The Old Coot will tell your mother

This is Old Coot Article # 1,036. It is a revision and update of a topic first published in February of 2012. (Okay, so I got a little lazy this week.)

“I’m going to tell your mother!” That’s what a neighbor said when she caught me cutting through her garden. I was seven years old and on my way to a friend’s house to play Cowboys and Indians.

Like all kids, I took shortcuts, going through yards, over fences, along the top of walls, under hedges and yes, between the rows of tomato plants in backyard gardens. It was the law of the jungle in my world; you had to take the shortest route. Unless someone threatened to tell your mother. Then we went the long way. We knew we’d get it when we got home if we didn’t. Usually with a swat to the backside, or worse, a switch to the back of the legs.

Some kids had it worse, the ones whose mothers didn’t handle discipline. They made an “arrest” and held the “criminal” in captivity for the “executioner,” by saying, “Wait until your father gets home!” Not only would the kid get spanked, we did, but he also had to suffer for hours on death row, knowing when his father came through the door after a long day at work, that he’d really get it. My mother spared me that ordeal; she dealt with my misdeeds on the spot. I learned the immediate connection between my bad behavior and consequences. I was lucky. (So was my father.) 

Now kids get the “one – two – three” business. “Stop doing that! I’m going to count to three!” I’m not sure what that means. Usually, the kid keeps right on doing what he was doing until phase two kicks in and mom or dad says, “I mean it; I’m starting to count. Right now!” After about five courses of this meal the punishment is served up, a “timeout” in a room loaded with toys, video games, computers, and cell phones.

Our deal was better. It was over and done with. We shaped up. A threat to tell our mother was powerful. It has no legs anymore. If you threaten a misbehaving kid, you’re apt to get a call from the police for harassment, or a lawyer informing you that you’re being sued. The kid gets off scot-free. It’s a huge loss to society. It’s harder for teachers to teach and for the village to raise the children. We’ve been disarmed. If I could find out who is to blame, I’d go tell his mother!

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