I Learned an Important Parenting Technique from the Police Academy

Police and ParentingYou know what drives me crazy? Repeating myself.

It’s bad enough I have to do it home with the three MClets. I have tried time and again to break them of the not-listening habit. Alas, to no avail.

At least so far.

It goes something like this:

MC: “Honey, pick up your clothes.”

MClet #3 either completely ignores me or stares at me like I’ve just resurrected a long dead language she does not speak.

MC: “Seriously. Right now. Pick. Them. Up.”

MClet #3 takes a trepidatious step forward and leans over and then pauses in midair and looks at me devilishly.

MC: “You really should have listened the first two times.”

Enter Consequence.

Not for the first time in my parenting life, it occurs to me the correlation between being a parent and being a cop. Think about it. I spend my day following people around basically telling them to knock it off, straighten up, or delivering any degree of consequences when they act the fool.

But there’s one technique I’ve long appreciated and sadly it’s a dying art.

Ask. Tell. Take.

We learned this in the Academy. Unfortunately, the premise is fallible from the outset because you have to assume you are dealing with a  reasonably intelligent adult, but there you have it.

The concept is simple. I’m going to ask you to do something. It can be as simple as, “Would you step out of your car, sir?” Hell, you can even through in a “please” if you want.

If the individual does not comply, the next step (said with a bit more oomph and/or authority) is “Sir, step out of the car.”

There’s no misconstruing what it is you are looking for this alleged adult to do, right? Pretty obvious we want dude out of the car, yes?

The next step? We take dude out of the car.

And here’s where the Politically Correct and touchy-feely-don’t-want-to-hurt-anyone’s-feelings crowd get butt hurt (it’s a technical term).  They want to move from Ask, Tell, Take to Ask, Cajole, Plead, Bribe, Beg, Subjugate, Request, Politely Offer, Demand (albeit apologetically), Apologize Further for the Inconvenience, Call in Supervisor to Rinse and Repeat.

It’s stupid.

There’s a reason there are three strikes in baseball. Three and you’re out. It ain’t sixteen and then we’ll consider what we should do.


I’ll ask you once. Then I’m going to tell you. Then I’m going to Take you (typically to jail for not doing what I previously freaking told you to do).

I have seen the slow yet steady whittling away of the Police Presence portion of our “wheel of force” over the last 16 years. The “wheel” is the concept of the levels of force we have at our disposal. Believe it or not, our mere uniformed presence is a type of force. The badge represents authority and is, to a degree, a level of force.

Let me ask you parents in the interwebs a question.

If you have to barter or plead with your child to complete a task, does it strengthen or weaken your position as Parent?

My children live by the Ask, Tell, Take (their jail is their room and a timeout and occasional spanking…after a conversation about why/how they acted and why it was not acceptable, mind you). They are incredible kids that love the Wife and I very much…as we do them.

We are not scarring them, but they don’t live in a democracy. (If they do, it’s fixed because the Wife and I vote twice.)

I get it, though. They’re kids. It’s their job to push our boundaries and discover safe limits.

But at work? I (again allegedly) am dealing with mature adults that have grown past the pushing boundaries and understand the consequences for behaving in certain ways. When someone with more authority than you asks you to do something, it would behoove you to listen.  When someone with more authority than you tells you to do something, it would be beneficial if you react with something akin to alacrity.

Because if you don’t, you are risking a journey to a place most folks don’t enjoy very much.

The collective police position in society has been greatly weakened over the last decade or so. It isn’t just Ferguson. It isn’t any other case-du-jour. It’s because we as cops have slipped a disc in our backbone from bending over backwards for fear of either upsetting the citizenry, our supervisor, our Powers That Be, or a combination thereof.

I’m not advocating abusing our powers here, my friends. Don’t read something between the lines that isn’t there. I’m saying that if folks expect to be treated with respect and as adults, then I expect them to act as such. You may not like what I’m asking you to do, but I assure you I am asking for both our sakes/safety. You don’t need to know why/how, you need to comply, because it is both your legal obligation and your duty as a responsible person.

Because that’s the way I am raising the MClets to be. They will not be the subject of some cop’s blog a decade from now.

Except mine. I own the rights, believe me.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

17 thoughts on “I Learned an Important Parenting Technique from the Police Academy

  1. I was telling the wife the other day that dealing with a toddler is very similar to dealing with a drunk. They stumble a lot, they ask the same questions over and over, they sometimes vomit/urinate unexpectedly, and they can throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat.

  2. Law enforcement is just professional parenting. I’ve learned that over the past ten years

  3. My Mum had a very similar approach.She would tell us kids a joke that was an old chestnut even back then where a farmer and his wife were travelling home one evening in their horse drawn buggy. They were only part the way home when the horse stopped and refused to move. The farmer got down, looked at the horse and said that’s once. He got back up into the buggy slapped the reins and the horse moved on. They had only travelled a little bit further when the horse stopped again. The farmer again looked at the horse and said “That’s twice” he again slapped the reins and the horse moved on. Further down the track the horse stopped a third time. The farmer then got down from the buggy took aim with his rifle and shot the horse dead. His wife was beside herself that they were now stranded and raged at her husband when he got back into his seat. “How were they going to get home now” she raged. The farmer simply looked at his wife and said “Get down and pull the buggy” The wife was fuming. “Get down and pull the buggy, I’m not doing that, I can’t do it, I won’t do it I’m your wife. I refuse”. “That’s once”.
    As kids we sometimes heard “That’s once” sometimes we even pushed it to “That’s twice” but we weren’t born stupid and new exactly how far we could go.

  4. Allow me to suggest a refinement. “[S]ome­one with more author­ity than you . . .”

    One thing that fully functioning adults need to understand is that authority shifts with situation. When I’m on the road, and I drive too fast (and I virtually ALWAYS do,) if I get pulled over, I deserved it (TM). At that moment, the officer is acting within the scope of his (or her!!!) authority, and I must submit to that. But let’s say I’m at the waterslides. I climb the slimy, fungus impregnated concrete walkway to to the top of the hill, waiting in the sweltering heat, until its my turn. At that moment, that snot-nosed, 16-year-old punk that is in control of the ride has a responsibility for my safety, and is therefore an authority- and I owe that person my respect and obedience. But that can shift in a heartbeat- if somebody in line goes into tachycardia, that lady EMT who happens to be there with her family takes charge and becomes the authority.

    Similarly with cops- when I do a ride along on a search warrant, I stay behind at the vehicle and monitor the radio until I hear “code 4.” The cops are the experts, and I must obey them completely until the house is secure. Once the suspects are safely detained, then it starts to shift. The cops collect the evidence, but I get a say in what they focus on. Now its MY case, and my career is on the line if things go south. Months later, in court, those same officers must do EXACTLY as I say in the courtroom. They do not always understand how treacherous the courtroom can be for their case, and for them, personally. Many a cop has had a career destroyed because they said something stupid on the stand after a DA warned them to respect the defense attorney and not get cute.

    Where people go wrong is that they cannot accept that sometimes they have earned the right to be in charge, and other times, somebody else has. Those situations change constantly. Its not a sign of weakness to defer to someone else who has expertise and has a job to do and the authority to carry it out.

    I have a reputation in my community as a stand up guy. I defer to authority when appropriate. As a result, if an officer made a demand of me that exceeded the scope of his authority, I would still comply. But I would be confident that I would crush that officer like a bug later, when I orchestrated the administrative nightmare that would turn his world inside out.

    But there is a time and a place for everything, and talking through an open window with a guy while squinting at the flashing lights in my rearview is the time to simply be polite and respect the roles that society expects.

    My kid, on the other hand, just needs to quit whining and do as I say 🙂

  5. When you have a cop that perceives his everyday experiences with his daughter as precedences for dealing with adults………you have proven loser.

  6. I have observed cops & their spouses from time to time,& am impressed by both the parents’ techniques and the kids’ responses. Wow – no wonder most LE kids are so well-behaved. (hold onto yer hat, ye fellow Commentors, I did say MOST.) Whatever techniques they teach you for gaining compliance without undue force, I wish they’d teach it in parenting classes to all new parents. There are so many families that need the generational chain of dysfunctionality broken!

  7. um, no, “Observer”, I suggest you re-read the column ; slowly this time. He’s not saying he learns policing technique via what works with his kids. He’s saying there are similarities between what he was taught at the police academy, and what works with his kids. Try to pay attention, dear.

  8. You dress up like soldiers and cruise in your MRAPs then expect to be treated as “regular joes”? LOL

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