• J Mess

THE MAN

It's like scared straight, but for toddlers.


Nothing is more frustrating than arguing with a toddler. It's absurd. I must have my way, because ya know, I'm the adult, and I'm really only asking for easy, logical things like putting on socks, changing your gross diaper, or eating dinner. Yet, everything is a battle. Everything. You wouldn't think being relieved from sitting in buckets of your own urine to be something to fight against, but alas it is. Some of it is us being stuck in this house for over a week. Most of it is natural defiance and rebellion. But, if you're gonna rebel against something, I guess we might as well set him up with an age-old foe to start sticking it to.


According to Wikipedia, "stick it to the man" encourages resistance to authority. Kinda the opposite of what I'm going for.

Nathan is a terrible listener. There really isn't a single threat that works to get him to do what I want. Occasionally "I'll throw your iPad out" did the trick, but recently he's figured out I'm bluffing because the iPad keeps reappearing. So now nothing works. And just to punish me for my trickery, when I ask him not to do something, he now immediately does it. Then smiles. Sometimes he'd listen to grandparents or teachers, anyone who wasn't mom or dad. Most times he still wouldn't. And it was becoming a huge problem. So when we were visiting my father-in-law in Maine a couple weeks ago, we stumbled upon a new tactic with surprising results. We were playing at the children's museum, when Nathan began jumping on something he shouldn't have been jumping on. After my husband asked him to stop multiple times to no avail, my father-in-law told him that if he didn't stop, we were going to have to call over "the man" and tell him. Nathan's eyes got really wide and he immediately stopped jumping.


When they relayed this story to me over lunch, I didn't believe them. He's scared of an imaginary man? But they both swore up and down that it worked. I was still skeptical until I went to change Nathan's diaper in the Panera bathroom. I asked him to please not touch anything, as even though I typically am grossed out by those koala changing tables, given everything that was just starting to ramp up, I'd kicked my inner germophobe into the highest gear. He immediately looked right at me and started rubbing his hand along the side of the changing table. Nearly irate, I asked him if he listens to me or does the opposite. He said the opposite. Then I decided to change my tactic. I said "Nathan if you don't stop touching everything I'm going to have to tell the man!" He froze, looked terrified, and folded his hands over his chest.


If I wasn't already married, I would marry the man.

I've literally never seen anything like it. I've never seen him stop doing something and listen so quickly. This was too good to be true. Could this really be the answer to all my toddler power struggle problems? I tried it again in the car when Nathan was taking his shoes off and throwing them at me. I asked him not to also take off his socks, but he began attempting to remove them. I didn't want to overplay my hand like I usually did with all my other idle threats, so I started with the iPad line. It didn't work. One sock was almost off. Then I said, "Nathan if you take your socks off, I will have to go and get the man. Do you want the man to come?" It was an immediate cease and desist. This was having amazing results! I tried it again in the middle of the night when he woke up and began asking for his iPad. "The man will come if you don't go back to sleep!" Then the next morning when he insisted on eating his bagel on the floor in the living room. Then again when he wouldn't get into the car on the way to school, and this time I even got my phone out and told him I was calling the man. Every time I say "the man," he looks panicked and says "NO NO NO!!! No man, nooooo" Then does exactly as I ask him to do.


I'm laughing as I write this because part of it is hilarious and the other part is not funny at all. Children definitely don't need anything else to be scared of these days, but I'm also stuck in this house with him indefinitely and I'm gonna need some kind of leverage to keep my sanity. Therefore I planned on using this for all my behavioral needs up until he either figured out to ask me where the man actually is, tried to run off and join Antifa, or started screaming that the man was in his closet or under his bed... whichever happened first. Although unfortunately it seems that my time might be up. Yesterday when I said, "Nathan, do not do that or...," he looked at me, smiled, and sassily said "the mannnn???" Sigh, it was a good run...

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