The Naughty List

Dec 17 2009

Not one, but two of my children just got kicked out of the church Christmas program.

Cue Christmas music…

“A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…”

Oh, sweet irony.  We are SO not happy tonight.

My 10-year-old and my 7-year-old elected to use their non-listening and anti-obeying skills this evening.

Awesome.

I’m not sure how to measure this milestone against others like the time my son punched another kid in the nuts.  Let’s just say it’s up there on the list.

In response, I employed that oh-so-useful parenting technique called Lecturing, and then I combined it with its close companion, Over-Disciplining.

(Legal notice: This blog should be used for entertainment purposes only. Do not try this at home.  Parenting techniques herein described do not reflect experts’ opinions on how to best rear a child or children.  No child was harmed in the making of this blog. I hope.)

First things first.  In order to be an accomplished lecturer, you must set the stage accordingly.  A good lecture should follow some time alone for each child in his/her room.  When the children are brought out of Solitary, they should be required to sit quietly and make eye contact with the parent.  The lecture should be delivered quietly, yet passionately, as though to communicate that there are some very strong feelings bubbling just under Mom’s surface.  If said child breaks eye contact, which is likely, then a silent parent waiting for appropriate attention is typically enough to cause a refocus.  If it’s not, then you have not effectively established yourself as nearly mean enough.

I am very, very mean.

Lecturing Goes Like This:

  • Step #1, The Disappointed Phase: “I am SO disappointed in this behavior.  Not only is it disrespectful to your teachers, it’s frankly very embarrassing to me.”
  • Step #2, The Lying Phase: Despite current evidence that says otherwise… “Woolsey children do not behave this way.”
  • Step #3, The Rhetorical Phase: “Does this kind of behavior make you feel happy inside?”
  • Step #4, The Repetitive Phase: “So, how does mommy feel about this? Disappointed, sad, a little bit angry…” [this part is also part of the Lying Phase since I’m a lot angry]… “and embarrassed.  Woolsey children do not behave this way.  Does this behavior make you feel happy?”
  • Step #5, The Confusion Phase, Wherein the Parent Requires the Child to Answer the Rhetorical Question: “Well?  Does it?”

It’s worthwhile to take a short break here to let you in on a subset of the Lecture technique — Omission.  Sometimes as important as what you say is what you don’t say.  For example, I neglected to mention that we were, in all likelihood, going to miss the entire church Christmas program anyway due to a family obligation the same evening.  Why spoil a perfectly good chance to Lecture?

Over-Disciplining (while continuing a solid Lecture component) Goes Like This:

  • Step #1, Outline What’s About to Happen (in order to achieve maximum dread): “There will be several consequences for your behavior this evening.  Sit back and relax because this is going to take a while.”
  • Step #2, State the Obvious: “You have just lost the privilege of performing in this year’s Christmas program.”
  • Step #3, understanding that neither child cares one iota about whether or not they get to perform in the program, Drive Home Exactly What He and She Will Be Missing:   “You, Miss Aden, will not get to wear your pretty Christmas dress… ” [the one I haven’t bought her yet]… “in front of an admiring throng of people.  You, Mr. Man, will not get to have Nana and Papa attend the performance…” [the same Nana and Papa to whom I haven’t mentioned the performance] “…and tell you what a good job you did.  And neither of you will get to go to the party afterwards… ” [the 10 minute gathering after the program — “party” may have been pushing it a little] “…for Christmas cookies and playing with your friends.” [And, by playing, I mean the part where the kids run around the room on a sugar high and we tell them to stop running and play quietly.  We adults are delusional.]
  • Step #4, Require Extra Effort: “Each of you are going to write the music teacher a letter of apology.  It will be long.  It will be sincere.”  [Being realistic is clearly not my main goal.]
  • Step #5, Eliminate Imminent Privileges and Get Really Creative So You Can Pretend This Meets “Logical Consequences” Criteria: “Nana and Papa are coming over tomorrow night to babysit you while Mommy and Daddy go out.  You will come home, do your homework, eat your dinner, and then you will go to bed.  You will not get to play with friends.  You will not get to play the Wii or watch TV.  You will not get to help Abby and Nana make cookies…” [which they weren’t going to get to do anyway since we planned it to occur after their regular bedtime, but, hey, it was available, so I used it] “…because… um… because…. because you must be awfully tired to behave like this, so, um, you need a lot of extra sleep so, um, you can remember your manners and find your appropriate behavior.  Yeah.  That’s why.”
  • Step #6, Try to End Well So As to Not Come Off as an Unmitigated Trainwreck of a Mother: “The good news is, if you can show me in the next day that you can respond kindly and appropriately to your consequences, listening and obeying, doing your homework nicely and treating your siblings kindly, and if Nana and Papa report good things about your behavior, then you get to start earning back some privileges.  Maybe this weekend you can spend a little time with your friends.”  Alright.  Fine.  I also said, “and with your Wii.”

So, here Greg and I sit on this peaceful, pre-Christmas winter night.

The tree is lit.  The house is quiet.  The children are all a-bed.

Visions of mean Mommy dance in their heads.

Our stockings are hung by the staircase with care. (They clash with my terracota-colored fireplace.  Sue me.)

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there.

I have one week to help two kids remove their names from the Naughty List.

Wish me luck.