Try it and I'll kill you

personal 8 comments suggest edit

I have a big problem as a dad.

For the most part, my kids are wonderful. Like most kids, they have their infuriating moments. But that’s not the problem of which I speak. It may help for me to describe one such scenario.

My family and I are in Portland for a brief trip. As I drove around an unfamiliar location, my daughter asked the typical question kids ask as a form of advanced psychological torture, “Are we there yet?”

This wasn’t so bad. My wife calmly explained to my daughter not to ask that again because she’d already done so several hundred times. She then asked my daughter what the consequence should be if she asks again and they started negotiating about the consequence of that action.

Not long after, my daughter repeatedly poked my ear with a stick made of straws as I drove. We have a strict and, in my humble opinion, eminently reasonable rule not to distract the driver. My wife calmly told my daughter that the consequence of that action next time would be to break the stick.

Now if you’ve ever seen or met my daughter, she’s a delightful joyful child who’s usually all bright eyes and big smiles. She can also be a bit mercurial. Like most kids, that temper burns a little hotter when she’s hungry.

At being admonished, she started whimpering and crying. But then, out of nowhere, she screams with the full fury of her six year old being, “Try it and I’ll kill you!”

public domain image

My eyes went wide and I looked at my wife in shock mouthing “Holy fuck!” As I searched for the words to convey to my daughter the gravity of how wrong it was to say that, I bust out laughing. Out loud. Uncontrollably.

The intense incongruity of this little bundle of cuteness screaming such an over the top aggressive threat was too comical and I could not keep a straight face.

Of course, this is the wrong reaction for so many reasons. For one, it could encourage such behavior. Or worse, it might appear that I’m mocking her feelings.

And this is my problem. This isn’t the first time she let out her outsized rage that spurred uncontrollable laughter on my part. Of course I struggle to take a serious tone and talk through her feelings with her, but I can’t help to take an outside view of the situation and see how funny it is.

Fortunately, we apply the principle of failure and repair and talked it through after my laughter subsided. She recognized her words were hurtful and apologized. We then had lunch and she’s back to her sweet full of joy self. Until next time.

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8 responses

  1. Avatar for carson63000
    carson63000 January 2nd, 2016

    You didn't try to break her stick, though, did you? :-)

  2. Avatar for Steve Johnson
    Steve Johnson January 2nd, 2016

    When my children ask if we are there yet, I explain the impossibility of ever being "there", because one is always "here". They never ask anymore.

  3. Avatar for $2938663
    $2938663 January 2nd, 2016

    On the other hand, its great that she expresses strong emotion with words and not physically. Sounds like she just needs some different, if equally emphatic, words.

  4. Avatar for Soner Gönül
    Soner Gönül January 3rd, 2016

    Pic of the stick or it didn't happen.

  5. Avatar for Brian Vallelunga
    Brian Vallelunga January 3rd, 2016

    On the advice of the internet, we started saying "Asked and Answered" to my four year-old when he repeatedly asks questions we've answered already. He understands that when we say that the conversation is over. It's worked surprisingly well.

  6. Avatar for Jeff P.
    Jeff P. January 3rd, 2016

    I love stories like that. I've certainly had my share. My kid has some sensory issues, so he gets kind of rough at times, which generally leads to me getting hit in the nuts. This apparently made some impression on him, as just the other day, at Walt Disney World, he tripped getting into a ride and declared to the operator, "That hurt my balls!"

  7. Avatar for Hans Torm
    Hans Torm January 3rd, 2016

    There is an interesting aspect to this. Smaller children mostly go by
    the tone of voice when we correct them, and do not really consider the words
    much. At 4-6 though the actual words carry more weight, but they still tend to
    fall back on placing more weight on the tone of your voice.

    Here things get interesting. You child clearly understood that the words
    where confrontational, but perhaps the calmness of your wife’s voice did not
    clue her into the degree of seriousness of the situation. In this case, the child reacted
    to the words but being on relatively new territory (words not tone), missed the
    degree of seriousness and thus overreacted.

    I made the same mistake more than once forgetting that just be course my
    kids were old enough to reason with, they still needed a bit of guidance in
    understanding what was going on by keeping those clues that clear tone of voice
    etc. can provide a bit longer.

  8. Avatar for Mezmo tm
    Mezmo tm March 9th, 2016

    I'm dealing with something similar now with my 14 year old boy. Sounds like you're handling it much better though. Good luck in the future.