Using Threats With Your Children Is Never a Good Idea

Threats generate fear and help you to impose your will on your children. However, they're certainly not useful in educating them.
Using Threats With Your Children Is Never a Good Idea

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Nobody would say that raising a child is easy. In fact, it’s often a complicated process, that feels like it’ll never end. However, it must be remembered that raising a child means connecting emotionally with them. Therefore, you must try not to lose your patience with them or teach them with threats.

As a matter of fact, threats are used by desperate parents who don’t have the proper tools to educate their children. Because authority and threats aren’t the same. Threats are negative reinforcements for a child that can lead to emotional withdrawal.

Using threats with your children

It’s not unusual that some parents or guardians use threats as a resource for educating their little ones. After all, it’s how our grandparents raised our parents and, at the same time, how their parents raised them.

According to Maricela Fonseca Analco, a cognitive-behavioral psychologist from the Autonomous University of Guerrero, the threat is an inherited resource. “Most adults do it that way from their own experience,” he says. He also suggests that “They too were threatened in their childhood or adolescence”.

“A threat to a child means that something bad and extremely serious is going to happen to them, their family, or a precious object.”

-Maricela Fonseca Analco, cognitive-behavioral psychologist-

Father punishing his son

Considering that threats are primarily intended to intimidate, it’s clear that they shouldn’t be used as educational tools.

Furthermore, threats are most likely to have a counterproductive effect on children’s education. Indeed, it must be taken into account that threats can often make them feel that they have to fight or transgress to deal with what’s being threatened.

When children are young, threats may appear to work. However, this is nothing more than a false sense of authority. In reality, threats provoke fear in children and they go against all the values of a good education.

Consequences of using threats with your children

What real consequences can the use of threats have on the education of our children? A number of different studies suggest that they cause an emotional distancing on the part of the parents. Undoubtedly, a factor that’ll hinder education in later stages of their development and growth.

  • Threats affect your child’s self-esteem. They may have an effect at first, but they eventually undermine their self-esteem. Consequently, they won’t feel valued. This can result in later aggressive behavior toward you, their parent.
  • They cause stress. The stress that a threat can cause will affect a child’s character as well as their personality.
  • They don’t foster responsibility. In fact, the only thing a child will learn with reprimands is to avoid punishment and to stay away from the enemy who imposes it. In other words, threats don’t teach a child to be responsible.
  • They normalize aggressiveness. A threat involves violence and aggressiveness. If they’re used frequently, the child will normalize a series of behaviors that’ll make it difficult for them to properly relate to the people around them.
  • They produce a lack of authority. Make no mistake, fear isn’t the same as authority. You might believe that threats will give you authority over your child, but nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that fear leads to is distancing yourself from your children.

A threat that’s never fulfilled

Another drawback of educating with threats is that the announced punishment is rarely carried out. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for children to realize this fact.

“As the child realizes that whoever threatens him does not comply with his intimidation, he will no longer believe in that method of discipline.”

-Maricela Fonseca Analco-

According to Fonseca, threats may work the first few times but it won’t be long until the tables are turned.  As soon as the child realizes that the threats are never actually carried out, they cease to believe in them and they become ineffective.

Sometimes, in this type of situation, the child believes that they should fight even more to protect what’s under threat.

Child looking in the mirror with narcissistic tendencies

Positive discipline

“The first step is for adults to agree to cancel this form of parenting and learn new strategies,” suggests Fonseca. As a matter of fact, many other experts recommend resorting to positive discipline to induce children to complete a certain task.

  • Long-term goals. You want your children to brush their teeth every day, whether you’re around or not to punish them if they don’t. For this reason, you should set long-term goals from the beginning.
  • Warmth. It’s completely possible to give orders and direct their behavior in a firm way without giving up being warm and friendly. In addition, games and drawings can be great allies in explaining complex concepts to them.
  • Empathize with your children. If you want to foster empathy in them, it’s best to start by practicing it yourself. After all, they’re growing up and have neither the maturity nor the vision of an adult. Understanding what they think and feel will help you understand them better and make communication between you more fluid.
  • Troubleshooting. The relationship between a parent and child is based on solving problems, not generating them. That’s why you must provide your little one with solutions to their problems, no matter how small they may be. You must never create conflicts, scold, or hit them.

Many experts in early childhood education suggest talking to children about consequences, not threats. ” If you don’t brush your teeth, your mouth will smell bad”  “I f you don’t do your homework, you won’t have time to play with your friends.” This raises the real consequences of doing or not doing a certain task instead of threatening them with damaging something they want. Over time, your child will get to know the consequences of their actions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.