How to Avoid Harassing Your Child with Idle Threats


Harassing your child with idle threats is an extremely effective way of tearing down confidence and destroy­ing self-esteem. Idle threats instill fear in a child, and fear eats away at confidence. Idle threats also cause your child to feel alienation. “If Mom is threatening me, she must not really value my safety or wellbeing.”

Not only do idle threats cause fear and disciplinary inconsistency, they destroy your reputation as a truth-speaker.

An idle threat is not a fact. That’s critically important to recognize. It is not an idle threat to say to your child, “If you do that one more time, I’m going to take you out of this room, and we will discuss your punishment.” It is not an idle threat to say to your child, “That is the third time you have willfully disobeyed me today. I am going to spank you when we get home.” Those are not idle threats if you follow through and do what you have just said you were going to do! Those are statements of what will happen. They are declarations of conse­quence.

How to Avoid Harassing Your Child with Idle Threats  Child Harassing

It is an idle threat, however, for you to say, “Daddy’s going to spank you for that, if you do it” and then to have no spanking from Daddy after the bad deed is done. Not following through leads your child to think, I don’t know when I can trust Daddy to tell the truth. Maybe he doesn’t tell me the truth about who I am or how much he cares about me. Maybe his promises aren’t true either.

If an idle threat is not a fact—because the threat never becomes a reality—then the idle threat is not true. If not true, it is a lie.

Some parents threaten their children with monsters that will rise up from under the bed to “get them” if they get out of bed without asking permission.

Some threaten their children with bogeymen who live just beyond the boundaries you’ve established for your child and who will “get them,” if they stray from the backyard or climb out of the window at night.

Some threaten their children with abandonment. “I’m going to leave you here if you don’t come right away.”

Tell the truth to your child. Follow through on what you say you are going to do. Give what you promise. Punish according to the rules you’ve established. Let your yes be yes and your no mean no.

The child who is told the truth knows what to believe about him or her self. That’s a critical factor in the formation of your child’s self-esteem.

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  5. How to Help Your Children When They Get Out of Bed at Night

Filed Under: Family & Relationships

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About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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