Generally, Daniel is a good kid. Generally, he does what we ask him to. Generally, he doesn’t give us too many problems. Generally, we don’t get too much attitude from him.
Then there are the days when he is in rare form. At that point, “Nice Dad” has to go away for awhile and “Mean Dad” has to emerge from The Dark Place. For some reason I was nominated as the disciplinarian in the house. I’m not sure exactly when this occurred; I don’t remember it coming up for a vote. I find it funny that my wife is a head taller than me and way meaner than I am (don’t tell her I said that!). Yet, she’s solved many a Daniel crisis by threatening to “tell your father”. As the resident disciplinarian, I try to follow a few rules. I find they get me through a lot of situations.
You have to be serious. Sometimes this is hard, especially when it’s a “what the hell were you thinking?” kind of issue and your first instinct is to giggle. You have to be consistent. Daniel tends to test his limits when we have people over at the house. I believe he thinks we won’t beat him to death right there in front of guests; it would be impolite. But Mean Dad doesn’t get holidays off. And Daniel is portable. When he’s pulled something in a restaurant or a store, Mean Dad just removes him from the situation. It’s nowhere near as much fun to throw a tantrum when only Mean Dad is there to observe it in the car.
If you promise you will do something, you have to follow up on it. That can be hard. When I come downstairs in the morning and find Daniel has “made breakfast” by raiding the Halloween candy and there are 14 unfinished lollipops adhered to the carpeting, I can’t just make some idle threat. I can remember my mom threatening (my brother; I was always good) with tearing off our arms and beating us with the bloody stumps. She wasn’t credible because we knew deep down she wasn’t really going to hit us with the bloody stumps. In fact, it was even money she wouldn’t even tear our arms off at all. My “nuclear option” for misbehavior is sending Daniel to his room all day (all the toys get locked away in the closet; Mean Dad knows all the legal loopholes). “Go to your room” doesn’t sound all that threatening because it’s not meant to be a threat, but a promise should Mean Dad be pushed to the brink.
While Daniel still pushes the envelope sometimes, I find I don’t have to punish him as often. In fact I don’t even have to threaten to punish him. A lot of times threatening to threaten to punish him is enough.
“Daniel, do I have to start yelling?”
Generally, the bad behavior evaporates. Daniel eats his dinner, picks up his toys, does his homework, grudgingly goes to the bathroom. And Mean Dad can stay safely tucked away, deep down in depths of my psyche.