Empty Threats


Never make a threat you are not going to carry out.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | August 29, 2013

If your child did not put tools away and the consequence is properly cleaning the tools and returning them to their place, you will want to check to see if the work was done.

“You are grounded for a month!”
“By the time you finish with this you’ll be collecting Social Security!”
“You cannot leave the house until your grades improve.”

Chelsey’s favorite: “I’m going to put a stamp on your butt and send you to Alaska!”

Her Reply: “Who is Alaska?”

My dad always threatened, “I’m gonna jerk a knot in your tail!”

After I came to Parents Anonymous I saw how ridiculous empty threats were. I mean really… Alaska?! Actually, seeing Alaska was always a dream of mine but when I was getting supper ready, answering the phone and emptying the dishwasher then Chelsey drop a dozen eggs was the last straw. Rather than exploding I did the next best thing— hurling meaningless words at her.

Get off your pedestal – we all have done it at one time or another.

The real problem with empty threats is that they are pointless. The only thing children learn from empty threats is that a parent doesn’t really mean what is said. When kids are old enough to figure it out they will know a parent might be temporarily upset but they are not in control of their emotions and sometimes their words.

If you say it – mean it. Children learn and adapt rather well. If giving a consequence for misbehavior you will want to see that it is carried out. As an example: If your child did not put tools away and the consequence is properly cleaning the tools and returning them to their place, you will want to check to see if the work was done.

When you follow through with what you say, children will learn to trust you and that they can count on you, not just for consequences but in other areas as well: Using drugs, drinking, driving over the speed limit, having sex early, etc.

It is a wonderfully secure feeling to know you can count on your parent. When parents are unreliable it’s a bit like walking a balance beam; sometimes steady and sometimes they fall off.

What are your thoughts? How did your parents do things? Were they reliable? Could you count on what they said? What did that mean for you?

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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