I will be the first to tell you that I am a rookie mama. I have one child, so that means I’ve had no previous children to serve as guinea pigs in parenting. Little One is it. It’s trial and error for me.
Though I’ve read countless books on parenting and child-rearing and have done ample research (the two child psychology courses I took in university don’t count anymore, do they?), nothing any book or parenting workshop contained could have ever prepared me for the real life situations.
Sure, in theory I felt I knew it all (or enough to get by without causing my kid to have to seek therapy when she is older). The truth is, most of the time I just trust my instincts, and most of the time they are right. The rest of the time, I wing it.
One of the things I have always been firm on was following through. Empty threats do absolutely nothing except teach a child that you will not follow through. Let me first say that I do not like the term “empty threats”. I don’t like the negative connotation the term conveys. I do not like the word “threat” when parenting children. Perhaps “giving them options” or “demonstrating consequences” would be more appropriate. However you want to phrase it, saying you’ll do something and not actually doing what you say you’ll do is really ineffective. I always hated the phrase “empty promises do not work”, but they really do not work.
There came a day when the child all of a sudden had a mind of her own and *gasp* didn’t do as I asked!
Lately, Little One and I have been having morning battles when it comes to her hair.
She is obsessed with her long hair. She wants to have long hair, just like a mermaid’s hair.
“I want to wear it down!”
“You can’t wear it down, honey. You need to have it tied back or braided. Your hair is so long that it gets so tangled so easily.” To be honest, I’m also worried about the dreaded L word. Knock on wood, no letters from school have been sent with the students reporting that there have been issues with lice! I get itchy at the mere mention of the word!
“I want my hair long! As long as possible. Up to my feet.”
“Well, your hair is to the bottom of your torso now and it’s really hard to manage.”
“OWWWW! OWWWW! OWWWWWWW! You’re HURTING ME!”
“I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to get these tangles out. Are you sure you don’t want to cut your hair even just a few inches? It will be easier to manage. It’s a rat’s nest right now!” Wait. Is it rat’s nest or bird’s nest? Do rats even have nests? Hmmm…Maybe?
“No! I want my hair long!”
We go through this routine every single morning when we get ready for school. Each time, I tell Little One that if she is going to be difficult when it’s time to brush her hair, then perhaps we need to cut it.
Okay, perhaps the statement goes more like this: “If you don’t stop fighting me when it’s time to brush your hair, then I am going to cut it off!”
Today I did the unmentionable.
I really did cut it off.
Wait a minute. Are YOU testing ME?!
“Fine then! Cut my hair!”
“I’m not kidding! I’m going to! It’s such a hassle! It’s actually the bane of my existence right now.”
We had ten minutes before we had to head out for the school bus and I just put her hair in a ponytail and…cut it all off.
I don’t think Little One really expected me to follow through. She was probably in shock, but her response shocked me.
“Ohhh! Mommy! I LOVE my new hairstyle!”
“YES! It’s so light and edgy!”
[enter my shocked facial expression here]
“Well, that’s because the back is uneven! I have to fix it after school. I just chopped off your ponytail! I can’t believe I’m sending you to school like that!”
Meanwhile, Little One was bouncing on her way to the bus stop, squealing in delight and extremely pleased with her new hairdo.
The moral of the story? Empty threats do not work because A) your kid will learn they can manipulate you if you don’t follow through, and B) even if you achieve the result you wanted, your kid will make you think that the outcome was what she intended in the first place. *sigh*