Thoughtful Parenting: A new twist on an old classic
Most parents during their younger years were frequently rebutted from their requests by a father or grandfather stating that, “When I was your age, I had to walk five miles to school uphill both ways through eight feet of snow.” Such responses often drew groans and rolling eyes from us. It may have been a motivating factor to get us to ‘tough it out’, but times haven’t really changed. As parents, we often are approached by our children for very similar requests and their requests are often given the same tired responses that our parents gave us. We want them to stop being lazy, build some character and become more self-sufficient.
Rather than torment my 14-year-old son with these tall tales of yesteryear, I’ve put a new spin on things that often gets both of us laughing. I was in his room the other day after coming home from work and wanted a hug. He wasn’t in the mood and said in a thick Russian accent, “Leave this room now or I will send you to Gulag,” referring to the Soviet Union-era forced labor camps. Not sure where he picked this up — hopefully in school — but I thought we could have some fun with that topic. I had taken several Russian history classes in college and was familiar with a Gulag’s harsh living conditions and brutal treatment, so I thought I would use exaggerated Gulag themes and experiences to get him to do things he really wasn’t in the mood to do. For example, conversations in thick Russian accents such as these are now taking place between us.
“Comrade, I believe it is time you cleaned your room. When I was in Siberian Gulag for counterrevolutionary activities, if I did not clean my bunk, I was taken outdoors, my trousers were pulled down and I was spanked with a frozen porcupine. Now, please clean room or you will be sent to Gulag.”
At times, my son likes to play along and asks questions.
“Comrade, what crime did you commit causing you to become a traitor to the Motherland?”
“KGB agent heard me saying Joseph Stalin likes to knit and wear women’s undergarments in his spare time. That and whistling on a Tuesday,” I replied.
And these exaggerations can be translated into almost every task, especially personal hygiene. He hasn’t brushed his teeth.
“Comrade, your breath smells worse than the rancid cabbage soup they fed us in Gulag. When I was in Gulag serving time as an archenemy of Lenin for crossing my legs in public, my rotten teeth would be pulled out with needle nose (pronounced ‘nyeedle nyose’) pliers.”
Or not eating his dinner.
“Comrade, please finish your meal. In Gulag where I was called an enemy of the Soviet people for picking caraway seeds out of my rye bread, if Politburo felt we weren’t getting enough iron in our diet, they fed us nails.”
And finally, when he hasn’t done his homework.
“Comrade, when I was sent to Gulag for smuggling borscht in the Ukraine, I did not attend a mandatory reeducation class, and for that I was punished with a frontal lobotomy using a rusty can opener. Please do homework now or be sent to Gulag.”
Getting your child to do things they don’t want to do can be a challenge. Threats seldom get you anywhere. But, if you throw some humor into the mix, perhaps you will get a more cooperative response. Experiment. Listen to your kid. Try to think like they do and speak to them on their level. And if you make a mistake, don’t worry, Comrade, you won’t be sent to Gulag for subversive parenting.
Sean Derning is a local parent and husband, and knows the megawatt capacity of the largest hydroelectric dam in the Soviet Union.
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