Let me just start by saying that this wasn’t my proudest moment—as either a parent or a human being. But sometimes we snap when our kids push us to our limits. We’ve all done it, I’m sure. This was my turn.
I don’t remember exactly how or when the trouble started, but it was one of those afternoons when my 4.5-year-old refused to listen to anything I said. And quickly, what began as low-grade toddler disobedience morphed into full-blown toddler madness.
Now if we hadn’t needed to be somewhere that afternoon, I would’ve banished my son to his room and called it a day. But as it happened, we had an appointment to get to, which meant that we needed to mobilize. And by “mobilize,” I mean try the bathroom before getting in the car for a 30-minute stretch.
So I asked my son, who was already deep in “not listening” mode, to please go use the toilet so we could get in the car, and that conversation went something like this:
Me: “Go try the potty.”
Me: “We’re going for a long car ride. You need to at least try before we go.”
Me: “I’m not going to ask you again. Go. To. The. Potty. NOW.”
Him: “No. I don’t have to listen to you.”
This went on and on for about 10 minutes, which I’m actually not proud of either. But nothing I said got the child to listen. I tried coaxing. Then talking sternly. Then yelling. Then speaking in that eerie, quiet tone that often freaks him out. Then back to yelling again, followed by top-of-my-lungs, all-out hollering. Nothing.
I even tried spooking him with the classic, “If you don’t go now and you pee in your pants, you’ll need to sit in it for the rest of the afternoon.”
“Yay! I want to pee in my pants.”
Not only was the child not listening, but his retorts were getting more and more obnoxious by the second. Some of my favorites:
“Why don’t you just go do something else and leave me alone?”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“I get to decide things, too.”
“I’m the grown-up now, so I’m going to do what I want to do.”
(Seriously, how do they learn these things at such a young age?)
I tried threatening to take away his toys.
I lifted him up, placed his body up against the toilet, yanked down his shorts and underwear, and insisted that he pee.
And that’s when I did it.
“If you don’t try the potty right this second, I’m going to throw you in there,” I shouted menacingly.
My son then looked up at me with utter confusion and managed a nervous, “What?”
“You heard me,” I told him. “If you don’t listen right this second, I’m going to pick you up and throw you into the toilet, where you’ll get yucky toilet water all over you.”
Now I don’t know if it was the shock factor, the grossness factor, or the combination of the two, but suddenly, my son went from obstinate and rude to timid and tearful.
“But I don’t want you to throw me in the toilet, Mommy,” he wept, and about 30 glorious seconds later, there he was, obliging me with the mandatory pre-car ride pee.
I came away from that incident with mixed feelings. On one hand, mission accomplished. I wanted my son to try the toilet, but more so than that, I wanted him to stop behaving like a brat and start showing me the respect I so adamantly believe I deserve as his mother. On the other hand, threatening to toss him in the toilet was a pretty low blow.
In the weeks since that incident, I’ve yet to make a repeat threat despite the (many) occasions my son has acted up. (Clearly, we’re going through somewhat of a rough patch. I think it’s called toddlerhood.) But for better or worse, I now have a secret weapon in my arsenal, and while I’m still somewhat ashamed to admit it, knowing it’s there gives me the modest sense of control I’ve been craving since toddlerhood started rearing its ugly head in our household.
Of course, I don’t think I’d ever go so far as to make good on that threat—for my sake more so than my son’s. But as they say, desperate times often call for desperate—and sometimes, I suppose, disgusting—measures.