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Fatherly Forum

What Do You Think Would Happen If I Stopped Saying ‘Stop!’ To My Kids?

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Once upon a time, talking to other people was pure joy. But nowadays, forget about it. Having kids pretty much ruined the sound of my own voice for me. These days, I can’t even anymore.

I want to wire my jaw shut.

I want to have my tongue surgically replaced with one of those long ceiling fan, feather duster things because that would bring me way more happiness, not to mention the practicality of it all.

Conversing with young children is a challenge at times, every parent knows that, but that’s never really been a problem for me or my kids. When we’re on a good roll, our discussions are vibrant and funny and interesting for all of us. We share ideas; we talk openly about the world and dinosaurs and the clouds in the sky. Our back and forth is rarely a problem.

My problem is with the whole one-sided “responsibility” thing that comes with being a mom or dad. I’m tired of the whole “Stop!” thing. Yeah, it’s my duty to protect them from danger and direct them towards safe or sane behavior, but I feel as if I’m losing the battle.

I’m just flat out over telling everyone to “Stop!” doing stuff all the time.

I’m just flat out over telling everyone to “Stop!” doing stuff all the time.

“Stop arguing about whose toy that is!”

“Stop opening the fridge! You’re 2, for f–k’s sake!”

“Stop scratching your butt! We’re in the library and everyone can see you!”

“Stop crying! I’m not a jerk for not letting you play with the steak knives, you dork!”

“Stop drawing with pen on the damn furniture!”

“Stop staring at me while you pick your nose! IT’S FREAKING ME OUT!”

“Stop.”

“Stop!”

“STOP!STOP!STOP!STOP!STOP!”

Look, before you start thinking that my kids are monsters, let me assure you otherwise. They’re good kids, perfectly normal for their ages (Charlie, 2; Henry, 5; Violet, 7), and deep down I know that. I know they’re just doing what kids do, learning as they go, needing reinforcement and reprimanding and redirection from their dad. They require no more or less parent chatter than any child on Earth requires, I’m sure.

But still.

I never imagined I would run out of steam.

I never dreamed I would want to pour honey in my ears so I couldn’t hear my own broken record anymore.

Am I wrong? Please tell me I’m not alone, and that other people out there want to puke at the sound of their own perpetual “STOP!” as well. I don’t want to complain, I really don’t.

I never dreamed I would want to pour honey in my ears so I couldn’t hear my own broken record anymore.

But I’m losing my sanity.

Sometimes, around 5 or 6 PM, when I’m surrounded by my 3 kids and I’m making dinner and talking to them about their day, and then suddenly I’m yelling, “Stop putting [fill in the worst thing you can think of here] in your little brother’s [nostrils/ears/mouth/eyes]” … (Yes, eyes!) … I want to start crying. But instead I start cackling with laughter.

Wanna know why?

Oh, you know why.

It’s because I’m going nuts.

“Please don’t agitate each other with your snacks, you guys. I’m begging you. Dad’s tired. Eat your snacks, don’t whip each other’s foreheads with them, okay? Let’s try and act like we would act if we were in kindergarten, Henry, okay? That’s where you’ll be going in a few weeks and you don’t want to get hollered at there, do you? And blah blah blah blah blahhdy blah blah.”

I wear myself out when I’m trying to be reasonable. I wear myself out when I’m talking so much.

By dinnertime I have probably said the word “Stop!” at least a thousand times since I opened my eyes at 5:15 AM to a toddler trying to stick his fingers in the box fan for the 200th morning in a row.

I’m done with “Stop!” I think. I believe I may actually be all out of “Stops!” Maybe I don’t wanna correct anyone anymore. Wouldn’t it be OK if I just used reverse psychology at this point?

For example, consider this: “Stop throwing your Cheez-Its out of the bowl onto the floor, dude!”

Instead of that old familiar chestnut, what if I just smiled at Charlie and messed with his head?

“Hey, Charlie! Here are some Cheez-Its, bud! Now before you eat any of them, make sure you crush them up into that fine orange dust you like to fling around, okay? Okay, cool. Now … fling that stuff down to the freshly vacuum’d rugs, man! Go on! Do it! DO IT! DOITDOITDOITDOIT! BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!”

How long do you think it would take before he realized that he never ate his crackers anymore, that he just throws them around to the sound of my “Stop!”? Or maybe he would just get so freaked out by his dad’s sudden morphing into the tiny Devil on his shoulder that he would want to do the right thing after all? Is that possible?!

I’m going to extremes, I know I know.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Serge is a 44-year-old father of 3 kids: Violet, Henry and Charlie. He writes about both Parenting and Relationships for Babble. Read more from Babble here:

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