Why Threats Are Not The Best Parenting Strategy
Gaining the cooperation of children is a hot issue, and the approach of scaring children is always used. Parents say, “Because it works!” But if threatening works, then why do you need more parenting help?
“Mommy is leaving!” exclaims the narrator.
“If you don’t stop, I’ll take away <something you enjoy>”!
“We won’t be able to do <anything you enjoy> if you don’t come with me right now”!
“You must do something you don’t like if you want something you like.”
Let’s face it, we’ve all done it. We’re accustomed to it; we’re used to power-asserting statements like these, and we’re used to them because they work. They pull a lever. They persuade children to perform a specific task. But why is that?
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
Want to learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control?
–>check out this free parenting class<–
When Threats Work (short Term)
We might like to believe that a childrens brain works in the same manner that an adult’s brain works, but this is far from the case. Our children’s processing differs dramatically from ours; they perceive the world through an entirely different prism.
The frontal lobe, the portion of the cortex responsible for automatic reactions, delayed gratification, and a number of other tasks, begins development at birth but does not reach complete maturity until the age of… 25! Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. 25. What does it mean to have a 2.5-year-old child? Or a three, four, or five-year-old?
It means that children can only have one feeling at a time; their emotions have no conflicts, and when one emotion emerges, it becomes the childrens whole experience. This is why joyful and satisfied childrens have huge tantrums in a fraction of a second, and why they are happy again as soon as the emotional train has past, while we are still picking up pieces of our hearts from the floor. Emotions in children take turns; they cannot play together.
Our toddler seems unconcerned with our obligations or other plans for the day when she is playing at the park. She’s having a good time, and there’s nothing we can do to change her opinion; this is often when different intimidating techniques are used.
Although there are other emotions that one may feel, our limbic system’s basic emotions are anxiety, urgency, and anger; these emotions are inextricably linked to our survival instinct and, in order to keep us safe, are extremely simple to activate. Threats function because of these basic emotions. These three, like all other emotions, cannot come all at once; they must take turns. They are, nevertheless, inextricably linked. Anxiety, haste, and anger.
The Message Behind The Threat
Connection and attachment are basic human needs that play a significant influence in the hearts and minds of childrens. When we threaten to leave, leave them alone, take something they care about, or withdraw from an activity they are looking forward to, we are endangering their relationship with the people they care about the most – us.
A threatened connection, or more accurately, a threatened attachment, is likely to prompt a kid to take action and leave the environment. As a result, I’ll join you and leave the park. Fear and panic, being basic limbic emotions, will always win out over all other emotions, including the desire to keep playing.
Threats “work” because of this reason. However, frightening your kid will always come at a cost, and it is for this reason that we should revisit our basic principles of child discipline.
Threats Have A Price
Fear-based disciplinary techniques and harsh punishment (fear conditioning) (authoritarian parenting) cast a shadow over us wherever we go. In many situations, our children’s underlying fear is the driving force behind the behaviours we want to change. We keep hitting the same buttons because we don’t understand how their small minds function.
When we use threats to get our kids to cooperate, we see the collaboration, but we don’t see the limbic system’s response, which generates irritation and panic soon after it triggers fear.
Fear is closely connected to violent behaviours against siblings or friends, clinginess, lack of self-confidence, inability to fall asleep, resistance, rebellion, and a variety of other responses. It’s pointless to try to solve these problems without addressing the underlying (and unfulfilled) desires for connection, safety, and protection. Instead, we should eliminate fear as a motivator for collaboration and as a form of conditioning for attachment.
Connection Before Correction
The biggest motivators are sentiments of attachment and connection. We may expect the same in return when we operate from a place of compassion. And it will be happily handed to us. Remembering that satisfying our loved one’s needs is a human need in and of itself is an incredible tool for measuring connection. If our child isn’t participating, it’s likely that something has disrupted the connection, and that’s what we’ll need to address.
It won’t alter everything right now, but it’s the only way to empower our children in this life-long learning process. Furthermore, if we do not educate our children that fear causes others to behave, they will not be able to utilize fear in the future.
What You Should Do Next:
1. Subscribe To My Parenting NewsletterSign Up For My Parenting Newsletter for tips on creating a happier home and becoming a more positive parent. As a bonus when you subscribe you’ll get a copy of my FREE Growth Mindset Printout For Kids which is the KEY to raising resilient kids with a growth mindset.
2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.
3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting CourseEnroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
- Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
- Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
- Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
- Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
- Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)