A joint post from Barry and Stacy
I’m sure you’ve heard someone else say it to their child. Or maybe you’ve even said it yourself, not really thinking of the ramifications it might have. I know I’ve heard it – and I know Barry has heard it…and really, it needs to stop.
Barry came home and had recently heard this, and it just lit a fire under me. What am I ranting about?
Picture this: A child is being unruly in the store – not listening to mama. Maybe he is throwing a fit or being mean to his sister. Whatever the issue, mom doesn’t feel like taking care of it herself…so, she lays the responsibility on someone else with the following line (or a similar one):
“You see that big scary policeman over there? If you don’t start behaving, he’ll take care of you. Maybe even take you to jail. You better watch out and start listening to me!”
What is that all about?! What kind of response do you think this gets from a child? I’ll tell you – FEAR. And not a healthy fear of his mother, but a fear of the police officer…a person sworn to protect him. Who is supposed to be afraid of the police? Criminals…not kids.
So, let’s just imagine this scenario, shall we?
Mom: Officer, this boy is throwing Cheerios all over the floor in Aisle 5 and when I yell at him, berate him and scream at him to “stop” he doesn’t listen. Can you teach him a lesson?
Officer: Sure, ma’am. I would love to create an unhealthy fear of law enforcement in your child. Where is he? I’ll gladly put big scary handcuffs on him, throw him in the back of my police car and take him to jail so you can avoid your responsibility as a parent to discipline your child. I would love to shoulder the responsibility and look like a villain. Sounds like a great idea to me!
Seriously? How else could it go? I’d love for once to see a parent go through with their threat to take their young child to the “big scary policeman” and have him handle the issue.
Please, please don’t ever say this type of thing to your children. In times of emergency, your kids need to know police officers are people they can trust, not someone who might cart them off to jail for hitting a sibling or being a bit unruly in public.
If you have used a police officer threat to get your kids to obey, stop…NOW. Instead, teach them if there is trouble or they need help, they can look for someone in uniform instead of cowering from them. Police are supposed to be there to help and should represent a safe haven for a frightened child.
Barry’s father was a Tennessee Highway Patrolman for 36+ years. When he heard this type of statement in public, it made him mad…but it also hurt him. Barry tells me about times when his dad would get so mad but just have to walk away. There’s no way a police officer could win in those situations.
Know when your threats (really nothing more than idle words) leave your mouth, you’re demonizing someone who was trained and has promised to protect your children. Take responsibility for the discipline of your children – and stop laying it at the police officer’s feet. He’s got a hard job. He doesn’t need you making it any harder. And your job is made harder too when you try to take these easy escapes. Instead of meaningless threats, why not real discipline in the form of consequences for disobedience? Instead of instilling fear of external authority figures in your children, instilling a healthy fear of the consequences by mom and/or dad when there is inappropriate behavior? I promise, every policeman and woman will thank you.