Threats were a common theme in my childhood. Veiled sometimes, implied lots of times, sometimes quite direct. Threats of consequences were typical, as if threatening a future punishment was effective in the face of current temptation (and normal lack of impulse control in childhood). It didn't really work, yet it's embedded in my psyche.
They fall out of my mouth at times, the auto-pilot threat of dire something or other. If you don't stop banging... um. Wait, there's nowhere to go from there that isn't a threat. Sometimes I can't completely stop the process as it is spilling out of me. I can (and do, often) morph it into a logical consequence type thing - that works, if it is something that is worthy of a consequence at all. But many times it is just something that annoys me, and has no real urgency or need to manage and will go away if I ignore it... but I'm not ignoring it, I'm starting in on the threat, and there I am. Going nowhere fast on that second part of the sentence. It can be hard to totally change the knee-jerk thing, but I have learned that I can usually find a way to convert it, switch the track, do or say something that takes it off-angle from where it was headed.
Kind of an internal People-Do thing. (Pronounced 'people-dough' - People-Do being like Tai Kwan Do, Kendo, Aikido and many other martial arts... essentially using small actions applied to the right point in the process to redirect the power and energy and direction of a PERSON such that it changes the resulting action/encounter - not physically, but socially, psychologically, interpersonally. It's Effective, Prudent - so far it hasn't had any negatives because it takes on their own direction, and I can also usually make it True - possible for it to not be, but a slightly different pressure can align it with my core values, and I can often align another person more with their own expressed values, too, when they're off-track and reacting instead of responding. Works on me, as well.).
I've taken to working the threat part of the automatic knee-jerk statement (if I'm already there) to the absurd extreme so it converts my own frustration into something more like funny. I need a bit of a push at times, but the kids are starting to get the game. Luckily. Because I suck at funny.
So, the other night. Mr G is tapping on the (metal) frame of his bunk-bed while we're trying to get everyone to fall asleep.
Me: ARGH! If you don't stop tapping on your bed, I'll... uh, (scramble! help! words still piling up, adjust tweak!) tie your hands together and tape them to the ceiling...
Mr G: (pause, incredulous voice) Was that a threat?
Me: Sorta. It was supposed to be absurd and silly, but I didn't get far enough. Let me try again. I'll, hmm.
Mr G: Here, how about, 'I'll hang you by your thumbs from the middle of the ceiling'?
Me: Not bad. How about this - I'll hang you by your HEELS from the middle of the ceiling.
Mr G: Hey, B, did you hear that one? I think hanging me by my ankles sounds worse. Whaddya think? Heels? or Ankles?
Mr B: Grumble.
Me: Um, oops! Trying to go to sleep! Okay, SHHH everyone, if you don't be quiet so we can fall asleep, I'm going to ... uh, (shit! did it again! Scramble to backup!) BOOGERS! Make everyone eat boogers. (Because the default answer is always 'boogers'. Obviously. Right? That, or butt. That's another strategy, throwing in an unexpected word as an answer. Even if they now expect me to toss 'boogers' out there when I'm stumped, it works.)
Mr G: Eew, MOM!
Mr B: (giggle, snort.)
Miss M: (giggle, giggle, laugh.)
Miss R: (giggle, chortle, giggle.)
Me: (mock dramatic voice) WAIT. NO LAUGHING. It's time for sleep. We do not laugh at bedtime. No giggles! Sleep!(mock drama is another of the self-people-do things. I can say what is coming out, but convert it by changing only the tone of voice. Silly voices work, too.)
All: (More giggles progressing to outright laughing.)
Me: NO. NO sillies. There is to be no silliness in this house! I'm the mom, and I say so! Stop giggling!
All: (more giggles and laughter.)
Me: (deep breath, calming voice) Okay, now, time to be done. Sleeeeep. Time to go to sleep.
Miss R: (more giggles)
Me: (mock sternly) No giggles.
Miss R: (laughs harder)
Me: (quietly and calmly) Shhhh. Really. Shh.
Miss R: (sigh, roll over and pat my arm)
Me: (gently and with affection) Go to sleep everyone.
And hey, they did.
I guess I'm getting a little better at the bedtime stuff. But I'm going to have to be quicker on the elaborate impossible threat thing, if they're going to take the absurd part seriously... er, seriously un-seriously. Unseriously-seriously?