How to Discipline a Child? Do Parents’ Empty Threats Work?

How to Discipline a Child? Do Parents’ Empty Threats Work? Asian parents are known for their strict rules and harsh punishments that even caused an uproar among the parents from other regions (read: The Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother). Believe it—they’ve heard it all. If you grew up in an Asian household, you know. One of the most common punishments Asian kids receive are threats (e.g., you can’t watch TV if you don’t do the dishes; your grades are unacceptable, you’re not allowed to leave the house; if you don’t finish your meal, you won’t get dessert; etc.). 

There is nothing to be worried about from the child’s point of view. After all, they are just empty threats. 

Yes, they are just empty threats, and they are harmful. For today’s parenting advice, let’s dive deeper into the world of parents’ empty threats.

Why are Parents’ Empty Threats Harmful?

Your kid does something terrible, so you punish them. However, kids are kids, and they would do something again. It makes you tired, so you resort to the easier way out—threaten them. You thought it ended there, but the truth is, the problem just started.

Kids would think they can get away with anything they want 

We threaten our kids to throw away their toys if they don’t pack them away properly. Of course, it is just a bluff, because why would you throw away the things you bought with your good money? You say this anyway, to pressure your kids to do something they are supposed to do. They might make it a habit to pick up their toys and clean after themselves, or they might not do it altogether because they can get away with it quickly. 

Kids will weigh if it is worth behaving.

Parents want their kids to behave because it is the right thing to do. With threats, kids would think that the reason for behaving is something else. There is an external motivation for them to behave appropriately. In the long run, kids would weigh if the motivation is good enough to stop misbehaving. If it is not, then there is no stopping them, is there? 

It loses predictability.

Again, Asian parents are known for their strict rules. These rules should be consistent and not be disrupted by an empty threat because your children lose predictability. Threats need a follow-through so that the kids know what the rules are and the consequences for disobeying those rules. 

How to Discipline a Child? Do Parents' Empty Threats Work?

There is deception in empty threats

Because the children already know that your threats mean nothing, they start to lie about compliance. When there is inconsistency in enforcing the rules, their observance will also be inconsistent. It becomes their goal to avoid punishment instead of complying with the rules. They won’t yield when you’re not around, which can lead to more misbehaviors as they grow up. 

Children can quickly identify between empty threats and actual punishments

Parents are supposed to be in control inside the house, and children should look up to them as authority figures. This vanishes when you start making empty threats. Children might look at you as people who do not do what they said they’d do. In their life, they might not go to you when they need answers. Their trust in you dissipates, and sometimes even respect. 

Parents’ Empty threats don’t work.

There are many more ways to make your children do what they are supposed to do, instead of throwing them empty threats. It is crucial to understand why they are told to do things, and they also need to know why they are being punished.

“Because I said so” is never enough reason to enforce rules and punishments over your children.

Lastly, being consistent is the key. Stick to your words if you say they cannot watch TV until after they’re done with homework. If you said they’d get ice cream if they clean their room every day for the next seven days, do it. In the end, your children learn how and why to behave properly, and you earn more of their trust and respect.

There are other greater ways how to discipline a child. Does your parenting style include empty threats?

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