FILED IN: Child Behavior

The Tale of the Threat that had Real Consequences

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / amnarj2006
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / amnarj2006

The problem with being a parent today is that there is nothing good we can threaten our children with.

My mother used to promise to break arms when my brothers and I treaded dangerously close to the edge of Hell-To-Pay Canyon. But what was only a warning back when we were kids could get a person arrested these days. The Boogie Man is no good either. Today’s cartoon-fed kids are way too sophisticated to believe in him, and even if they’re not, the bills for therapy would wipe out any retirement fund we have.

“Just wait until your father comes home!” used to work. But no more. My “enlightened” husband once confessed he sometimes stays late at the office to avoid hangman duty (the wimp). Timeouts? Please! I’ve seen my son smack his brother and then skip to the timeout chair. Being sent to your room? Right. What a horrible punishment it is to be sequestered in a room filled with toys and a television. Sent to bed without supper? That getting arrested thing again.

So what’s a frustrated parent to do (short of shipping her kids off to Grandma’s until they’re 18)? I’m happy to report Terri Frantz, a mother of three from Dublin, Ohio, may be onto something.

Gabrielle, Terri’s four-year-old daughter, was causing her mother fits one afternoon not too long ago. It was just the usual kind of stuff: fighting, whining and dawdling. But Mom’s buttons had all been pushed. When Gabrielle pulled the laces out of her tennis shoes and then complained that they were too loose, Terri did what any sensitive and well-read mother of the 21st century would do. She simply told her daughter, through clinched teeth, “Well, when you do stuff like that, you just have to live with the consequences!” (OK, so she didn’t exactly use the word “stuff”. It was close enough. We’ll let it slide.)

At this point, the four-year-old became hysterical. She wept uncontrollably for the next hour, and Terri had no idea what had distressed her so much in the first place. It was only when a miserable Gabrielle wailed, “But I don’t want to live with them! I want to live here with you and Daddy!” that Terri understood.

Trying hard to squelch the snickers she knew would only fan the fire, Terri tried to explain that “The Consequences” were not another family. But Gabrielle didn’t care. “It’s not funny!” she protested.

“They’re not people,” Terri tried again.

“Don’t they have kids of their own?” the little girl wanted to know.

Now, this is the kind of threat I could get behind. You have to admit, it has a lot of potential. “Listen up, kids! The next time one of you steps over the line, he or she is moving in with the Consequences, and that won’t be any fun because they’re mean and their house smells bad, they don’t have kids or cable, and they’ll pack apples in your lunch box for dessert!”

I can just see my kids pleading for mercy now.

I heard Gabrielle was on her best behavior the rest of that fateful afternoon. And apparently she was still a little nervous that evening because she balked at going to soccer practice and then made her dad reintroduce the coach to make sure his last name wasn’t you-know-what. Terri told me Gabrielle also made her father open the trunk so she could check for her suitcase and blanket.

Yeah, there’s potential. Definitely.