Coincidentally, right after last week’s question about complimenting children came this question about scaring them. I thought you might like to think about both because together they are like a tune-up for understanding life from your child’s point of view.
I have a five-year-old girl. For some reason my sister’s husband Miles teases her all the time. Sometimes he is very funny, but at other times he scares the daylights out of her. What he does that frightens her is exaggerate consequences. Here are a couple of examples.
“If you don’t finish your hotdog, I will get a magic wand and turn you into a hot dog.”
“If you don’t stop crying, I will bring you to a special noisy place where all children go who don’t stop crying.”
What can I do?
You definitely have a problem to solve and an obligation to your daughter to do so. This uncle is acting inappropriatetly. While we know that this kind of teasing makes him feel powerful, he does not realize that. The more power he feels, the less power your daughter feels; and that is not good. While uncles are often the ones in the family who provide a lighter more joking approach to discipline than parents, they should not overstep their boundaries. In the old days, many uncles liked to do their scaring with the “boogie man,” but everyone seemed to feel comfortable with that guy!
While the obvious answer might seem to be just to tell this uncle to stop, we know that is not so easy. Best is to talk to your daughter later on in privacy. Ask her all kinds of open-ended questions to find out what she heard and really thought about these threats. If you detect uneasiness, quickly explain this powerless gesture.
In addition, talk to your brother about what actually happened. Because he probably never dreamed that he was really being so powerful, he is likely to be sorry and volunteer not to continue this practice. If needed, go ahead and kindly request a change in his behavior. If you see that your daughter is fine, you can let this problem go.
September! The Month of the Babies
Do you have a crying baby? Do you know why? Keep on studying until you get it. It is your baby’s job to teach you, and it is yours to learn.
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