Empty Threats Make Weak Parents

A father had no less than a gaggle of children in the grocery store…

Granted it was a Saturday, granted they were in the toy isle, and granted he was alone. I watched him try to corral all of his kids for about five solid minutes – he would get two listening and then another one was waving a small plastic sword around as if she was fighting some sort of eight-armed dragon. It was funny – but also a bit sad. He was struggling.

He kept saying things like “get over here,” “stop that,” and “c’mon” – pretty typical things for someone trying to gain control of a situation teetering on uncontrollable. And then we heard a large fart noise. It was super loud and all the kids fell into peals of laughter. The middle boy had stomped his foot on a whoppie cushion, which was now lying deflated on the floor.

This sent dad over the edge.

“You know what, now you are going to pay for that! Where is your money?? Get it out RIGHT NOW.”

Now, we all knew he wasn’t going to make the kid pay for it. I knew it, the store clerk knew it, and the kids especially knew it. The kids ignored the dad and all ran down the isle and around the corner – probably to find someone whom they respected.

So, what really happened here?

  • The kids knew they were pushing dad to the brink.
  • They knew no matter what they did, he didn’t have any follow through.
  • They kept testing – and finally found his trigger.
  • They laughed at his angry outburst and empty threat.
  • Dad was left feeling ineffective and outnumbered.

When you’re in this situation, take a few moments to form your plan of attack. What reasonable consequence might you propose right now, in this situation, that you will actually follow through with?  THEN DO JUST THAT.

No compromising. No empty threats.

Your kids will be mad. They will backtalk or cry or they might even throw a fit. But in the end, they will know you are a person of your word. That what you say is truth.

And that is something they will respect.

One final note: next time, plan ahead.  Have a game plan in mind since history tells you that the kids are likely to be unruly. Set up an incentive for good behavior. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is definitely true when it comes to parenting.


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My passion is helping my clients develop close, connected families and healthy relationships. For the past 20 years I have been helping people discover the best version of themselves.  Learn more

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