The song, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” came out in 1973, performed by the rock
‘n roll “shock” artist named, Alice Cooper. I happen to enjoy many of his songs,
especially, “Only Women Bleed.” This is a post about setting limits, deciding
where to draw your line in the sand and ‘ultimatums.’
Do ultimatums ever work?
Think back to when you may have been in charge of children, as a parent,
aunt, uncle or presently, you may be living this nightmare. Oh, “Welcome
to My Nightmare” is another favorite of Alice Cooper’s song play list.
Here are some examples when I took a casual poll of my coworkers. They
were ‘all about it,’ when I introduced the subject matter.
I told my tablemates about some examples of poor discipline, which come
back to ‘haunt’ me when my kids get together and start talking about their
own children’s ‘behavior problems.’ Then, they will launch into the time my
son, Jamie, had been up on the roof hanging out, his window opened on to
a level of roof. I had told him sternly, “You better get in here!” when a couple
of the babysitting kids had ‘told on him.’ He had taken his ‘good, ole’ sweet
time coming in.’ I had been rounding up the kids, sending groups into the
bedrooms, preparing for our Tuesday at the Pool time. Jamie got ready after
everyone else was. I just loaded everyone up, making sure they each had
their ‘book bags’ which stored their flip flops, towels, snacks and snack money.
While we were driving, I used a very casual voice,
“I forgot to pay a traffic ticket so we will need to stop at the police station.”
When we arrived, I told them,
‘”This will only take about 10 minutes, everyone hold hands and follow
me into the station.”
When I saw a big wooden bench along the wall, I pointed to this and had
them all sit down. They were excited about the pool, so good manners were
being used, directions were being followed. I explained to my coworkers that
if there was ‘bad’ behavior on the way to the pool, they would have to sit out
the rest of the time period until the next break was over. Everyone always had
their library books in their book bag, so they were supposed to read, parents
knew this and the kids abide by these rules.
I walked over to a wall with a plate glass (looked like it was bullet-proof) window,
where there was a woman sitting looking at a computer screen. There was a
circle at about my forehead level, with a metal grate covering it. There was a
button on the circle.
I leaned into this metal-grated circle, pushing a button, asking if an officer may
talk to me about something. The woman looked at me, saw my determined look
on my face and went to get someone. When a young man came out, he politely
“Is there a problem, m’am? May I help you?”
I leaned in close and whispered,
“I am a single mother of three children and babysit these other
children to support my family. My son over there in the red t-shirt,
decided after lunch to go out on a ledge by his window, a level of
our roof. The house we live in is old and this is unsafe, besides
being a bad example for the other children I watch.”
He nodded and gave me a pressed lip smile,
“I gotcha covered, m’am. What’s his name again?”
The police officer took my son into the basement where there are apparently
only a couple of holding cells. The Delaware County Jail is not located ‘in town,’
but is out on Rte. 42 North.
The officer must have given him ‘some talking to,’ because Jamie came back
with a teary eyed face. He did not even wipe them off in front of the other kids,
even though he always felt he was ‘cool’ and they looked up to him.
Everyone at the table felt this was a great example of discipline. I am not sure
it was, but it certainly worked.
The times I ran around the house with a big hair brush make my three kids
laugh out loud, since this was never with babysitting kids as ‘witnesses,’ nor did
it ever end up with a spanking. We usually ended up on the sofa or the ‘guilty
party’s’ bed, talking about the way my Dad would say these words:
“This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you.”
I have a friend who has been telling her boyfriend, for some time now, they
need to “Get more serious or break up.” She has an inner voice telling her
that he is in a ‘comfort zone,’ where he may never live in the same house.
I have posted about ‘Peggy and Tim’s Love Story,” before, but this happened
to touch a nerve with her today. Peggy told all of us this ‘threat to take action,’
just happened a week ago on a Saturday night:
“Tim, you and I need to decide where we are going to live in the future. I
would like to live in your house and sell my house. I think we would enjoy
living out in the country together. Do you think we could place a time limit
of by the end of summer?”
When I had written about them, I had mentioned they had lived apart for
fifteen years. Tim has never married, Peggy has been divorced for 20
Peggy look worried, “Do you think Tim will break up with me?”
This was my serious answer,since everyone else was chewing their food and
looking down at the table or up at the “Price is Right,” television show.
“Peggy, if this is what you want and he decides against living together, will you
be able to go through with not being a couple?”
I took a breath and continued,
“Think about this carefully, Peggy. Every time you both take off on a trip on
his motorcycle, to Lake Erie, every time you have had a week of vacation, you
have decided together where you will travel to. He makes good money, is very
generous, you share so much together. I will always remember when you were
at Micheli’s Tavern for St. Patrick’s Day, 2012 or 2011, where you were trying
to figure out which song you would sing together for karaoke. Your heads were
leaning together and you had the big playlist book on the table. Bill, (my guy
friend) and I pointed to you both and said, ‘That is love.’ I still envy your easy-
going way you work things out. Are you certain that you want to give up 15
years because you feel as you are growing older, you want him in the same
Here are some other important decisions and ‘ultimatums:’
One of my coworkers wants her husband to stop smoking in both their
vehicles. She said,
“When he can wait through a two hour movie, why can’t he wait until we
arrive at the grocery store, 1/2 hour car rides and other short trips?”
When we looked at her and asked,
“Have you given him an ultimatum?”
Stephanie answered, “Well, no. . .”
Another person offered up a situation with her daughter and son-in-law.
She mentioned that they are planning on moving to a place where no
pets are allowed. They are at odds with each other, since the man doesn’t
want to give up the dog, but he has nipped at their younger kids’ feet
and toes before.
We felt the dog might be best placed at another family member’s house,
since this will be hard on the father to give up his dog.
We then had a discussion about this lawyer who advertises on Channel 10,
who is part of a law firm, where he talks about using ‘clout,’ and ‘giving results.’
This made us come up with the solution that is one all parents have to come
to, eventually. We made a list of general steps or guidelines:
“What is the root of the problem?”
“Do you mean business?”
What will be your follow through?”
“What will make the most impact?”
“What will get results?”
“What will be the most effective tool to wield?”
“What will be your last straw?”
We talked also about intermittent rewards which can be effective, letting
someone know you appreciate what they have done and rewarding ‘baby
I mentioned ‘grounding’ and ‘time out’ for punishment, which some people
agreed they were good ideas, but one person said,
“Grounding my teenager” was more of a punishment to Me!”
Then, I had to laugh, as I was again thinking of my punishment for Jamie’s being
up on the roof. The table asked me what was making me chuckle? I told the
“It was never the same situation, each one had to be met with an action,
sometimes the punishment went with the crime and others did not. Jamie was
the one who liked to ‘test my limits,’ but sometimes the episodes were funny.”
They all wanted to know another story, so I will tell you when I was a teacher
I was tickled to have ‘snow days,’ but as a babysitter, I was not. So, when it
would start snowing, I would watch the weather. I sometimes would put my
kids to bed, with the television on quietly. Jamie one time came down and
asked, “Mom, is it a snow day?” I didn’t want him to know, since that might
mean he would want to stay up. I treasured my ‘peace and quiet time.’
Later, when I went up to bed, I looked in each room, I liked to kiss them one
more time. (Although we had extended book reading, songs and prayers
every night, this was a special kiss meaning I knew they were tucked into
bed, safe and sound.)
Well, this particular night there was no Jamie in bed.
I told them, “That little dickens!”
I went downstairs and examined the coat rack, Jamie’s coat was not there.
I put my coat, boots, hat and scarf on, walked out onto the porch. There
were his footprints, evidence of a boy on the loose!
I tried to follow them but they went down a gravel alley and were not as
distinctive as when he was walking down the sidewalk. I turned around
and went home. I put the kettle on and made some “Sleepy Time herbal
tea,” to quiet my nerves. (Celestial Seasonings brand of tea.)
One half hour later, there was a knock on the front door.
I had put on a bathrobe over my flannel pajamas and opened the door.
There was a policeman with Jamie. This was nearly six months after the roof
incident. It was not the same young man, this was even scared me with his
grim look on his face.
“Did you know your son was not home, m’am?”
“Yes,” I said in a trembling voice.
“Well, he broke curfew and here is his ‘ticket.’ ”
I did not say a word, but in my head I was praying it was not a ‘real’ ticket.
“I appreciate your bringing him home, officer. He certainly won’t do this again!
Jamie looked nervous, but I was a little concerned that there was no evidence
of any tears. He shook his head, “No, sir.”
I did not bother to tell the officer about his summer episode, nor did I tell him
I was trying my best as a single mother to control his curiosity without killing
When I closed the door firmly, locking it and bolting it, I turned to see his tears
start pouring out.
“Mom, I just knew it would be so quiet, the stars would be so bright and the
snow was so beautiful.”
I just hugged him.
The group all said I was a ‘marshmallow.’
Have you ever had to set limits or give an ultimatum to anyone?
Don’t you love the idea of being, “No More Mr. Nice Guy (or girl)?