I have two pet hates in parenting: the empty threat and caving in to your kid’s whining! Don’t get me wrong; I have definitely been guilty of both of these, because honestly it is easier than following through! However I do try to stick to my guns.

1. The Empty Threat

So many times I’ve seen parents count 1, 2, 3 and you know what comes next – 3 and a half! There seems to be no consequence to actually reaching three. I’ve also heard parents threaten to take away privileges that they will never follow through with – such as ‘Christmas will be cancelled’.

When I threaten something as a consequence to my kids, they know that I mean what I say. It usually is something like, you will lose your ipod for a week or you won’t be able to go to a party etc. The only problem with this discipline is finding a place to hide the confiscated item that is sneaky enough for them to not find, but not too tricky for you to remember where you have hidden it!

I have one particularly headstrong child who does not like to back down! As she has grown older, not only has she matured, but she now also knows that I don’t make empty threats. I once gave her warning that if she purposely did something that she knew was wrong once more I would give away all her toys and it took her about five minutes to test my resolve.  It was one of the hardest things I have had to do, but I wanted to send her a message that I mean what I say and that if she wants the privilege of nice things, then she needs to deserve them through good behaviour. It broke my heart packing up everything in her room. The sentimental things she had from being a baby I stored away and all the Barbie dolls and nick knacks I boxed up and gave away. Mind you, she was already past the age of wanting to play with these things, they created more clutter than enjoyment but the message was clear when she came home from school and looked at the empty shelves in her room. I calmly discussed that I had given her several warnings that she chose to ignore. I had explained the consequence if she chose to do the wrong thing and knowing that she still chose to misbehave. On the bright side, I told her that now we had a clean slate and that if she behaved, she could be rewarded with new toys to fill her shelves and the silver lining was that her room looked really clean and tidy.

She calmly accepted what I had done and I saw an instant improvement in her behaviour.
Later I was talking to a friend who is a child psychologist who told me that maybe it hadn’t been the best plan of attack, because by getting rid of everything I had also given away all my bargaining chips!

I’m happy (in a strange kind of way) to report that her room now is more cluttered than it has ever been, and she now knows that when I threaten that she will lose something that I will follow through.

2. Giving In

If you say ‘no’ to your kids, but then back down because they throw a tantrum or keep whinging; the message you are sending to your kids is ignore what I say, be rude and disrespectful and then you will get your way. I witnessed a child ask their mother for a slushy (which in my opinion is like Red Bull for kids) and she said no. The child proceeded to nag and whinge until the mother handed over the money for the drink. I had to bite my tongue at watching this child’s manipulation of their parent. Don’t they know we are the ones that are supposed to do the manipulating – not them!

We send our kids mixed messages if we say one thing but then do another. Stand your ground and then you will find they will understand it is a wasted effort nagging if it isn’t going to pay dividends.

If my kids start nagging me, I ask them if they think that their whining is going to make me change my mind? I then go on to tell them that if they continue they will lose privileges – not get rewarded for that behaviour! That usually makes them go quiet.

I know it is draining and sometimes doesn’t feel like it is worth the battle, but following through on what you say shows your kids that you are the one in control. Sometimes tough love is what is needed to set boundaries and earn respect.

What are your thoughts?



(Photo courtesy of



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