When you discover that you're going to be a parent you make certain promises to yourself (once you're over the initial shock/jubilation/sobbing, that is). I'm going to be the best dad in the world, you say, or I promise that my son will grow up to be a Manchester United fan.
But there's one promise you always tell yourself, and it's the one that you'll always break. I promise I'll never use the same phrases on my children that my parents used on me.
Phrases like 'I'm not asking, I'm telling'. You convince yourself that you won't use that line because it's so ridiculous, and you fondly daydream about how, when you're disciplining your children, you'll sit them down and explain exactly why you're telling them off, just like Supernanny would want you to do.
Fast-forward five years and your son is refusing to go upstairs to brush his teeth, and your mouth opens, and the words fall out so easily it's as if you've been saying them for years.
"I'm not asking, I'm telling!"
Immediately you reprimand yourself, but the damage is done. But the line works! My son is going upstairs (albeit begrudgingly)! And then it hits you: one of the best aspects of parenting is that you get to experience the satisfaction of using the same phrases you once hated on your own children.
"I'm not asking, I'm telling" is just one of many, of course. There was one which I always used to hate when I was a child, because there's no comeback. I'd have said something particularly cheeky, or done something naughty, and my mum or dad would glare at me and say:
"Would you talk to your teacher like that?"
Instantly, you're flummoxed. Say 'yes', and it implies that you are unruly and disrespectful at school. Say 'no', and you're basically telling your parents that you care about what your teacher thinks more than what they think. It's a Catch-22 situation, and one which inevitably led to me getting told off even more.
But now I can use it on my own children. "Would you talk to your teacher like that?" I growl sternly at my eldest son, whilst inside I bubble gleefully. You can tell by his expression that he's in the same quandary I found myself in all those years ago; his eyes are flitting all over the place, searching for an answer which doesn't exist, and I fold my arms triumphantly.
And there's always the old failsafe: "Because I said so." I don't need a reason, I'm your parent!
Why should I tidy my room? Because I said so.
Why should I eat this broccoli? Because I said so.
We've only just scratched the surface of parenting phrases. There's a reason they're so well-used, and it's because they work every time. Well - almost every time...