Fear & Manipulation: A Mother’s Trade Secret

My kids bought me a book for Christmas and I love it. I love it so much that I feel the need to share it with you.

It makes me laugh aloud when I’m reading it (if your child takes piano lessons at that place on Old Meridian on Wednesdays, then,”yes”, I’m the nut that sits there by myself reading and laughing). I can’t control it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me lose control like this. It’s weird.

The book is Raising the Perfect Child through Guilt and Manipulation by Elizabeth Beckwith. I wish I was part of a book club that was reading it so I could discuss it with people. She has already prepared some interesting discussion questions for us at the end of each chapter! (Sample discussion question from Chapter 3: “What are some fears that are healthy to impose upon your own child?”)

You may be thinking that I should be a little pissed that my kids thought of me when they saw the title of the book, but I’m not. They know their mommy (they all still call me this, even my junior) pretty well.

I’m only on Chapter 8 (out of 11), but I’ve already decided that Elizabeth and I could be close friends if we lived in the same area. I love her sense of humor.

So far, my favorite Chapter is #3:  How to Scare the Crap Out of Your Child (in a Positive Way). I read this chapter and was nodding my head throughout the whole thing (while laughing, of course).

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 3. She has a chart in the book of a scenario, the typical parent response, and the recommended alternative.

Sample from the chart:

Scenario:  “I’m thinking of getting a tattoo.”

Popular Response: “You’re not getting a tattoo and that’s final!”

Alternative Response: “A tattoo is forever, you know. You want to be ninety years old with a sun on your lower back? Remember what happened to Gary up the block? He got a tattoo, and next thing you know the poor kid’s got hepatitis.”

Then, she follows the chart with, “All roads lead to death. That was my mantra as a child.”

I can relate to this a lot. Not so much with my own parents, but with my maternal grandma (right, Beth?). Elizabeth’s mom reminds me a little bit of my grandma Helen. She didn’t have the hard edge of the author’s mother, but she had Chapter 3 down pat but in a softer way.

My sister and I used to stay with my grandparents for two weeks out of every summer.  They lived two states away (in WV) and it was a way for us to get to hang with them more. I remember one time I was running out of the house barefoot (I never wore shoes as kid) with my WV-friends and as I was leaving the house I grabbed a Coke. This is back in day when Cokes were still in glass bottles. 

I could hear my grandma yelling after me, “Jennifer, should you take that coke bottle with you? Be careful with that! Maybe you should put some shoes on! You’ll drop that bottle and then step on the glass and slice your foot open!!!”

I will say that I ignored her advice that day and still ran with the killer coke bottle while remaining shoeless, BUT, I was always mindful of NOT dropping the coke bottle so they wouldn’t have to amputate my useless foot later.

Grandma Helen was definitely a trendsetter. Back in the ’70s, she was already scaring the crap out of her grandchildren in positive way. Still to this day, I can’t look at a glass container of any sort without thinking about impending doom and an emergency room visit.

You can ask my kids – I’ve taken on Grandma Helen’s tactics that way. They will attest to the fact that I can link any activity to serious danger or death if given enough time. I do try to control myself a bit because I don’t want them to be completely neurotic. Fortunately, they also have a father that is the complete opposite and can balance me out a bit.

Well, I need to get back to my book. Won’t someone else pick up a copy so I have someone to laugh with? Surely, someone else out there can read this book with a knowing nod thinking (and laughing), “Yep, I already do that!” -or- “Wow, I need to try that.” -or- “Whoa, Elizabeth’s mom could have been mine!”.

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