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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Ineffective Stink Eye


As far as parenting goes I consider myself to be above average. Not because I’m awesome--it’s more out of necessity. Seeing as how I have 5 kids I either had to rise to the occasion or risk being outnumbered and hogtied up by a most unruly bunch.
In fact, I’m pretty sure whatever parenting skills I have acquired are more an indication of my willpower than my actual ability. You see, I’m relentlessly determined to keep my position of authority in our home. Even if it’s simply by the skin of my teeth, these kids of mine are not going to run me down.

Ok, so maybe it’s a pride issue too.
All that being said, there is one parenting technique I have not been able to master in my 16 years on the job. No matter how hard I try I have yet to master ‘the look’.

When I was a child my father and mother could look at me with a combination of squinty-eyes and a raised eyebrow and I would cave. No matter what I was doing, no matter where I was or who I was with if they gave me ‘the look’ I immediately stopped in my tracks and sat stick straight still with my hands in my lap.
My parents used this technique with such fluid precision I was certain it would be a genetic inheritance on my part but alas, I cannot effectively employ the stink eye.

I’ve raised my eye brow at my son when he used a questionable adjective to describe his teacher.  He looked right back at me, raised his own eyebrow and said “What?” in that golly-your-annoying-me-preteen-tone.

I've tried squinting one eye down to the tiniest slit when my twins came tearing through the house with their muddy shoes on.  They stopped only long enough to ask me “What’s wrong with your face mom?”
I most recently tried combining the single raised eyebrow/squinty eye look while taking my index finger and pointing at my face (as if adding a little hand gesture to my nonverbal exclamation would make ‘the look’ more obvious).  It was not effective at all. It only prompted my teenager to say, “No Mom, you don’t have anything on your face.”
Clearly something is missing.
Not one to give up, I remembered that on occasion, my mother or father would add a snap to ‘the look’. If we kids didn’t see my parents give the look they would draw attention with a stiff, quick, angry snap. I was certain given the next available opportunity I would instill a look, raise my eyebrow and a quickly snap. “That’ll teach my kids,” I thought with absolute certainty.

I was absolutely wrong. I just looked a little deranged and completely rhythm-less.
All of this leads me to one sad conclusion: my kids are not very bright. Obviously they lack the ability to read nonverbal cues which is very frustrating as I would like to ideally raise my children with as little verbal communication as possible. I mean seriously, put yourself in my shoes. With 5 kids can you even comprehend how much talking I do? For example, I must remind each child to wash his or her face at least twice a day. Twice a day times five kids is ten statements. And you know no child washes their face when they are asked on the first time. Therefore we can conclude I probably say “Wash your face!” at least twenty times a day. That’s a lot. It would really be helpful if there was a ‘go-wash-your-face look’. If such a look existed I imagine I could shave at least 10 minutes off every day.

Alas, ‘the look’ continues to elude me. Someday perhaps I can sit down with my parents and ask them to critique my technique but until then I will have to work on my verbal clarity. I guess I will have to resort to giving my children proper, clear and age appropriate instructions. I imagine I’ll be forced to engage them in meaningful conversations and I’ll have to refrain from yelling empty threats from the opposite room. Instead, and most importantly, I’ll have to remember that disciplining my children is not about punishing them with my ugly face it’s about teaching them the right way of behaving. Besides, my parents might be right. If I keep making that face it just might stick that way! Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

(This article appears in the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas every Tuesday as a part of my Practical Parenting series.) Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District. She blogs at www.stephaniesikorski.blogspot.com and can be reached for comment or consultation at ssikorski@mr238.org 



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38 comments:

  1. Okay so do you have glasses? like, spectacles? my most effective pedagogical tool (useful in parenting too) is to glare over the tops of my glasses, one eyebrow raised, and maybe add a small headshake, as in "tsk tsk tsk, you clay-brained idiot."
    I think it works. Or else the students (and my kids) are afraid I'm about to have a seizure so they shut the hell up lest my cardiac arrest/aneurysm be blamed on them.

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    1. I don't but I could invest in a faux pair. Think that would work?

      Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  2. This made me laugh! I am all about 'the look' with my kids. My daughter has perfected the look as well. It's a little frightening actually...

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  3. Hey writing partner! Good job!

    Like I said to you before, what I love about this post is how it's almost like a joke in reverse - there's so much funny in the intro that the contrast with the serious "punchline" in the final paragraph makes the takeaway that much more effective.

    Well done!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks B! I appreciate your help!!!! Good luck!

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  4. I LOVE the stink eye. After 44 years, I have finally mastered it. I can control behavior with just the blink of the eye. Have you mastered the finger yet? You should try that one too!

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  5. heh, my kid has an INCREDIBLE stink eye at 2 years old.
    and i work on my own every day- glasses definitely help. :)

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    1. I'm almost ready to give up. I'm kinda afraid it might stick - seriously!

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  6. i can't do the look and I cannot snap so I am screwed when it comes to parenting....

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    Replies
    1. let's hope not!
      but good luck.

      appreciate your visit!

      Delete
  7. I don't have any kids but I can stop a cat in his tracks with a look. Maybe that's the thing.. try it out on an animal first, work your way up. Seriously, from the sound of it your kids probably do just what they know they should, without the looks. Ok, maybe some of the time, at least.

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    1. great idea. too bad I'm allergic to cats. I'll try it out on the dog. thanks for visiting!

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  8. First off....5 kids?? Wow! I feel surrounded at three. Evidently I have mastered the look, my friend recently jumped to attention when I gave it to my daughter. But the snap....not yet I'm afraid.

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    Replies
    1. 3! 5! surrounded is surrounded is surrounded.
      appreciate your taking time to comment!

      Delete
  9. I'm eager to employ the stink eye, but don't think my 2 year old would "get" it. For now, I do my best to not crack up when disciplining him.

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    1. ah those toddler years! so precious. my best recommendation though, is this: if you intend to use a stink eye you may want to begin practicing now as I fear I've waiting too long myself. it may be too late for me. thanks for visiting!

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  10. Love it! I'm not a good "stink eye" thrower myself. I've been told that when I try to look or act mean I just seem weird. Apparently, I'm "too sweet" for things like the stink eye. And honestly when people say things like that, I really just want to punch them.

    Great post!

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    Replies
    1. that's funny right there! punching people who think you're too sweet! ha!

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  11. I was laughing my way through this :) My mom had the "mom arm" too that would reach over the back of the car seat and clamp into a squeeze right above the knee. I just have a death gaze. I was born with it. {and PS, If I had to take the amount of talking I have to do with my two and add three...oh my. I'd flip}

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    1. ha ha! thanks for the laugh! I forgot about mom arms! "You don't want me to reach back there do you?" ha! Once while stuck at an all day basketball tournament I documented every question my 7 yo twins asked me in that one day. It was astounding. And funny,
      http://stephaniesikorski.blogspot.com/2012/01/inquisitive-minds-wanna-know-or-day-in.html
      thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  12. Hah! My mom could never do a Look either. Just a Yell.

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  13. Priceless. And if those meaningful conversations become too much, how about flash cards? Or better yet, emoticon signs! ;) Ellen

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    1. Oh I like the way you're thinking.
      Emoticon Flashcards!
      haha!

      Delete
  14. I am terrible at the look. My kid just gives me a growly look with his teeth clenched and his eyes squinty back. Then I laugh. I'd say it's a generational thing, but my mom couldn't do it either.

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    1. So you know my pain! Maybe some are just better at it than us. sigh.

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  15. Ooh! I think our parents must be related, because mine were masters of 'the look'!
    Maybe you just need some more practice ;)

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    1. Well I've come to determine it's either
      a. a generational thing
      or
      b. I need more practice.

      I hope I can master it yet ((fingers crossed))

      Delete
  16. Maybe "the look" is more effective when it is semi-regularly followed up by "the spank." Not that I'm recommending that, but I know that's what worked for my own mother. I love your kids' reactions to your attmepts and your remark that this is all disappointing because it means your kids aren't very smart. Hilarious!

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    Replies
    1. IKR? There must be something wrong with the KIDS. It can't possibly be ME, right .... ??

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  17. My son once actually laughed at my look. HE LAUGHED AT ME. I thought I looked stern and a little scary and don't-cross-me-ish. He thought I looked hilarious. Great post. :)

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  18. this is hilarious - i thought i would try to "train" my toddler early on with the look (which works on my husband, oddly), and he just makes the same face back at me and then goes on his merry way. it's totally not you - it's absolutely the kids. :)

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  19. Love it! I never did get where "Stinkeye" came from. The Hairy Eyeball I get. I have a fantastic classroom look, but my kids just laugh at my attempts at looks. Of course they are a full decade younger than any of my students were. Maybe it will start to work in a few years.

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  20. Love it! I used to be a high school teacher and a master of the look. You made me laugh reading this! I would just think how dare you even dream of acting that way...", and somehow it would convey through the eyes. I would focus on how disgusted I was at their behavior. But then again, they were my students, not my children. I can only imagine its a whole notha thing with your own kids!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Andee

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  21. I have a great "look," but then, I'm a 4th generation teacher, so that's probably why. :-) The best is watching my 4 year old develop his stink eye. He looks kind of like a curmudgeony old pirate. Hilarious! And very hard to take seriously. Love this post, especially the way you ended it. Great job.

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  22. My dad always added the clenched jaw to his 'look.' It still kind of scares me just thinking about it!

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  23. My daughter is only 9 (almost 10) months and I am already trying to perfect "the look" - my Mom & Dad both had one; I try it now and my daughter already gives me her own "look" back. I think it's going to take lots of practice!!

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