Idle Threats

Photo by Tina Phillips at

I had a hard day with my seven-year-old. The day had been difficult, and bed time had been even worse. Sharing a room with a younger sibling made it even harder. The tantrum had gone on long enough, and I was frustrated. I mandated my expectation and the consequence that would be given if it weren’t followed.

I was a good parent. This would work and she would stop. But wait, she wasn’t stopping! The consequence was pretty unreasonable. My husband thought the consequence was downright ridiculous. But once I said it, darn it, I would follow through. After all, I am a good parent and good parents do what they say. Good parents do not give idle threats.

And so I followed through with my  ridiculous consequence. It was a tough night to say the least. Many tears were shed.

The next day, I was meeting with some other moms and sharing my difficult day. Laughing about it I said, “Don’t you hate it when you can’t think of how to handle discipline so you just let words spill from your mouth, but then you have to follow through on what you said?”

A wise mother taught me. She said she often goes to her children and explains that she was really frustrated too. And that while the child was still in trouble, “xyz” would be a more realistic consequence.  She suggested you can change your discipline technique based on more calm and rational thinking and the child will still receive a consequence.

What? You can explain that you might have been a little on the crazy side? I was reminded that while my job as a mother is to teach my children through consequences and good discipline, I want them to learn other things as well. I am here to teach my children compassion. To teach them that it is okay to make mistakes. To teach them how to fix mistakes once they have been made.

The best way to teach is by example. Moms make mistakes too-mine are daily. Humility and love are life lessons she needs to know and it all starts with me.

QUESTION: What was the craziest consequence you’ve given to one of your children? Did you follow through with it? Did it give you the desired results?

CHALLENGE: Next time, take the time to think about what the punishment should actually be, before saying it out loud to your children.


  1. Telena says

    I have done the same thing so many times! In fact, just last night, I listened to my husband trying to get my two oldest in bed, and in his frustration, he kept giving threat after threat. I reminded him that he is not here the next day to enforce his consequences, and how it is unfair to me to be the “bad person” who has to hold the kids to what dad said. An idea I shared with him is to delay the consequences. When my kids are misbehaving, I simply say, “Oh how sad. I’m really going to need to do something about how you’re acting, but I’m not sure what yet. I’ll have to think about it and I’ll let you know. But don’t worry.” I say it really sweetly, and then I write a note to myself to think of the consequence so I don’t forget. Once we have both calmed down, I can choose more appropriatly, and he is more likely to accept the consequence without a major breakdown. Plus, it is so fun as a mom to see my 6-year-old squirm until I think of what the consequence will be, usually hours later or even the next day.

  2. Lindsay says

    Thank you for this article. My oldest has trouble socially, even with her siblings, and sometimes I blurt out consequences that are too harsh. I have struggled to know what to do, so I follow through and it has strained our relationship. I’m ready to mend it!

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