One of the things other parents tell you (including me. I’m one of those annoying “opinionators”) is that if you threaten a child with a consequence, it’ll all be for naught if you don’t follow through on it.
I don’t know if it’s the tears in her eyes, the desperation on her face or the waste of money it would be, but my latest threat to “Em” is threatening to undo me.
A couple months back we were dealing with Lies and Laundry. After a couple weeks, Em finally came around and started putting her clean clothes away.
Now we’re back to it again. More clean clothes stashed at the bottom of her closet. Clearly the last time’s punishment wasn’t enough. So what to do? In my anger and haste, I told Em to get a garbage bag and put them inside. Her eyes became as wide as saucers and she screamed that she didn’t want to throw them away, that she wanted to keep her clothes. I replied that she’s treating the clothes like garbage, so that’s where they’ll go. I didn’t really mean it; some of these clothes are brand new! I quickly said that rather than waste the clothes by throwing them away, I’d take them to a thrift store.
Em clutched that pile of laundry so hard it took me about 5 minutes to wrench them out of her hands, all the while she’s crying and screaming that she wants them.
The gathering of clothes warped into a lesson in being grateful for things we have. I told Em that even though we don’t have a lot, we have a lot more than others do. I told her that her dance and gymnastics classes are a privilege, things she doesn’t have to have, things that cost me and my parents money and time that plenty of other children can’t do because their parents don’t have the extra money or time to take them there.
I cancelled the lunch I had planned with her and my mom today and I told her I’m considering cancelling her gymnastics and dances after she returns from her summer activities, telling her that she’s acting lazy and selfish and she shouldn’t be rewarded for her behavior. We put the garbage bag of clothes in my trunk and I dropped her off at my folks’ house on my way to work.
My problem is I don’t want to get rid of the clothes. I don’t want to cancel her extracurricular activities, especially since she’s so talented (no, really. Have you seen the picture I took of her standing on one leg with the other up in the air by her head?) and could go really far in either venue.
My threats to her were out of anger, hurt and were given very hastily. But what to do now that they’re in the air? Should I just have a frank talk with her about my unwillingness to give away perfectly good clothes that still fit and my not wanting to cancel classes that she so enjoys and excels at?
What do I do? Would it be such a horrible thing to back out of the consequences I laid before her? Would I be teaching Em she can get away with what she wants because I can’t really discipline her? I’ve always been proud of my resolve when it comes to my rules and discipline, actually having other parents ask for my opinion and thanking me later because of the results.
Would I be a horrible parent and regret my decisions years later if I follow through with these consequences?