Calling all scary aunts: How do I discipline my kids without laughing?
On Saturday morning, my 5-year-old hip-bumped his 1 year old brother in the head, knocking him onto his butt. And clearly on purpose. Putting my best mom voice on, I grabbed his shoulder with one hand, pointed to the corner of the room and said, “TIME OUT, NOW!”
He looked at me, with clear confusion he asked firmly “Whhhhhhhhhhhy?”
Still pointing at the corner, I responded, “You knocked down your brother, on purpose, now go! TIME OUT! NOW!”
“THAT’S NOT EVEN THE RIGHT PLACE!” he yells back with the straightest face and the firmest voice….
Shit, he was right. It wasn’t the right place. In fact, that random corner had never been a time out spot and he totally called me out. And so I was reminded of the quirks in my little man’s personality, this one in particular where his methodical little mind gets stuck on routines, processes, and guidelines. I love that about him, and a healthy brain just brings me joy… Seriously I’m a sucker for smarts.
And so I started laughing hysterically. 1 point for the 5-year-old. 0 points for mom. I never even made him go to time out.. Such a sucker.
I remember as a child being terrified of two of my aunts. They weren’t mean, but they were firm. If they told you to do something, you did it. And if you were in trouble, it was scary. I remember a time when my cousins and I got caught making ant bait cocktails with chemicals that would probably send any 2017 granola mom through the roof. At that token, my aunt’s reaction was probably pretty subtle. But it scared the shit out of me.
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When I was in my early 20s, I finally had the chance to see what happens on the adult side of this equation. At a family gathering, one of my much younger cousins (still a child) did something worthy of disciplinary action. From behind I watched my amazing aunt lay the smack down. It was bittersweet nostalgia to see those kids get chewed out. Sure.. I felt bad for them, but I knew they’d learn. In a very adult-like manner I put my straightest face on and nodded to approve the scolding.
But then, the shocking part happened. The mistress of discipline turned to an angle where only the adults could see her face… and proceeded to smile, silently laugh and make funny faces while the kid was still sobbing.
Are you freaking kidding me?? Clearly… I felt cheated. Flashbacks began to run through my mind of all those moments as a kid where we got in trouble and nearly wet our pants. It was all a hoax. Was she really walking away and laughing?
It turns out she was. Every. Single. Time. It took a few more years to realize that this woman was a skill master, and she was brilliant at something I still need to work on: Keeping a straight face when your child does something wrong, but ridiculously hilarious, and you still have to discipline them and remind them who is in charge.
So what do I do about this? I am actually not sure. I’m thinking maybe an improv class is in order, or maybe a special kind of parenting meditation? Maybe there’s a training course. I need help! On a lighter note, the first step to anything is admitting you have a problem. And I’m here.. writing this post.
So what about you??? How do you keep a straight face while laying the smack down on your hilariously hysterical children?