“If you don’t quit crying, I’ll leave you on this airplane!” (mom)
“NOOOO, don’t leave me…” followed by louder wailing (child)
“Stop crying right now or I’ll give back all your presents to Santa!” (mom)
“Don’t give back my presents… louder crying (child)
This is the exchange I (and the other approx. 105 passengers) heard as the airplane had landed at O’Hare airport. We were waiting to dock at the gate and disembark. I’m sure the mother and child were very tired after this last leg of a long flight. Both were stressed by the cramped quarters and the extended wait. My heart went out to this mother and her difficult situation.
Yet I was struck by this mother’s unsuccessful efforts to quiet her child.
She lied to her little girl.
1) The mother was NOT going to leave her child on the airplane. The flight attendants would make sure of that!
2) The mother was NOT going to give Santa all her child’s toys. Send them to the North Pole?
3) Her threats were not working. Each comment resulted in renewed crying at an even louder volume.
The above situation was an overt attempt to calm a distressed child by using threats. Yet it is an easy trap for ANY parent to fall into.
1) “If you don’t stop I’ll turn this car around and go back home!” Really?
2) “If you don’t share with your brother, I’ll take all your toys away!” All the toys?
3) “You do that once more I’ll put you out of this car and you can walk home!” Safety?
4) “You won’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate!” Everything?
5) “If you don’t find your shoes and put them on, I’ll leave you!” Alone?
It is so easy to make sweeping statements when we are frustrated, pressed for time, or embarassed in public. When we do this we are not only lying to our children, we are showing them that we do not really mean what we say.
In Scripture, the disciple Matthew records what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is sitting on a mountain and teaching a crowd of people. He says:
Matthew 5:34-37 New King James Version
34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
This is a good principle for those of us who are parents and grandparents.
Say “Yes” or say “No”.
Anything else complicates the issue and often makes it easier for the child to argue. It is definitely harder to dispute a simple “no” or “yes”.
I do feel there are times when an explanation is warranted and even helpful. Yet, when parents and children are stressed, upset, or tired, reason tends to flee. The explanation may just prolong the agony.
The challenge for us as adults is to speak the truth in love, firmly, but in love.
Speak the truth – no means no.