Why I Never Threaten, “Wait Until Your Father Gets Home!”


There’s this archetypal scene in stay-at-home-mother lore in which the child misbehaves and the mom, at her wit’s end, says, “Just wait until your father gets home!” I want to go on record as never having uttered this threat and I don’t plan to start. Let me tell you why.

1. It wouldn’t work

First of all, it hasn’t taken my 9 year old long to figure out that his dad is the softie.

Want to stay up late? Remind dad of something he promised to do with you today but hasn’t done yet.

Want a new toy? Ask dad to take you to the store, “just to work on a wish list.”

More often than not, I’m the stricter parent. “Go to bed” means “now” in my way of thinking. And I see right through that “wish list” ploy.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband doesn’t let our son run amok, but in a side-by-side comparison he is more lenient than I am most of the time.

So, if I were to try that “wait until your father gets home” bit on my son, it would backfire. My son would see it for the empty threat it would be and it simply wouldn’t work.

2. I wouldn’t want to be in the kind of marriage/family where it did work

Not only am I resigned to the fact that this kind of threat wouldn’t work, but I am also glad because I don’t want my kid to fear his father or disrespect me.

I want my husband and son to have a healthy father-son bond. This would be impeded if my husband was someone who instilled fear in my child’s little heart.

When I think what “wait until your father gets home” might imply, I shudder at the thought. The threat seems to imply a heavy-handed father who shames, yells at, or even beats the child to get compliance.

I do not want to be married to a man who promotes hostility and fear in the home. I purposefully chose to marry a man who is tender-hearted and nurturing because that is the tone I want in our home.

Furthermore, abdicating discipline of my own child would undermine me as a parent. Especially since I am the one who is on the scene most of the day, I need to be able to set and maintain appropriate boundaries with my son.

If I could not personally enforce standards of discipline, I would be suggesting to my son that I don’t know how to make rules or that my rules are not important. I would be opening myself to disrespect from my child and ultimately this could lead to greater chaos and misbehavior over time.

I believe that whichever parent is on the scene when misbehavior occurs needs to be able to handle it directly. It is not fair to either my husband or myself for us to put discipline off on the other parent.

3. I don’t want to be the kind of parent who makes threats

Last, but certainly not least, I believe that parental threats are a form of aggression and I seek to avoid them. Whether they are empty threats or ones that have real “teeth” to them, any kind of threat is an aggressive form of communication.

When there are so many other, more affirming ways to communicate with my child about my expectations, I’d rather use those. I want to promote a positive atmosphere to encourage my son to make better choices in life.

I’m not perfect. I have admitted in the past that I yell more than I’d like. And, if I’m honest, subtle threats probably make their way into my communication with my son more than I intend.

Aggressive communication is the wide path that is easy to go down, but it leads to destruction. The narrow path of loving and nurturing forms of discipline is harder to stick to, but it leads to life. (For more on this theme, see Matthew 7:12-14.)

So, in addition to all the reasons not to use dad as a threat, I don’t even want threats to be part of how I discipline my child. I pray for the wisdom and grace to be the kind of parent who doesn’t rely on threats for correction.

At home with my approach

Overall, we have a really positive home life where each person is loved and respected. I was always raised in a home where I was respected as a child and I want to offer the same to my kid. I do expect compliance to certain rules and standards in the home, but I will not threaten my kid with his own father. There are lots of positive ways to maintain order in our home and I’m finding them to work quite well.

For a good, basic primer on the parenting philosophy I use, I recommend Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. (Click the title to see this recommendation in my Amazon store at Life & Liberty. Purchases you make there will help support this online magazine where I am a contributor.)

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by catherine on January 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Your kiddo rocks! One, he was happy to entertain the toddlers at annual meeting. Two, when he was on his (okay, probably his dad’s) phone playing a game and I could tell it was going to become a toddler-magnet, I simply reasoned with him, “Just letting you know, my little guy is going to want your phone and be sad when he can’t play with it.” And he simply went to the next group of seating so he could play his game in peace-I honestly didn’t even expect him to listen to me at all because I’m not his parent or an authority figure in any way to him. All nine-year-olds (and every-year-old, adults included) of course need guidance and boundaries, but the fact that he reacted so simply and without resentment when presented with a potential problem shows a lot about his character at his age. I think we are somewhat similar in our parenting philosophies, so it is good to see it working for someone a few years ahead!

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