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October 10, 2008



Oh my god, I hear the threats come out of my mouth all the time. And even though they're reasonable consequences, I hate doing it. Actually my daughter often makes them meaningless anyway by saying she WANTS [negative consequence] or doesn't want [reward that will be taken away]. So they're totally pointless, yet I keep doing it. I like the absurd threat. I do often manage to change course mid-threat and threaten to tickle, which always lightens the mood. This was a great reminder, thanks!


As I read "Stop banging on the pots" I was thinking or else my brain will explode and tomato sauce will come out of my ears and then it'll be a big, crazy mess!

One of the things that we do when someone is really hungry (because it's dinner time in their belly) but we aren't quite where we need to be in order to eat, is we start an exaggeration game. "I'm so hungry I could eat an elephant." "I'm so hungry I could eat a whale." "I'm so hungry I could eat an airplane." etc, etc, with bigger and bigger and more improbable things. It may or may not help that much, but it cuts down the whining and is a easier to concentrate on than a game of "I spy".

"ARGH! If you don't stop tapping on your bed, I'll...." is tricky because I think the tone of voice/delivery is everything. Because if you pick something too fun, then it creates a new problem ("Yeah! Let's paint my thumbs red and I'll make all kinds of prints all over the bunk!"), and if you don't have a smile in your voice, it's scary (She's going to wrap me up like a mummy in my sheets and hang me up like a bat from the middle of my ceiling???). It might be also better if the threat is something that happens to you, the speaker. Like, "Stop tapping on the bed or else I'll go crazy and spin like a whirling dervish right into the ground all the way to China. And then there will be a big hole in the floor and it'll be drafty." It's a little bit of "Please do this to make me happy/feel better" and I'm not sure how I feel about that as an underlying theme, but it is also good to learn to be courteous to your family, and it's not threatening-threatening, but is distracting and helps them know that it's time to think about another solution for what is the real problem (wiggliness at bedtime, not really wanting to sleep, maybe needing to unwind a little).

I've noticed with La that there is something decompressing about a good round of giggles right before she goes to sleep. I think it's similar to the cry to release tension combined with a better way to get energy in Monster's Inc (apparently, I'm all about the PIXAR references). I haven't figured out how to harness it yet though - it's pretty random when it happens, but when it happens, it's good.


This is why I keep threats simple, direct, and immediate. And I follow-through. But I usually phrase my threats as a choice: "Your choice: You do this, or I do that. Which do you want?" Even when they try to throw me by claiming to want the consequence, I follow through - I gave them a choice, they knows I meant it, and even if they try to reverse things on me, they still get what I promised - nothing more, nothing less. It works - My promises have credibility - the good, and the bad.

My wife; she threatens, she growls, she yells, but she Never. Follows. Through. So, the kids ignore her... Which makes her angrier, and elicits more growls, threats, and anger... Which never get followed through upon. Then she wonders why the kids listen to me, and not her. And it's not like she doesn't know she's doing it - She just can't seem to break the cycle in herself.

Silly threats? That's a WONDERFUL idea - I'm already silly much of the time, so I think I'll add those to the menu. After all, I do silly dances, silly bedtime stories, and silly songs. Why NOT silly threats, too?

Today Wendy

Wow, that was hilarious :) Bedtime at your house sounds fun.


@Cathy, I agree that converting tone of voice is important. Even if I only manage to convert it at the end of the phrase, it makes a difference. And I like having the consequence be on me, at least part of the time - though I also recognize the same concern, that life isn't ALL about making sure mamma is happy. It can be one factor in the overall big picture, though.

The goal, of course, is to not even threaten to start with (Tranq's experience not withstanding, that's my personal goal - discuss, yes, but not threaten. Both methods seem to work, but the process differs.). The more I end up in silliesville, the less I start out with the knee-jerk in the first place. Or so it seems, anyway.


@Today Wendy, most of the time bedtime at our house is between neutral and grumpy. So it was nice to have a REALLY fun one in there. Some are okay fun, but ... well, we've been working on bedtime strategies for a while, now. Between them getting older and me trying more variations on strategies, we're getting there.


Actually, my first response, before resorting to Consequences, is to check the kid's level of hunger, exhaustion, or stimulation. No point in reasoning with a hungry, exhausted, or over-stimulated kid - And that's what threats are: Attmepts to engage the child's ability to reason and choose between possible outcomes. So, if the kids are out of control because they're too hungry, tired, or wound-up to track, the first step is to resolve the underlying cause. Once that's out of the way, Consequences become a viable tool. I don't threaten often, actually. But when I do, the kids know I mean it.


I have been thinking about this more, and listening to myself. I find myself using threats ALL THE TIME. I hate it.

So I asked myself why I'm doing it and the answer is that it works (sometimes). Sometimes it's the only way I can get her to do something (go use the potty, put her shoes on so we can go, etc.).

How do you get your young ones to do things they need to do? There must be a better way, but I don't know what it is! Maybe you could post about it sometime if you have the chance.


I can (and will) post about it, but I can also recommend some books that help.

I don't completely avoid threats in some form - but I also don't use only one tool. It's like I said somewhere else on here, Healthy is having a lot of different methods to handle something, doing it not just one way all the time. Even doing something 'good' the same way all the time is not really healthy - That's from Ellyn Satter's feeding/eating books. If you eat a perfect diet ALL THE TIME, that's not healthy normal eating. It's disordered eating, because it is rigid. Same for methods. So, I cut myself some slack and use other methods but try not to freak out when I find myself using leverage, consequences, or threats of some sort (though I do try to morph the threats, still, I don't panic about them).

Books to look to are in my parenting bookshelf page, but I'd specifically recommend Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids; Raising our children, raising ourselves; and Parent Effectiveness Training... and maybe How to talk so kids will listen if you don't have that one. Those are the top picks.

How we get them to do stuff is definitely a whole post in itself. A lot of it is just plain problem-solving, though. Being clear about what we need (including 'want' but why we want it), interpreting or being open to what they need (and want and why), and then trying to find solutions for both of those at the same time. There often is a solution, it usually isn't obvious to us grownups (funny, the kids usually find the solution first - more flexy brains, I think). Plus filtering for what's really required, using the Rules, so we're not trying to do high-level negotiations over something that is really not important.

Beyond the problem-solving is just listening (or beneath, integrated into the problem solving). A lot of problems are solved just by listening - tell me what you're thinking, feeling, needing here. I hear you. I can repeat it in my own words so you can hear me hearing you. I can see how much it means to you, and understand and reflect the level of distress - mild or severe - that you feel. And ... and then quite often, the problem goes away - the need to rigidly stick to their refusal is released when they know I know why they wanted to NOT do something. I can't count the number of times that just listening and not even trying to solve the problem was the answer - they just up and cheerfully did what I wanted them to do, because they had released what they needed to communicate by their refusal in the first place. learning to trust that they WILL go there is hard, especially when we're used to fighting resistance.

Do you have our Montessori in the home pdf? A lot of what we do is in there, too.


I know you don't hang around the SDMB any more, but do you remember Shirley Ujest from over there? She totally got me hooked on silly threats, ever since she posted about telling her kids, "If you touch one more thing on these [store] shelves, I am going to cut your pinkies off and you will never be able to pick your nose again!" She also answered, "Why does X get to do [whatever] and I don't" with "Because I love X more". Got her funny looks in the grocery store, but it was a ritual answer, and the kids all knew she was being silly with them because they all got it equally.

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