Empty Threats

June 19, 2013 by Michelle

This morning, Little Miss threw her version of a tantrum.  At almost 8 years old, I see it coming.  She doesn’t want to take a vitamin, and her reaction is to start crying.  My mom too often coddles her and makes everything go away, so Little Miss tries this bit of manipulation on me… but only when she’s overtired.  In general, she knows I don’t play that game.

So when I saw the tears start, I sighed.

Little Miss, I explained.  Why are you crying?

I. Don’t. Know, she managed to hiccup out – another clear sign that my baby girl is overtired.

Peanut, you only cry like this when you’re super tired.  Did you wake up really early this morning? I asked, trying to figure out where this came from.  I’d already made the mistake of overscheduling Monday and getting her so tired I had to wake her up Tuesday, but then we’d had a quieter day and an early bedtime.

Noooooooo, was all I could get out of her.

Peanut, I explained gently, If you’re crying like this, that means you’re tired.  You can’t go to summer school like this.  And if you’re this tired, I can’t send you over to Carol’s house to play this afternoon before gymnastics either.  It really isn’t a good idea for anyone.  Can you pull yourself together and show me that this is just a fluke?

The last thing I want to do is cancel a playdate.  I hate making commitments and then not keeping them for one reason or another.  It ends up being a punishment for me, too, since I have an unhappy child at home with me instead of some alone time to get things done.  And if it’s a birthday party or a playdate, it punishes the child who was looking forward to having some time with my child.  I’ll do it, however, when it’s necessary.

If my child is overtired or out of control, the last thing I want to do is make it worse by sending them into another situation that will only exacerbate the tiredness or the poor behavior.  And so I’ve made the threats before.  If you don’t stop X, I’m going to have to call Y and tell them you can’t come.  If this is how you’re deciding to behave today, we won’t be able to Y.

In this instance, Little Miss kept sobbing.  I carried her upstairs and laid her on her bed.  Peanut, I can tell that you’re tired, and I bet you can feel it, too.  I’m not going to send you to summer school right now.  You’re going to miss your first class.  Sleep now, and I’ll check on you later.  If you can sleep and get rested, I’ll take you to your second class and then we can see if you’re too tired to do a playdate and then gymnastics or whether we think you can handle it.  But right now, you need to sleep.  Do you want your sound machine on?

And through the sobs, I saw her nod.  She understands at least.  She’s figuring out that when she’s overemotional, she does feel better after taking a step back or sleeping.  And so I tiptoed out of her room, downstairs to text Carol’s mom to give her the heads up that Little Miss may not be able to join them today and explaining why.

When I checked on Little Miss ten minutes later, I found this.

Little Miss Sound Asleep

I can only hope that when she wakes up, she’s renewed and refreshed.  Because I don’t make empty threats.  It’s not good for any of us when I say one thing and don’t follow through.  I choose my consequences carefully, and they aren’t threats.  They’re explanations of the consequences and what happens because we’ve overscheduled ourselves or we can’t follow instructions.

But I’m still hoping that she can have her playdate later today.  How do you handle it when your children go off the deep end?

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  • Paula @ Frosted Fingers

    Can you come put me back to bed, too? It’s so hard to discipline, but good for you for sticking to your guns. Hope she’s refreshed when she gets up.

    • Michelle

      Yes, but I don’t promise that I’ll carry you up the stairs, too 😉 She was SO much better when she woke up – she went to her second summer school class, had the playdate and did fine at gymnastics. Whew!

  • Andrea

    Well done, mama. I think the fact that you were able to get her up there is an amazing thing. With mine it’s a battle royale if that suggestion is approached, so that’s good stuff right there. I hope she wakes up okay. The only thing I was thinking was could she be sick, which is the other choice when mine overreacts with mega-sensitivity. So I hope that’s not the case!

    • Michelle

      Oh she has a whole different modus operandi when she’s sick. She doesn’t whine. She doesn’t move. She just shuts down and falls asleep. It looks very different, and it’s always obvious when it’s coming. Fortunately(?) the sensitivity so far seems to only happen when she’s exhausted.

  • Sommer

    Oh poor mom and little girl. We have days like that too! From staying up too late to having a rough week. I was wondering the same thing as Andrea, maybe she is getting sick. My kids are like that a few days before they are sick. =(

    • Michelle

      She gets that when she doesn’t sleep enough. She is the child who NEVER stops moving and needs her sleep. I just let her have too much fun with the pool and such. I know better now. Poor kid.

  • Tiaras & Tantrums

    I’m amazed she fell back asleep – my kids NEVER do that – they just torture me all day long! haha I’m very bad at following through – very bad indeed!

    • Michelle

      I’m sort of amazed, too. She doesn’t usually, but she obviously really needed her sleep!

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