Disclaimer: Do not read this post if you are politically correct, become easily offended, are a child psychologist, a parenting know-it-all, or have no sense of humor. You’ve been warned.
Before there was Elf on a Shelf, there was The Spanker Man.
Before there was Mensch on a Bench, there was The Spanker Man.
The Spanker Man is a fictional character my mother created to deter my younger sister and me from misbehaving in public. She told us public places, particularly restaurants, had hidden cameras where The Spanker Man was watching in a back room to ensure that children acted appropriately. If The Spanker Man observed kids who were bratty, sassing their parents, or having tantrums, he would remove them from the premises and give them an apocalyptic whoopin’.
You better believe my sister and I never received a visit from The Spanker Man. As children, we didn’t have an opportunity to discover he didn’t exist because we were on our behavioral A-Game in public.
While joining us for dinner, my parents’ friends usually sat in awe of our good behavior. They couldn’t believe that two young children could be so well behaved in public. When receiving compliments on our behavior, my parents just smirked at each other. I think even in the mid-1980s when spanking was accepted, and sometimes expected, The Spanker Man concept would have been too taboo for my folks to advertise.
Nowadays, if parents told their children about The Spanker Man, someone would call the Department of Children and Family Services, the kids would be thrown into foster care, and the parents would be featured on 60 Minutes.
Having kids can make parents do desperate things.
I get it.
I’ve told my three year old some mighty tales when, during extreme acts of desperation, I’m trying to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do. I’m susceptible to doing this on weekday mornings when she’s fighting with me about putting her shoes on for school, I’m trying frantically to get both girls in the car because I’m late for a hearing, my infant spits up on my work clothes, and I’m furiously scrubbing a Clorox Bleach Pen against my suit so I can pretend I’m professional. For instance, I’ve told her that if she didn’t brush her teeth, bugs would crawl into her mouth when she was sleeping and would eat the gunk. [For the record, that doesn’t work].
If you’ve told your children creative stories to control their actions, you’re not alone. A study from the University of California, published by the International Journal of Psychology, suggests the vast majority of parents lie to their children to get them to behave.
I’ve polled my girlfriends regarding childhood whoppers their parents told them, or even lies they’ve told their own kids. Here are some of the gems:
– “My parents told me [and my sibling] they would call the adoption agency and have them come get us and take us away if we didn’t listen.”
– “My mom told me that if I didn’t eat everything on my plate, the number of crumbs left is how many pimples my husband would have. I was a devoted member of the clean plate club, and my husband has really good skin.”
– “I told [my five year old daughter] that if she didn’t stop picking her nose and eating it, she would actually turn green and look like a witch. When that didn’t work, I Googled “stretched out nostrils” and showed her images that her nose would look like if she kept putting her fingers up there. Seems to work.”
– “We tell our son that we’ll call the police if he doesn’t listen. We usually end up hearing sirens in our neighborhood so he believes it.”
– “My parents told me [and my brother] that our cookie dough eating habit would give us worms. As our Dad was a veterinarian and we were no strangers to the world of parasitic infections in critters, we took it as gospel.”
– “My mom said that if I ever hit my brother or sister, then when I was dead and buried, the hand I hit them with would stick out of the grave and I’d never truly Rest in Peace.”
Fortunately, my sister and I didn’t need therapy because of The Spanker Man. My mom didn’t want us acting like jerks in public, so she did what she had to do to keep us under control. Ultimately, there was no harm and no foul. If anything, it’s been a hilarious topic of conversation among my friends and the concept catapults my mom into genius status.
If only she would have been the one to create Elf on a Shelf. We’d be rich.