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Dial it Down

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Moms, a piece of advice: Pretend you're the grown-up!

Gay Uncle Brett Berk: One of my colleagues here at momlogic recently posted a piece about washing her son's mouth out with soap. Apparently, the boy wouldn't stop saying things like "poop," "poo-poo," and "poopie," and the mom wouldn't stop letting this behavior annoy her: a perfect swirly of brinksmanship. So once the kid inevitably crossed the line a final time, Mom squirted some pineapple hand soap into his mouth and had him swish it around. The outcome? The boy pumped his fist and said, "YES! I ate soap!"


I would like to give this mom a piece of advice: Dial it Down. Why?

1) Stooping to your child's level to engage in inane battles -- and then allowing their behavior to incite you to perform irrational and potentially injurious acts -- leads to nothing but further conflict.

2) Like using torture to acquire sensitive information, or employing the death penalty to deter future murders, extreme practices like soap-gargling may provide a fleeting sense of vindication, but they're completely ineffectual in achieving their goals. Studies prove it. (If you're a doubter, just note the boy's reaction.)

3) Getting so out of control that you're reduced to behaving this way demeans you as a human and undermines your authority as a parent. Your job is to model control, and to employ effective discipline that will help your child find their center. Remember my mantra: "PRETEND YOU'RE THE GROWN-UP!"

4) Soaping out a "dirty" mouth is both retro and metaphorical, neither of which means anything to a young kid.

So what to do instead? Well, for starters, I'd suggest that you not worry so much about your kid saying words like "poop." (Ever heard the expression, "Choose your battles"?) Still, if you think it's not appropriate, say so. But keep your invocations calm and straightforward, and then let it lie. If you lose your mind every time your child says something you don't approve of, they're going to quickly learn that this is an excellent way to get a rise out of you, and this will only encourage them to do it more. If you've already dug yourself into this hole, or find they're cursing to accomplish this end, your best bet is to calmly tell them once that it's inappropriate, and then ignore it. It may take a while, but I f$%#ing swear it will go away.

next: Get Your Kids To Sleep Longer!
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Pamala April 29, 2009, 12:36 PM

I applaud that mother for actually discipline her child. People these days are told to coddle their children, be nice, “talk” to them. Sorry kids like structure, like to know the rules, and a bit of soap, being put in your room without your toys, etc. ain’t going to hurt them in the long run.

Anonymous April 29, 2009, 2:01 PM

My Kindergarten teacher once made me put a bar of that Gold Dial soap (that had been used by the entire class for days, mind you. Not a new bar!) because another child blamed me for saying a bad word (SHE actually said it but blamed me when the teacher asked who spoke).

It taught me NOTHING except that grown-ups were jerks who won’t believe you and lying works better than the truth in a pinch.

Plus, children of a certain age are fascinated by all things poop-related. It’s called the Anal Stage for a reason. Soap for saying “poopie” seems a bit extreme.

Pamala April 29, 2009, 5:20 PM

How about thinking past what he said and instead look at what he was doing. He was not following the rules and defying his mother’s wishes. Plain and simple. Kid was testing his boundaries about how far he could go with what he was doing. And the mother set the boundary. Now the child may have said eating soap was cool, but to me that reads as a child trying to not let his mom see she had “won”. But I doubt he’ll test those boundaries again. Props to her for setting them. Ignoring behavior sets no boundaries, and kids need them.

Anonymous April 29, 2009, 10:23 PM

You have a few good points, but I’m with the mom on this one. Sorry, but if you’ve just WORKED with kids and never had any of your own, you don’t get to say how to raise them, UNCLE.

tobin April 29, 2009, 11:36 PM

I think both parents should read a wonderful book called “You are Special” in which Mr. Rogers explains how stressful the entire the potty training bit gets—how much angst these poor kids go through learning to control their bodily functions. Even once they succeed the worry lingers. Mr. Rogers gently explained how telling poo poo, doo doo, and pee pee jokes and just saying the words for the fun of it can help them relieve some of that stress.

Berry Brazelton would ask “Now who’s control issue is this?”

I am a mother and I think it is an absolutely disgusting and irrational act on the part of the parent(and over-agressive).

I imagine that parent must have been treated with cruelty during her own potty training and would benefit revisiting that time in her life with a trained therapist.

The kid gets an A+ for getting a rise out of mom.

Brett Berk April 30, 2009, 7:02 PM

Just to clarify, there is a difference between structured, consistent, clear, and effective DISCIPLINE—which I strongly support—and ineffectual, vindictive, ad-hoc, reactionary behaviors like soaping out a kid’s mouth—which I abhor. If you would like to learn the difference, you can read my book, “The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting”, which is based on my 20 years of experience working with tens of thousands of young children and their families, and has step-by-step instructions for creating the former, as well as hundreds of humorous and pitfall-ridden examples of the latter.

Takptehm June 26, 2009, 2:03 PM

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