(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.