kids and looking like a fool doing it. Following the unwritten code of parental conduct, all the other parents at the pool tried to look away to lessen the embarrassment of the couple who was now circling the pool and trying, in vain, to grab their wayward daughter.
Things then went from bad to worse. The girl started splashing water at her parents as they tried to grab her. "Oh no she didn't!" I wanted to yell, but didn't think my helpful comment would be appreciated. The parents started making threats, all of which the girls laughed off. "If you don't get out now you are going to time out!" Ha ha! *splash* "Get out or there will be no swimming tomorrow!" Ha *splash* ha!! "If you don't get out this minute we won't go to Disneyland tomorrow!" *SPLASH* Bwua-ha-HA-HA-HA!!!
We have all been there. The empty threat that we know holds no power. Unless those parents have a lot more discipline than me, there is no way that after paying all the money to get to Disneyland, get a hotel and buy the park tickets that they were going to hang out in a hotel room for 16 hours to make a point about the importance of listening. I know I frequently make threats that I know I don't have the energy or willpower to carry through on.
It is the great lie of parenting. Kids think the parents have all the power, but the real truth is that the kids are 100% in control. If my kids just say no, then I run out of options pretty quick. Sure I can send them to time out, and take away privileges and restrict their behavior. And I do all of those things and sometimes they get results. But sometimes, like that family at the pool, your kids decide to call your bluff and see how far you are willing to go. And pretty soon you get to the empty promises that are really just punishing you and the rest of the family.
Every day as parents we walk that line. Trying to maintain order in the household without showing too much of our hand and hoping the kids don't figure out that I won't really throw every toy in their bedroom in the garbage if they don't clean it up and that they won't really have to sit at the table until all of their dinner is gone. Those punishments would just really punish me. I just hope tonight they all get out of the pool, because I really want to go to Disneyland tomorrow.