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“I don’t care what you do with me, Brer Fox” said Brer Rabbit. “Just don’t fling me that Look. Roast me, Brer Fox, but don’t fling me that there Look of yours,” said Brer Rabbit.

“It’s so much trouble to start a fire,” said Brer Fox, “so I think I’d rather skin you.”

“Skin me, Brer Fox, snatch out my eyeballs, tear out my ears by the roots, and cut off my legs,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me that terrible, spine tingling, Look.”

“It’s not going to be much fun skinning you,” said Brer Fox, “you’re not scared of that. But you are scared of the Look.”

And with that, Brer Fox yanked Brer Rabbit off the Tar-Baby, and he flung him -KERPLUNK!- right between the eyes, The Look.

What is The Look—that magical silently telegraphed message that will cause a child to “do a 180,” switching from misbehavior to willing obedience? Most parents know what it is—because they experienced it as children.

Brian Reid of On Parenting, a column in the Washington Post, wrote, “THE LOOK. I remember it well (and somewhat fondly now that I use it on my own kids). In fact, it’s family lore. My mother could give us THE LOOK — really more like a glare — and we’d obey. THE LOOK was quite convenient in public where all the kids would behave or else. And I’ve never seen anything quite as effective at getting kids of all ages in our family to jump at whatever they were told to do.”

I figure I was a failure with The Look. My attempts came out a bit skewed. My children would say, “Look, she’s doing the eyebrow thing.” My students in school told me, “You may sound severe, but your eyes are laughing.”

Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington, wrote, “All my mother had to do was shoot me a look. I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was a look that stopped us in our tracks – or got us moving. And not when we felt like it.”

I envy such skill. I guess I should have practiced more. My consolation is that I had the counting thing down: (as the fingers appeared at attention), 1 2 3. I never had to go beyond three. Maybe I had a bit of The Look after all.

A discussion board asked, “Did Your Parents have ‘The Look?'”

Here are a couple of responses:

 I too inherited the “look” from my mom. My sons knew that they’d worked my last nerve . . .They usually went to their rooms & cleaned,
 It was my best tool as well. They knew their boundaries when they saw the look.
 Yes, and I have it. My kids called it the Death Stare.
 My aunts were fascinated and said to my mum your kids are so well behaved you never scream or yell at them and I burst out laughing and said, nah she’s got the “look”.

One woman commented that her mother combined The Look with The Stance of Doom (hand on hip, foot barely tapping).

My parents did not have The Look. They had The Paddle. Most homes did back then. I do not believe in spanking (neither does my mother anymore), but I do believe in parental authority and obedience. Many claim it’s an elusive state in today’s world. I think it depends on what your examples are. Most of the mothers in my neighborhood have it.

What do you think, is parental authority failing? And, do you use The Look?

Next week: Instilling Respect