April 9, 2009

Empty Threats

Your child’s Lego’s are all over the floor even though you have already told him three times to pick them up.

At first you were frustrated but now you’re angry and you blurt out, “If you don’t pick up the Lego’s I’m going to throw them into the trash!” Let me ask you a question. Are you really going to throw them in the trash? I’m going to assume your answer is, “No.”

It happens to every parent. In a moment of anger you make a threat that you won’t carry out. An empty threat means you’ve lost control and your child has won.

Children are smart little creatures. They know you won’t follow through so they don’t take your threats seriously. That means you won’t get the results you need. In the aforementioned example that mean your child is not going to pick up his Lego’s.

You can overcome making empty threats. How might the situation look if you said this instead, “Ryan, I need you to pick up your Lego’s. I’m going to set the timer for five minutes. If they’re not picked up when the timer goes off you will not be allowed to play with your Lego’s for a week.” If you’re not a parent who usually follows through on threats Ryan won’t think you’re serious so he won’t comply. What he doesn’t realize is that you’re using a different approach this time. This time you’re going to follow through on your threat.

You scoop up the Lego’s and put them where Ryan can’t reach them. He’s watching in total disbelief. He’s clinging to your leg begging you to give them back. You drag yourself and the attached Ryan over to the refrigerator where you pencil onto the family calendar the day the Lego’s will be returned. You pry Ryan off your leg and go about your business while he lies on the kitchen floor wailing and pleading. The tantrum is driving you nuts but you don’t back down. You followed through on your threat.

Feels good doesn’t it? It wasn’t easy but you did it. You were firm, yet matter of fact. You won. With consistency and perseverance you can become a parent who follows through more times than not.

How do you think Ryan will respond the next time you ask him to pick up his Lego’s?

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