When kids act out, parents might be at a loss for how best to discipline them. A common tool used by moms and dads are statements like, “If you don’t stop doing that, I’ll take away your toy.” Most of the time, however, when the child ends up behaving, parents don’t end up following through on those threats.
It’s easy to think that this frequently-used discipline tool doesn’t do harm and should be utilized often; after all, it often seems to work in making kids behave. But according to experts, this is not the case at all: Routinely making empty threats in enforcing discipline does a lot of harm on a child.
One significant effect of empty threats, according toFatherly, is that because these are used more to intimidate than to discipline, a child can end up learning to avoid punishment instead of follow her parents’ orders. “When a child does comply because he or she is frightened of an unreasonable consequence, it does not mean that they’ll comply when they are away from the parent. It merely means that they are afraid of their parent.”
Using empty threats can also cause your child to fail to see you as an authoritative figure since most parents tend not to follow through on those threats. Verywell Familysays that parents who regularly use this as a discipline method have kids who get in the habit of not listening when their parents ask them to do or not do something — they won’t be suffering any consequences, after all.
In a 2018 article, Fatherly writes about another effect of empty threats: It leads to incomplete socialization. Empty threats give kids the suggestion that inconsistently-enforced rules can be obeyed or disobeyed, depending on the situation. This is worrying because children need to be aware of what’s going to happen if they don’t follow the rules.
“Consistency is key,” Dr. Bhargava tellsCNN. “If you are not consistent and don’t follow through, they won’t listen, and they won’t be as welcome when you do follow through. Routine and consistency will be good for the parents.”