Empty Threats: To Follow Through or Not?

Early in our marriage, I thought that parents should create children with similar personalities. Boy, was I proven wrong! What worked for one child didn’t necessarily work for the other five. And THAT is what makes us all unique!

When it’s time to implement discipline with your child, you have to figure out what works for both you and your child. Maybe taking toys away or losing television time is what matters to your child, and is the most effective. It’s a good idea to have a few “go to” disciplinary actions to choose from that will be the most effective for the situation at hand. Just make certain it’s something you can follow through with. We all have moments of weakness, and empty threats may spew out of our mouth, but being well prepared with disciplinary actions, you will much more likely find success in the actions you follow through with.

It will present a backward progression if you give idle threats or unrealistic threats. You may have witnessed a parent in public say to their child, “Don’t do that or I’m going to take you home.” and then, not actually take them home or maybe say, “Don’t climb on there or I will take you off.” and never remove the child from the situation. These are “idle threats” because the parent didn’t actually do what they threatened to do to the child. The child knows the parent will probably not do what they are threatening. Consequences such as these can grow into huge behavior problems in the future so far as to have the child say, “Stop sign, what stop sign?” “I saw it but didn’t feel like stopping.” If you teach your child at an early age that what you say you mean, and actually follow through with, everyone will know there are boundaries and behave with respect. Not following through weakens all your threats in the future. It’s not advised to threaten your child with unrealistic threats such as, “If you hit your sister again, I will turn this car around and we will go home!” when you know you can’t turn it around because your entire family is going to the airport to catch a flight to grandma’s house, but instead threaten something more realistic like, “Hit your sister again and you will sit for 10 minutes while everyone else plays at the park!” What you threaten, you must do or your child will see you as an idle threat and continue to dare the situation or situations.

Making decisions to discipline will sometimes tear at your heartstrings and tempt you to give in, but once you realize something you chose to do to discipline your child worked and the negative behavior doesn’t present itself again, you will realize you made the right choice. Children need guidelines and desire them. Parenting is not for whimps! Remember, with each negative behavior or outburst from your child it means he is healthy and full of life. We learn from the minute we are born until the minute we leave this earth so why not make it a positive learning experience.