Most of us have grown up with threats galore... some real, some not. Threats has been a go-to parenting for a long while. It seems reasonable right: threaten your child with the punishment so he'll behave and hopefully you won't have to resort to punishment at all. Now, in punishment free parenting, it turns out that - even having thrown out punishments - many parents still resort to threats.
On the one hand because threats have become a knee-jerk reaction, fostered by our own education, and on the other hand because we lack the tools we need to do something else.
Threats are yet another way to impose our already huge will onto our tiny children, fostering not real cooperation, but shame, submission and fear. As a positive parent, this is something we try to avoid and instead we focus on self direction and real collaboration.
Parenting peacefully starts with parenting from a place of inner balance, so if you find yourself struggling on a daily basis, take a moment to review the mommy overwhelm series.
So here goes; five real life alternatives to threats:
|Image: Job Earth|
- Explain the consequences: "If you don't clean this spilled, you might slip over it and everything will end up being sticky." "If you hit your brother, he'll cry and will not play with you any more." Even though the format of what you are saying is pretty much the same, these are just the real result of your children's action... It's very important to maintain your calm when you are explaining the consequences, because otherwise, you can easily turn a natural consequence into a threat. Remember that everything can be made into a real threat, depending on how you bring it, so the most important thing is to evaluate the emotional charge you are bringing to the situation.
- Fake threats: "If you don't stop pulling my hair, I will stick you to the ceiling and paint you blue." I like fake threats because they often lead to a lot of hilarity and you can catch yourself in the middle of a sentence. The 'good' thing about threats is that they're often very long sentences, so they leave you the time to catch yourself and make it good. My daughter gets the game now and we will 'threaten' each other with the silliest things. This takes the tension of the situation and generally clears up whatever was going wrong in the first place.
- Get involved. Threats generally emerge out of parental non-involvement. You're doing one thing, your child is doing something you don't agree with and instead of diving in there, you yell a threat at them. Really getting in there and instead of saying 'don't', saying 'let's', will get your child to engage in a more constructive activity.
- Catch yourself in the act. Another way to catch yourself when you start threatening is to start singing, or making silly noises: "If you don't ding dang dilly dilly dang dang..." Go with the moment, do a little dance. Again, this will probably be hilarious enough to stop your child right in the act.
- Freeze! Like a cop in a mediocre action movie, yell: 'freeze'! Asses the situation, if necessary, separate children, or gently remove your child from the object of destruction. Don't do this too often though, because it would loose it's value to your children (they simply won't listen any more and continue their mayhem).