In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual

CHK abe

You can’t tell by looking at him (because seriously just looking at him you want to grab this kid and hug him till he fights free) but:

Pancake is a screamer.

Always has been.

Whereas his brother just needs a quick hug, knows to ask for it, and then takes a deep breath and moves on …

Pancake just DOESN’T.

I’ve talked about it before. And for a little while, THIS worked to help with the screaming.

But now it doesn’t.

For one thing, now he’s smarter.

He will not go quietly, nor be brushed off.

I love that about him.

Now, when I tell him NO, he asks WHY?

Now, when he wants something I don’t have, or don’t want to give him, he says, LET ME SEE!

He says these things at top volume.

And for long, protracted periods.

Lots of tears and snot and ruined meals and mornings while he screams and cries and throws things and the rest of us try to hear ourselves think.

He’s a passionate kid.

With a great set of pipes and extraordinary willpower.

It can make the best of us nuts. And I am way way way NOT the best of us.

  • I have experimented with extinction.
  • I have experimented with attachment.
  • I have followed basic Harvey Karp. Pancake has no interest in making a deal with me anymore. Deals are for suckers, apparently.
  • I have tried and failed at time-outs. There is simply no sure way to keep this kid still short of shutting him in his room and that does nothing but freak him out worse.
  • I’ve even tried spanking.  (Cue story of my mother telling me she never spanked us and me and my sister bursting into great gales of laughter.)

But here’s the thing:


At least not the way I do it.

I have spanked all of my kids exactly once, and they’ve all found it hilarious.

All of them. Clearly I am not doing it “right.”

This is okay with me.

Better that than THIS. I mean for CHRIST’S SAKE (and I say that with great irony as they purport to be Good Christians) WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Someone ought to take a switch to THEM and lock THEM in a closet and hose THEM down in freezing weather. WHO DOES THAT TO CHILDREN? I MEAN, COME ON! AND IN THE NAME OF JESUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

IMO they can go to hell.

Which leaves me with:

Now what?

Two nights ago, about 60 minutes into one of Pancake’s tantrums, I finally lost my cool and screamed at Pancake so loudly to BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS! that  Diddy came running into his room to say this:

Mom, you have to be nicer to Pancake!

(Sometimes she’s an absolute ROCK STAR, don’t you think?)

I don’t know if this counts as nicer,  but here’s what I said next (and to Diddy’s credit, I said it MUCH more politely):

Pancake, if you don’t stop screaming and kicking RIGHT NOW I am going to throw your Ducky in the trash and the garbage man is going to take him away.

Lemme give you a little insight into DUCKY:

CHK ducky

Yep, that’s me, my four kids, my husband, and DUCKY in that caricature we sat still for on Father’s Day this year.

DUCKY is part of the family.

So the idea of DUCKY going away … welll …

I have never seen a kid shut-up so fast. His whole body stilled. He looked at me, and then he put on his pajamas and got into bed and didn’t make another sound.

Then he slept through the night.

For the first time over a month.


Umm …

I have now used that Ducky & the Garbage Man threat (which is the title of my next album of we’re really talking here) several other times, including such instances as yesterday’s morning whine-fest, last night’s dinner tantrum, and yesterday’s toothbrush fight when I took away the tube of toothpaste he was using to paint the walls of the bathroom.

No screaming. No hitting. No ignoring him or shutting him in his room.

Just threatening to take away the lovie that means most to him in the world.

I am conflicted about this.

  • On the one hand, I am thrilled to have found a way to help my kid regulate his temper – I mean, it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can stop crying and screaming when he wants to, which gives me hope that self-regulation is something he is capable of (I mean, truly, I was getting a little concerned).
  • On the other hand, I am a little worried that I am scaring him to PIECES to get him there. The look of shock on his little face the other night was … well, pretty damn deep.

But the quiet-ing response is Pavlovian to say the least.

I wonder how long it will last.








I Am Giving Away 4 Copies of His New Book

Because I have a billion kids, and I write about family, and I work in the family space, and basically I eat-drink-breathe-sleep (ha! If only I slept!) kids/partnership/family life …

I also tend to read A LOT about kids/partnership/family life, too.

And I have favorites.

I’m a fan of Harvey Karp.

I love The Sleepy Planet ladies.

Wendy Mogel is my personal hero.

Well, folks – I’m adding Bruce Feiler to that list.

Some of you may know him from his columns in the NY Times.

Some of you may know him as the Dad who founded The Council of Dads.

Well, now he’s gone and written The Secrets of Happy Families, a book about how to manage family life that is SO EFFING GREAT it almost makes me want to pack up this blog because he’s basically gone and said it all.

I mean seriously. He has taken family management to an easy, fun, cooperative level that is so unbelievably awesome that –

Let’s put it this way:

For the last two weeks my girls, now aged 4 and 6, have been making their own beds every morning before school without help and without complaint.

They have also been getting themselves dressed – to shoes and coats, no less! – and putting their laundry in the hamper and actually standing ready at the front door without us having to scream, shout, or resort to ridiculous threats to get them to move their little … arses.

(I am going to London tomorrow. I get to say arse.)

How on earth did all of this happen?

A few weeks ago I did myself a massive favor and read Feiler’s book.

Here’s the quick pitch: (more…)

HARVEY KARP WILL SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE (And Keep You from Murdering Your Toddler, Too)

My Cavemen.

I have blogged about Harvey Karp before. His Happiest Baby on the Block and DVDare lifesavers for new parents – and of course I am a sucker for anyone who can systemize things into checklists, so he had me at first S.

(Don’t know what that means? GO BUY THE BOOK!)

But I am long past babies. I’ve done this four times, people. Every child in this house is now walking and talking (hallelujah). They eat, they sleep, they play nicely 30-40% of the time.

I haven’t needed Harvey Karp in some time.

Or at least that’s what I thought – until last week, I heard him give a TODDLER seminar at The Pump Station and Nurtury in Hollywood, built around his “Happiest Toddler on the Block” book and DVD.

I was at The Pump Station on other MomciergeLA business, I wasn’t planning to attend the seminar – I mean, come on. What more could Dr. Karp have to tell me that I haven’t already figured out (or completely screwed up) on my own already?

But when the store manager said there were a few cancellations and I could sit in if I liked, I took the seat.

Research, right? Never too late to learn a little more I can pass on to all of you?


Truth is, I have a bit of a toddler problem of my own.

Two of them, really. And I’m not talking about my twins.

I’m talking about Pancake and his dad. (more…)

1st Book To Read Before Baby: “The Happiest Baby on the Block”

Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block is a must-have because it does a great job at VERY SIMPLY explaining how you can make that new baby of yours stop crying his eyes out.

Even better, it does it in tiny little short paragraphs, is printed in big type, and even contains a line drawing or two. This makes it a particularly manageable read for women in the throes of pregnancy-brain and men in the throes of … well, every stage of their life.

(I am not saying this to be mean to men. Men are lovely. If they weren’t, so many of us wouldn’t have gone and married them and had their babies. Men are not as stupid as we often claim, either. But ladies, I have said it before, and I will say it again: in general, Dads aren’t that interested in reading all this parenting crap as Moms are. They don’t like being told what to do, or how to do it, even when that “it” is taking care of a baby, even when, and especially if, they haven’t a clue how they’re supposed to do that.)

Anyway, back to the book.


Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

I Love My Advertisers (You Will Too)

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Subscribe To Get Posts via Email