Posts Tagged ‘Positive Discipline’

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.)

Vases of Grace

Vase of Grace

I blew it. I blew my top with my son. Again.

I don’t mean to do it. I really don’t. I don’t mean to yell at him.

He’s a good kid. A great kid really. He’s smart, funny, and caring. He’s a Lego pro. He does great character voices when reading aloud or playing make-believe. He “gets” God and Jesus and grace better than some people five times his age.

It is not his fault that I yell at him. Even if he does bad stuff, I’m the grown-up–responsible for keeping my own reactions in check.

There’s no good reason to angry-yell at any kid–none that I can think of in the whole wide world. Not a single one. It’s just plain wrong.

Add to that I’m this mom who is passionate about Positive Discipline, making a point to offer loving support, and non-punitive correction. I should know better. I should do better.

When I yell, I know that it is me who is out of control. I know that.

And I want to be quick to tell you that it doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time, we’re all pretty laid back around here. We get along well in my family of three: we cooperate, we talk about anything and everything, and we’re generally really nice people.

I don’t yell all the time. Hardly ever really. It’s almost not even worth bringing up lest you get the wrong idea about me. It’s not that bad…

Except, I saw a headline the other day that if you yell at your child it can cause as much emotional harm as physical abuse. I would never lay a hand on my child. I’ve never even spanked him as discipline. Ever.

But to think that my out-of-control yelling could cause him emotional harm?

Oh, Lord have mercy.

And I see it. Rather, I hear some of the fall-out of the yelling. “I’m the stupidest kid in the world!” is a typical response when I yell at him. His negative self-talk peaks whenever I lose control with my tone of voice.

Two Tuesdays ago, after I yelled I was quick to apologize. And he was quick to forgive saying, “That’s okay mommy. I’m kind-of used to it.”

Oh child. Oh sweet boy.

“You shouldn’t have to be used to that. Mommy is wrong to yell. Just as I want you to talk to mommy in a respectful tone of voice, you can expect the same from me. When I don’t speak to you respectfully, it is wrong.”

I spent the better part of that day feeling really crummy for having yelled, and for him being “kind-of used to it.” And my own negative self-talk dominated my inner-dialog.

But something happened that gave me hope. I can’t remember if it was the same day or the day after that, but I was still beating myself up about the yelling when my son brought me flowers from the yard.

Before I had a chance to come and see the flowers, he put them in glasses of water. But the stems were far too short to reach the bottom of the glasses, so he custom-engineered supports out of some of his Legos to keep the blooms above the water level.

These vases of grace gave me hope. Great hope. Hope that his predominate mode is confidence and kindness, not self-loathing. Hope that I get a second chance to do better. Hope that we can move forward and that he had already moved past the difficult moment on which I had still been dwelling.

It has happened again since I got those vases. But I caught it quicker. And I’m recognizing my triggers–triggers that have nothing to do with him at all. And I’m seeing that some of what triggers my out-of-control behavior are stressors that I can reduce or eliminate. So, with God’s help I’m working on all that.

It is important work, but it is a work in progress. But the vases, those beautiful vases remind me that there is grace, even for me.

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