As with most things in my life, I often seek wisdom, guidance and sage advice from the 1990 movie “Kindergarten Cop,” especially when considering the mentality of unruly children.
In the movie, Penelope Ann Miller’s character of a seasoned teacher turns to say something to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character of a seasoned cop turned undercover as an unseasoned teacher in charge of an over-seasoned kindergarten class on his first day.
“Kindergarten is like the ocean,” she says. “You don’t want to turn your back on it.”
Now, I’ve turned my back on the ocean plenty of times, and other than a pair of missing eyeglasses and always tasting salt water whenever I cough, I never found much weight in that quote until I started raising a kid.
You never want to turn your back on a kid because they’ll do something wrong each and every time — making a mess, breaking something, eating your food, stealing your money, laughing too hard, breathing too loud, writing ransom notes to fictional people to pay for real kidnapped people — the list goes on and on.
As parents, we really hope the kids behave because then we don’t have to discipline them and prior to the actual punishment, they get a warning, which is a nice way of saying we pretty much threaten them.
Parental threats to a kid who doesn’t listen can escalate like a flash flood, and if the threats would ever be carried out, it would be teetering, if not toppling, on child abuse.
“If you don’t stop what you’re doing right now, no TV and no internet for you...Stop what you’re doing or you’re not eating dinner and going straight to bed...If you don’t stop right now, I’m stuffing you in the crawl space to live with the rats in the basement, and I’m being serious...Stop right this minute or I’ll invent time travel and go back and tell your father on that cold Valentine’s Day that I have a headache and, therefore, ensuring your existence never happens!”
When my brother and I made our mom reach her breaking point, she’d do this thing where she would keep her teeth clenched shut and she would growl her words and would only move her lips.
She didn’t even have to say anything threatening because her saying stuff like “Stop it right now” or “Pay attention” or “Stop teasing the tiger” was tame on paper, but the way she said it made it so effective.
If you need a visual, watch that scene in “Ghostbusters” where Bill Murray’s unseasoned Ghostbuster character is trying to calm down Sigourney Weaver’s character Dana, who is seasoned through possession by the evil spirit Zuul, and she tells him in a horrifying voice through her closed teeth, “There is no Dana, only Zuul.”
Along with it being creepy and effective, my mom was able to pull off such threats in places like the grocery store or during the silent prayer in church in a way not to attract attention to us.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are some parents that really have no issue with going into a full meltdown in front of a multitude of strangers; there’s parents that can explode on their kids with such venom and ferociousness that it could make half a football stadium silent during a playoff game.
It’s also strange to see one of those parents having an outburst in a public place when you’re at different periods in your life because you have vastly different interpretations of it.
For example, let’s say a mother grabs her unruly son by the arm in the middle of a supermarket and yells at him, “I will end you!”
When you’re a kid of the same age, you think, “Man, poor guy. I feel ya, bro.”
When you’re a teenager and just getting over the battle scars of childhood, you think, “Maybe I should call 911.”
When you’re in your early 20s and not yet a parent, you think, “Geez, lady, take a chill pill. It’s just a kid being a kid.”
When you’re an adult with monster children of your own, you think, “Yeah! Show that little brat you’re the boss! If you give me the sign to tag team, I’m so in. I have this threat of putting a kid alone on a train full of monster clowns I’ve been itching to try.”
When you’re much older with children and grandchildren, you think, “What’s with these kids and their parents making a big spectacle?! No discipline anywhere! Why, I ought to…oh, prunes are on sale!”
In the end, any threats from parents to kids — from cradle to commencement gown--become too familiar and bland and are normally met with either silent opposition or screaming protest.
So, in that latter situation, I go back to my mentoring movie, “Kindergarten Cop” and a direct quote from Schwarzenegger, which is, “Shuuuuuuuuuuuuuut uuuuuuuuuuuuuup! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.