“Get over here right now or no T.V.!”
“You will lose that ball for one day if you throw it again.”
“You better stop that right now. Do you want a spanking?”
“If you continue to argue with me, you will go to your room.”
Can you identify which of the above statements are threats and which ones are warnings?
If you said 1 and 3 are threats, you are right. So what is the big deal about threats? Are they really all that bad? How can they be bad if they sometimes work? Are threats different from warnings? Here we will explore the answers to these questions.
Are Threats Bad?
Before we can answer this, we need to define threats as they pertain to parenting.
Most often, threats:
- are said in haste with little fore thought
- are aimed at achieving instant results (ie: change in behavior)
- stem from frustration, annoyance or anger of the parent
- are nothing more than empty words
- are not enforced
- are given by parents with no energy or desire to enforce
Threats versus Warnings
Here are some basic differences between threats and warnings.
- Threats seek instant gratification. Warnings maintain a bigger picture.
- Threats are used when parents feel out of control. Warnings are used by parents who feel calm and in control.
- Threats are often empty words. Warnings are followed up by actions.
- Threats do nothing to train the child. Warnings focus on training, even if things get worse before they get better.
- Threats are general. Warnings are specific.
- Threats are often said in a disrespectful or abrasive tone. Warnings are said calmly with little or no emotion.
- “We’re going to leave if you don’t knock it off.”
- “You’re going to get it when we get home.”
- “Keep acting like that. You’ll see what it gets you.”
- “You better clean up your room or I’m going to take it all away and throw it in the dumpster.”
- “If your room is not cleaned up by 5:00, you will not be able to go to Kelly’s tonight.”
- “Please sit still. If you don’t, you will get a time out.”
- “If you forget to put your bike away today, you will not be able to ride it for three days.”
- “Homework must be done before dinner. If not, no t.v. tonight.”
Think also on God’s model for us in His word. Over and over again, God warned His people of the consequences of disobedience through His prophets. His people were faced with a choice: turn away from their evil ways and obey or continue on the path of disobedience and suffer the consequences. When their hearts softened and they repented, God forgave. We can do the same.