Don’t Smile!

(A re-post with minor revisions for my friends who are newer to this blog.)

My Beloved and I found that one of the hardest things about disciplining our young children was staying serious when scolding them—especially when every instinct in our bodies and minds wanted to smile or burst out laughing.

For example, call us weird, but it was funny to us when one of little boys was potty-training peed in the cat litter box—at least the first time he did it. (It got a LOT less funny when he kept doing it and then did it when we had guests over.) But either way, we couldn’t laugh or it would spoil the lesson we needed to teach.

And sometimes, even when we couldn’t laugh, we did. I know; Bad Parents!

What made it even worse is when, for example, one of us attempted to keep a straight face while explaining to the child why they shouldn’t stick pudding in their sibling’s ear, while our dear spouse cracked up with laughter.

We began to make up rules for each other:

“When I’m scolding a child, don’t smile, giggle, snicker, laugh, or guffaw, and for goodness sake if you are going to do those things please do it in another room, and if you won’t do that, please at least stand behind the kid and do it silently so they don’t see or hear you doing it!”

In our house, trying to enforce rules with our spouse tended to be more like making suggested guidelines. We are both wired in such a way that a demand or ultimatum is GUARRANTEED to produce the exact opposite effect of whatever the original demanded outcome was supposed to be. So we both learned it was MUCH better to request or negotiate rather than to make demands.

Anyway, back to disciplining the kids. They started getting wise to our ploy of being serious when they were facing us while their other parent (the one standing behind them) did their best remain silent as they exploded with laughter. The kids started to quickly, and without warning, turn around to try to catch the parent behind them with anything other than a serious face.

Woe to the parent who got caught!

Of course, as soon as the child turned their back on the parent who’d be standing in front of them, the roles would reverse and Ms. Smiley Pants had to be Ms. Serious, and then I could go from being Mr. Serious to Mr. Smiley Pants, or vice versa.

About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren. I manage a wealth management firm that I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of approximately 60 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and the beauty of kindness and nature.
This entry was posted in Children, Humor, Parenting, True Stories I've Written and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Don’t Smile!

  1. mimijk says:

    The visual is funny enough…and look how well they turned out! I have often said my boys grew up gorgeously in spite of me, not because of me (and when Andy and I got married, that became an “us” – but their formative years were all mine – and I laughed more often than not)…

    • russtowne says:

      LOL! Oh yeah, thankfully kids can be resilient alright! Funny too! It sounds as though much laughter could be heard at both our houses! And a few other things at my house that I won’t go into at this time. Let’s just say that laughter was not the only emotion the kids elicited from us and vice versa. ;-D! But we all survived it and are perhaps the stronger and better for it.


  2. The ‘litter box’ is a brand new one for me…tooooo funny but not really! Diane

    • russtowne says:

      He loved to hear the sound the splashing made when it hit the kitty litter. Apparantly it sounded better than snap, crackle, pop! It took awhile to get him to change that behavior.


  3. Love this story, Russ. I don’t have children, but oftentimes find myself giggling when trying to reprimand one of the dogs for a less than desirable behavior. Sometimes the “offender” is just too cute to countenance sternness…. ;-). Yours sounds like a very happy, healthy home….

    • russtowne says:

      Yes, cute dogs create the same discipline challenges for us too. Thank you for your feedback. Our home is and was happy and healthy, though noisy is another adjective that also comes to mind…

  4. bulldogsturf says:

    Just reading this took me back so many years to when ours were small….so similar a situation… I remember on the farm chiding my son for covering his sister with wet cow dung… that little face that looked up at me and said “but it will help her grow” was just too much, I cracked and laughed my head off… even the wife could not help out on this occasion… the mind of a child, how blessed we are to have them….

    • russtowne says:

      LOL! The picture in my mind of the situation you describe is hilarious. I agree; we are blessed indeed to have children. And now, for My Beloved and me, a grandchild, with another on the way.


  5. Oh yes I know this one very well!!

    And Im now going through it all over again with grandchildren! 🙂


  6. Oh I so much relate to this!!!

    So many times I’ve had to turn around to hide my smile before I could discipline son.

    One of my favourite memories is how he used to call my ex-husband “honey” or “hon” for short :D. He did this for YEARS. From when he was 2 until he was 5. It was especially funny in the shopping centre when he would yell out “honey!!” and my ex-husband would turn around and say “yes?”.


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