Unusual Disciplinary Tactic – Thanks, Dad

“I’m not doing the dishes.  It’s not my turn!”  Sean’s voice was louder than he intended, but he was serious.

“Dad said you were supposed to help me,” I argued, my voice escalating as loud as his.

My brother and I were having the same repetitious argument that occurred like clockwork every Sunday after our family dinner.   It was winter and because he wasn’t helping dad out in the fields or in the barn, Sean’s job was to help my sister and me with the dishes.

There was a little singsong, “I don’t have to help, na na na na boo boo.”  Sean and I both looked at our little sister, Jeannie, in disgust.  Because she helped Mom set the table, she was exempt from this distasteful chore.

Mom made lasagna.  Of course, it was the best lasagna in the world, but it also left the messiest dishes to clean.  I was always the washer while my other siblings cleaned the table, dried, and put away.

“If we had a new dishwasher, we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” I yelled loud enough so my parents could hear me.  Dad was watching a Brown’s football game and Mom had settled down with a book.

“We have three dishwashers that work perfectly well without costing a thing,” my dad yelled back.

Sean and I rolled our eyes at each other.  Jeannie again chimed in, “I don’t have to help, na na na na boo boo.”

Sean chased her out of the kitchen, and her squeals brought an unwanted reaction from my dad who was missing a touchdown. “Dang it, I told you kids to clean the kitchen, now be quiet and do it.”

He meant business, so we worked quietly for a short time.   That was until Sean threw an unscraped plate into the sink, the red tomato sauce rising in rivulets in the dishwater.

“Sean, scrape the dishes better!”  To punctuate the order, I elbowed him in the side.

“Don’t hit me!”

“Then do it right!”

“I did do it right, you just don’t like the way I did it.  You think you’re Mom and can boss everyone around.”

The argument proceeded to get louder and louder and escalated to flipping dishtowels and throwing soapsuds.   It was totally out of hand.

My dad walked into the kitchen, his face red and angry.   Sean and I both stood at attention at the definite look of displeasure in Dad’s expression and knew that we were about to be toast.  He had definitely had enough.

“I told both of you to be quiet and do those dishes.   There is no reason why a fifteen-minute job should take an hour of yelling and screaming and fighting.  I…”

Off came one of his smelly socks. “Have had….”

Off came another sock, “ENOUGH!”

To our utter horror, Dad stuffed one of his icky sweaty socks in my mouth and the other in my brother’s.  “Now, you will keep those in there until every one of those dishes are done.”

We both nodded our heads and did the dishes in record time with unusual solidarity and efficient teamwork, despite the gagging, hacking, and tears streaming down our faces.

This is a true story.  My dad really did do this.  I have to admit, it was borderline brilliant (and extremely disgusting).


  1. Hahaha!! The grand-twins argue about everything and nothing! Got to tell my daughter about this so she can put it into effect!!

    “Don’t make me put a sock in your mouth!” Can be an effective threat later!! Hahaha!!

  2. My two yougest used always to argue incessantly when asked to do dishes. Eventually, we caved and bought a dishwasher. The kids then argued over the fair sharing of the jobs of:
    clearing the table
    loading the dishwasher
    emptying the dishwasher after it finished, and
    puttng the clean dishes away.

    I’l sure that if we’d found a way of automatng those jobs, they’d have found something else to argue about!

    Keith Channing A-Zing from http://keithkreates.com

      1. Couldn’t have worked when I was growing up, for two reasons: there were three of us, and Dad lost a leg in the war, so only had one ‘ripe’ sock at a time.
        I don’t know how my pair would have dealt with that, though.

  3. That’s a brilliant story! Our parents got away with such devilish things, if only we could do the same… I sure wish one day I can tell people how I stuffed socks into my kids mouths to get them to do chores quicker and not have them look at me in horror!

  4. Awesome way to shut kids up, and then the threat of a repeat performance would keep them quiet. Parents got away with lots when we were young and times change, kids still bicker and fight no matter what.

  5. Loved this story, it actually took me back to my childhood, where I washed, my brother dried and put away and our little sister gloated because she didn’t have to help. I believe at several times we were also told that my parents had three perfectly good dishwashers (however if you asked my brother or me, we would agree that there was only two dishwashers as the baby never had to do them.)

  6. Well that was some story! It’s a very creative way to illustrate, “Just put a sock in it.” My grandparents stopped letting my brother and me be at their house at the same time. Too much bickering. A universal topic. Thanks for sharing.

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