I previously wrote about Thomas Lee, the little boy at the pool whose name I heard 52,000 times within a half hour period because his mother kept saying his name over and over again. I also spoke about the dangers of cell phone parenting. Good news! We were lucky to see old Thomas Lee again at a recent visit to the pool. Unsurprisingly, his presence provided more entertainment and learning opportunities for all involved.
Our good buddy Thomas Lee continued to act like a child, which is what little boys are wont to do. (Wont is a fancy word you use if you’re a journalism major). Thomas Lee ran around, grabbed stuff that wasn’t his, swam in places he wasn’t supposed to swim, and acted crazy. I’ve got a little boy and he acts much the same way, so I understand. The problem wasn’t with Thomas Lee, but his mother. She determined her previous tactic of saying Thomas Lee’s full name repeatedly, (“Thomas Lee! Thomas Lee!”), wasn’t working, so she tried another course of action, “the warning”. (Cue dramatic music).
“The Warning” is when a parent tells her child, “I’m warning you,” in an effort to get them to respond. An instruction is given, the child fails to respond and the exasperated parent gives “the warning”. For example:
Mom: “Thomas Lee, let’s get out of the pool. Thomas Lee, let’s go! Thomas Lee I’m warning you…”
“The warning” is what parents use when they want to imply some severe punishment is about to befall upon their children if they do not respond appropriately. They’re supposed to hear “I’m warning you” and believe a horde of angry giant cucumbers will eat them if they do not get out of the pool, come here this instant, clean their room, etc. What most often happens is children hear “the warning”, continue acting like children, parents fail to act on their warnings, and the cycle starts all over again. This occurred, unsurprisingly, with little Thomas Lee.
“Thomas Lee I’m warning you that if you don’t…”
“I’m warning you Thomas Lee, put that down or…”
“Thomas Lee, stop attacking that old lady. I’m warning you…” (Didn’t really happen, but it sounds funny, right?).
The problem with “the warning” is it only carries any weight if the warned party believes the threat will be carried out. If my wife warns me against leaving my shoes in the hallway and I don’t listen but then she hits me with a large cactus, I will be more apt to not leave my shoes in the hallway anymore. However, if the threat of cacti punishment is not carried out, then I will leave my shoes wherever I please. (Don’t get any ideas, honey).
It’s the same thing with our kids. If you warn them, but do not carry out your threat, then kids will realize you are a big pushover and will continue to ignore your instructions. So it was with Thomas Lee. He knew his mother had no intention of laying down her cell phone, getting out of her comfortable pool chair, and throwing him headfirst into a Port-O-Potty. (Hey, you discipline your kids your way…). Since Thomas Lee knew his mother wouldn’t respond with Port-O-Potty punishment, (say that three times fast), he continued to act like a four year old child. Warnings must be backed up in order to have any effect.
Again, I get it. I’m a parent too. I get lazy and tired just like everyone else. I don’t want to get out of my pool chair or put down my cell phone either. I’d rather yell something across the pool, yard, or living room and have my children respond. The problem is children are little rebellious sinners, like their big sinful parents, and they are prone to test boundaries and disobey.
We simply can’t be lazy parents. We’ve got to show our kids we mean what we say. This means when a warning is given, it must be honored. If you give “the warning”, you had better back it up. We don’t back up our warnings because we’re mean, dictatorial parents, but in order to establish authority in our homes and instill proper respect from our children. God has called us to raise kids who respect others and respond well to Him. Establishing that authority when they are Thomas Lee’s age will help them respond well to God’s authority when they’re grown adults.
So parents, do your duty. If you don’t, I’m warning you…