The Queen of Empty Threats

There are things we excel at in our house (dancing about the kitchen, devouring jam toast, farting) and there are things that we are altogether less good at (most things aside from the aforementioned things).

Basically stuff done voluntarily must meet the criteria of being funny, fun or delicious which causes no end of problems with the practicalities of getting to school/nursery/work on time because getting dressed falls into none of those categories.

Of course we could make it easier on ourselves by orchestrating the whole process but we are trying desperately hard to instil some form of responsibility in the eldest one at the minute.

So the new house rules are: –

  1. Before you come downstairs for breakfast you must have put your clothes on by yourself. Claiming that you can’t do it is wholly contradictory to, er, YESTERDAY when you did actually do it by yourself, albeit over a 45 minute interval of pure unadulterated hell.
  2. You have to apply your own shoes to your own feet before you leave the house. Poking one toe in one shoe and then proclaiming that you can’t do it, DOES NOT COUNT as a good effort.
  3. Going to the toilet before you piss yourself will also be looked upon positively.

After a week of hard lining, improvement has been minimal. Probably because the chosen method of aiding co-operation involves making ridiculous threats and never following though. Sorry Jo Frost, my bad.

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When I got to thinking about it I realised that nearly everything that comes out of my mouth is absolute rubbish! In fact by the end of the day I often feel like I have exhausted a full arsenal of empty threats including:-

Threat‘If you don’t put your shoes on now then you can stay here on your own!’
Problem – Destruction of the house/destruction of himself. Also, um, illegal.

Threat‘No more TV/i-Pad!’
Problem – I might as well shoot myself in the face, TV/i-Pad time is the only time I actually have to get sh*t done.

Threat‘If you don’t put your toys away I will throw them in the bin!’
Problem – Tempting. But in reality I am too weak/scared of my own kids.

Threat ‘If you don’t stop that then we are going to leave Crazy Monkey Funplex right now!’
Problem – I’ve just paid a £10 entry fee and ordered a latte.

Threat‘I’m going to phone Daniel’s mum and tell her they can’t come round later!’
Problem – Daniel’s mum talks about things other than Batman. I want that.

Threat‘You won’t be going to Sainsbury’s if you keep that up!’
Problem – A very poorly thought out consequence.

Threat‘If you don’t come now then you can get home on your own.’
Problem – Cars and baddies. Probable death. A prison sentence for child abandonment,

Threat‘Ok well we won’t be going on holiday now’
Problem – I am not prepared to loose hundreds of pounds because a toothbrush was lobbed out of the bathroom window.

Threat‘Stop messing around or you will be walking instead of scooting!’
Problem –  The Journey takes 5 x as long and is peppered with crying and abuse.

Threat‘Right I’m going to throw your dinner in the bin!’
Problem – I just spent an hour making it. Instead I’m just going to stare at it lamenting it’s demise.

Threat‘Would you like me to tell Mrs. Jeffries that when we go to school tomorrow?’
Problem – We would both look pretty pathetic.

Threat‘Do you want me to give your teddy (AKA favourite comforter) away?’
Problem – Way too mean. Also makes me feel like a total bitch.

Threat‘I’m going to count to three and then I’m going to…’
Problem – Do nothing. I’m going to do absolutely nothing.

So I am still on the lookout for threats than are legal, non life-threatening, of no consequence to myself and are a bit mean but not TOO mean. Answers on a postcard please!

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65 thoughts on “The Queen of Empty Threats

  1. Robert

    An empty threat but it got my 3 year old doing behaving… “If you don’t XYZ then I’m going to tell the fat controller!” (thank you Thomas, but how exactly was I planning on following through with this?).

    Reply
    1. Cecile

      That really made me laugh. I actually did forget to do my daughter’s seatbelt on this morning and I couldn’t understand why the hysterical tears. Clearly the police were going to come. Oh my goodness the fear I’ve instilled!

      Reply
    2. harvey

      Find an object/toy they don’t like (my son has a chicken that he’s terrified of). Whenever he won’t do what he’s told we tell him the chicken is coming and he snaps back in line.

      Reply
  2. Joj

    Inspired! Exactly what I am trying (and failing) to do at the moment too!
    Afraid I can’t help too much on the threats. I have occasionally carried through on the no TV/ipad threats but only after I have steeled myself for the wailing and gnashing of teeth!
    No more chocolate also seems to have some impact, probably because they are completely dependent on it after the Christmas gluttony!

    Reply
    1. Cecile

      Ha ha! That Santa Claus is so fickle – I dined out on him starting early November – if they shops can put out the decorations then why not! :-)

      Reply
  3. Fiona

    No pudding- I am more than happy to follow through on that one. Getting sent to bed early- done that too- means I can then have a gin earlier than planned. And of course, Santa is ALWAYS watching them through the burglar alarm motion sensors which is actually a Santa cam. x

    Reply
  4. Evie Jones

    2 1/2 hours this morning trying to get them dressed! Empty threats up the wazoo. We ended up in the car in various states of dress all of which included pyjamas and underwear, but no items of school uniform unless you include shoes and coats. We did manage to get uniforms on before we arrived at the school door….but we have been known to find ourselves in the headmistresses office before now with a not very shamefaced child and me with my hair on end! I feel your pain…you are not alone! Thank goodness it will soon be gin o’clock!

    Reply
  5. Countjocular

    Threatening to walk to nursery/preschool/school without them has the desired effect of geeing them up. Utterly pointless to follow up on, but they’ve worked that out yet!

    Reply
  6. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?

    I’ve been full of empty threats, until the other day when I took the phone AND car keys. Needless to say, by the time I woke up the next morning, everything I had been asking for – FOR A MONTH – was miraculously completed!

    Reply
  7. Complicated Gorgeousness

    Ace. I am exactly the same and as a result my 8 and 7 year old just ignore me. It is all background noise to them. I do use the “wait til your father gets home” line to my shame haha. My mate’s dad used to threaten to cut her hair off – we still chuckle at that now. He was proper at the end of his tether. xx

    Reply
  8. Jo

    You do make me laugh! So my kids may be a little older, youngest has just turned 7, and I use threats (mainly iPad, Xbox, tv related)which do really really impact on me, and I wonder wholeheartedly why I am so stubborn and insist on putting myself through the ‘no iPad for a day’ trauma, over bags not being carried to the car on time, (when really it’s not that bad). We have cracked the getting dressed and eating breakfast quickly by bribes! Once again usually 10 mins on the iPad before school…the power of the iPad! So think of a reward, if they manage to get ready in time, they get a treat(football stickers, minion stickers 50p a pack a day) or they save it up and get something at the end of the week! After a while they just do it, but then you have to stop them from getting ready for school at night and sleeping in their uniform!

    Reply
  9. Grumpy Dad

    I’m laughing because it’s all true. What parenting school did we all go to that taught us this crap? Whichever it was, we all failed the course. Counting to 3 still works a charm on the 3 year old, but school has wised up the 5 year old, (despite talk of Mr. Poo Poo, Mr. Bum Bum, etc.) I got mad at him this week for saying “cock” in the car, whilst I stifled a helpless giggle. When he pleaded innocence”what did I say?!”, I refused to repeat it. The following morning, still put out, he looked up sheepishly and asked “what did I say?” again, followed by “was it fuck?”. Another cup of tea ruined, all over the curtains.

    Reply
    1. Libby Price

      I had to double take in the car the other day as I thought the 4 year old had said ‘f*ck off’ – I even got her to repeat it again to clarify and still misheard. When I stopped the car to look round and explain this was not acceptable, she was trying to get her ‘sock off’ whilst sobbing. #phew

      Reply
      1. Grumpy Dad

        Aged 2, my now-5-year-old was playing with blocks at Grandma’s (my mum’s). Blocks fell down, “Oh fucking!” He squealed, slamming the table with both hands. “Where did he learn language like that?!” said my indignant mother… “where do you fucking think?” I bravely didn’t say.

        Reply
        1. Rosy

          My son once said “fucking gordon” while playing with his trains. I’m sure the fat controller has never said this..

          Reply
  10. Libby Price

    I now have a hysterical 3 year old having carried through on a threat in public at a party this afternoon, “If you don’t put your shoes and coat on, you can’t have a party bag” – and she still refused. So I didn’t let her have a party bag as we left. I think the birthday girl’s Mum thinks I’m a complete cow, the 3 year old is still whinging and I feel really bad.
    Back to the empty threats again tomorrow, way less guilt.

    Reply
    1. Els Couenberg

      I still make empty threaths but I get better at making the right threaths. And I have some tips.

      You walk away, but hide around the corner. If they don’t come, try to peek without them seeing you – but in my case the kids were crying and were very glad mummy came back, although with the eldest it took some time. Even now, when Dad says he will go they ignore him, but when I say I am going NOW they come. Bast try this out when you have time to spare, not on the way to school, because you have to keep this up.

      Take your losses once in a while with the 10 pound entry fee and the latte. I left during dinner (note: BEFORE pudding) when the kids were misbehaving in the restaurant. After three times the message (If you are misbehaving, we leave NOW and that means no dessert) got home. It still happened, but very rarely. In first instance, you think you are punishing yourself. But I thought: if I stay any longer, my evening will be really spoiled. No dessert is the lesser evil in this case.

      Once in a while, take the darned soft toy and actually put it in the bin (only recommended in really severe cases, as a) it wrings your heart and b) of course you take the toy out again, but it won’t be clean and YOU will have to clean it. I have done it twice; I cannot remember why, but it had probably something to do with first making a horrible mess and not willing to clean a tiny bit of it. I then told them that they had ONE chance of tidying up before that garbage collector came. They didn’t give up without a struggle, but I won in the end. The room was tidy and the toy came out of the garbage bin – straight into the washing machine. Yuk!

      No combing for days and terrible tangles in their hair: scissors! Most times suddenly it ‘hurt not so much, please carry on coombing’, in two cases I really cut the hair off.
      This only after I really had enough of it, to be honest. But it sure helps.

      One essential thing: at the time the threat is made, you have to MEAN it. Even though you actually know you probably won’t be able to keep it up, harden yourself and MEAN it for the time you are doing the struggle. However: if you make threaths that anyone can see you will not carry out (like the one about not going on holidays), forget it.

      So: Think your threaths through BEFORE you actually need them. That helped me a lot: it is much better when you do not have to improvise. While drinking your gin, once in a while rethink which threats worked and which ones not and why. And if you can think out varieties on them for different circumstances.

      It won’t work all the time though. I still make empty threaths that are completely ignored. But I got much better in it with better results.

      Reply
  11. Grumpy Dad

    Just found myself saying “you won’t be able to eat that Pez if the dispenser has willy germs on it”. You get the picture.

    Reply
  12. Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely

    A coin out of his money box is the only threat my eldest needs. He’s obsessed with coins. The littlest? Well, absolutely nothing works on him. I’ve threatened to go somewhere without him if he doesn’t keep his clothes on but he just waves at me and walks the other way. I need to figure out what his obsession is. I think it might be cats so not very helpful.

    Reply
  13. Jess Paterson

    I’ve cancelled the next three or four birthdays and Christmas, to no avail. They have totally got us over a barrel. I’ve resorted to threatening time out, which basically means they get to sit on their own in their room, playing with all the toys, undisturbed by their brothers. Which is their basic idea of heaven. Gahhh. Great post chook. xx

    Reply
  14. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    I found myself saying, ‘If you don’t stop kicking that, I’m going to remove your foot’ the other day. Even at 2 1/2 I think she felt pretty confident I wasn’t going to follow through. Fortunately saying I’m going to count to three seems to work, even with no further threat. For now. I’m not sure what I do when it stops…

    Reply
  15. Clumsy cupcake

    Great threat to use in public when they got a bit older, was that I would sing loudly or dance wildly which would cause exceptional embarrassment- did have to resort to singing loudly twice in public but after that the threat worked a treat for years.

    Reply
  16. Mary

    We were once camping next to family with three kids who didn’t realise that we could hear all their empty threats (lots of counting to five). Oh how we (with a 1 year-old) snorted into our sleeping bags. Not so much giggling now.

    Reply
  17. Louise

    Lol, love it. I have come out with most of these at some point or another and wondered exactly what I thought I was going to achieve with making such empty threats. Brilliant post :-)

    Reply
  18. Beata

    I love your post,very funny! My husbands often threatens our boys with an Xbox ban for a month or two, but it never happens, so it just washes over their heads – they don’t care and completely ignore him. I am a bit mean, so recently took away my 10-year old’s tablet and told him he would get it back after a week of being nice to his brother. For a week, he was a changed child! Yesterday, he got his tablet back, he thought he was safe and went back to his old ways, including hitting his brother for no reason. So I took the tablet away for another week… Hopefully he will get used to being civilised; I’m not sure how many weeks of ‘tablet deprivation’ it will take, but I can wait LOL! BTW, I did throw my eldest’s dinner in the bin when he was 3 and had a massive tantrum at the table – he didn’t do that again. Being a ‘mean mum’ can be hard and upsetting, but I think long-term you end up winning your kids’ respect – at least this is my take on this. :)

    Reply
  19. Carie

    I’m still only having to get to 2 – I’ve got nothing for 3 so I’m hoping that lasts for a while but I’ve also got the advantage of not really having to be many places precisely on time (no school til next year) so I can generally let things have a natural consequence – you try to go to nursery like that you’ll be back in the house desperate for more clothes before we’ve reached the end of the drive!!

    Reply
  20. Deb

    Am I the only one who thinks how sad this is? It’s no wonder kids don’t do as they’re asked if you use empty threats all the time. They have no clue what their boundaries are and therefore how will they know when you actually mean what you say?
    I have 4 kids and it is extremely hard work but I only ever threaten something that I am willing to carry out – this tells my kids I mean what I say and so they are not confused and generally they will do as they are told.
    People often make threats that are massive hoping to shock kids into doing what they’ve said however although it might appear to have a big impact the bigger it is ie ‘if you don’t do that you’re not going to Disneyland’ or even ‘if you keep doing that Father Christmas won’t come’ but in reality kids learn quickly that that would never happen. I mean, seriously, who would ever not let Santa come on Christmas morning? And if the kids know your treats are empty, they will soon learn to ignore you thus creating children who don’t listen and parents who are exhausted and stressed.
    I know it’s flipping hard parenting little ones (mine are 2,4,6&7) and that 7pm bed time can’t come soon enough some days – but please make sure you can carry out your threats. Sometimes I struggle to think of something but I am so determined to make sure I follow through, I end up saying things like ‘if you don’t do this you’ll be in BIG trouble’ this then gives me a few extra seconds to think up some punishment that I can follow through if I need to!!
    My kids are by no means perfect and so I do have to carry out my threats sometimes, but they ALWAYS get carried out and my kids know that.
    Some threats I use are:
    ‘no favourite toy for a certain length of time’ (depending on age and severity of crime!!)
    ‘No TV/wii/iPad etc for a certain length of time’ just don’t say ‘no TV for a week’ or ‘no iPad ever again’ coz that is really kicking yourself in the foot!!
    ‘Sit on the naughty step/corner/whatever toyless space is available’
    ‘No snack’
    ‘No pudding’
    ‘Ill take money out of your money box if you do that again’ (good one for the older ones)
    Come on guys, let’s not use any more empty threats but be a generation of parents who actually mean what we say – WE CAN DO THIS!

    Reply
    1. Grumpy Dad

      I think you’re misunderstanding the message Deb. We know the right way, we’re all parents, trying our hardest. This isn’t a “how-to” manual for perfect parenting, it’s a spotlight on the ridiculous. I don’t teach my kids to swear, fight and be rude, but they occasionally are. That’s sometimes funny, because if it weren’t I’d be very sad and permanently angry. I’m pleased that you’ve got it 100% correct, but then maybe this isn’t a place you’ll ever feel at home. We’re just celebrating being normal, rather than criticising for the mistakes… like a perfect parent would.

      Reply
    2. Jackie

      I am 62 and had children living at home for 42 years… Even though they are now grown and turned out ok (a miracle remembering the teenage years) STILL when one levels out, the other goes off the rails. I spent 40 YEARS trying to be the perfect Mom, the politically correct Mom, the guide book regulation right Mom and they walked all over me for OVER 40 YEARS! Sometimes, the spoiled little buggers need to understand that GOD did NOT make the world cus he saw them coming. If I could do it again, I would command that I include MYSELF in the mix of those who get respect, consideration and the right to have their needs respected and considered in the mix as well. Put your foot down before you wake up and (at 60) and think…”When will it be MY turn?”

      Reply
  21. Jess @ Along Came Cherry

    Haha! Threats or bribes are the only way I can get Cherry to do anything!! I do make sure never to use threats I won’t follow through with though as I know someone who does it and her kids don’t listen to a word she says because of it! Although to be honest mine to listen to a word I say either so I definitely don’t have it sussed!! x

    Reply
  22. Kelly Davies

    My best threat today was fully carried out….”if you aren’t dressed in time to leave for rugby; i’m going back to bed!!!!”
    He wasn’t dressed-i went back to bed.źzzzzzzzz

    Reply
  23. Katie @mummydaddyme

    You have hit the nail on the head again Katie. Honestly your posts make me laugh so much but it’s also like you are inside my head. This one ‘Threat – ‘If you don’t stop that then we are going to leave Crazy Monkey Funplex right now!’
    Problem – I’ve just paid a £10 entry fee and ordered a latte’ especially made me laugh, because I always say that and never ever follow it through. ;)

    Reply
  24. Becky | Spirited Puddle Jumper

    Hahahaha, this is SO funny (and true!). I’m queen of saying “right, well you can stay here on your own” and threatening to leave somewhere I’ve just paid vast sums of money to get in to (i.e. is just not going to happen). I also count to 5 to chivvy them along when they’re not listening or going soooooooo slowly- I’m not sure what happens if I ever do get to 5 though, we haven’t got that far yet thank God! Adam also annoys me as his favourite phrase at the moment is “last chance” and I’m like “but last chance FOR WHAT?!”- drives me mad but I can see why he says it, total empty threat! x

    Reply
  25. Zoe

    Lord knows. I’ve given up on threats because mine were so pathetic and have resorted to bribery instead. I recommend it. Always have a pocket full of chocolate and you’re laughing.

    Reply
  26. Jenny

    Absolutely brilliant Katie, I think I have said almost every single one of these and the problem there in lies another problem of an empty threat. Love this. Thanks for always making me laugh at the tough side of parenting. :)

    Reply
  27. Jude

    Genius as always my dear. I will be stealing a few of those threats myself – you know how to hit them where it hurts. ‘You won’t be going to Sainsbury’s if you keep that up!’ Inspired.

    Reply
  28. TalesofaTwinMum

    Haha another genius post. I’m starting to try to follow through with my threats now. Ish. “If you do that again I’ll throw xxx toy in the bin” is my latest one. It basically involves hiding said toy in high up places where the kids can’t reach rather than actually throwing them away. Thing is, they aren’t that bothered about any of their toys. It now means I have toy cars, dinosaurs and snakes hidden in every top cupboard that I’ve (and they’ve) forgotten about so it still doesn’t work. I like counting to three though – they never risk waiting to find out what happens when I do get there. Which is good as I have no idea what would happen when I get to three either. xx

    Reply
  29. Sarah @tamingtwins

    All painfully true here too. As soon as the words “you will never ever *insert ridiculous thing* again” come out of my mouth, I am cursing myself. SOB. Those pesky kids have taken all of my negotiation skills.

    Reply
    1. Mary

      I once got up to 3….. Thankfully the ‘right!!’ that came after 3 got the desired behaviour or I don’t know what I would have done

      Reply
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  32. Mardy

    So true, all so true! I love your blog! The only threat that worked for me was counting to 5, not 3, with a big, scary voice escalation as I went through the numbers. Never got to five without them caving! (But my son always missed out 5 when he counted, just in case – bad, bad mummy).

    Reply
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  34. Franglaise Mummy

    Hubs is always really strict on not coming out with empty threats, and always makes us go through with them. Then yesterday he threatened to throw ALL of the 8 year old’s toys into the bin if she wasn’t ready in time to go out. I was scared. I was the one who would suffer if all her toys disappeared. But for once in her life it got her moving….maybe he had something there?? Or not….

    Reply
  35. siobhan

    i elongate every number as it goes on with my 4yr old twins… “if i get to three your going on the step…………one!………………………. i mean it boys!!! ttttttwwwwwwooooooo………………..last warning im not joking you will be going on that step….. twoooooooooo (i then repeat two just in case they were lost as to what number we had alrready reached…. theres got to be clarity haha ) …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…. oh youve calmed down, ok go away before i change my mind”

    Reply
  36. Riz Rimmer

    I laughed so hard I cried. Oh yeah.

    I can also highly recommend the ‘if you don’t stop having a tantrum in the supermarket, i’ll have a tantrum in the supermarket’ option.

    i actually followed through and lay on the floor of the aisle and kicked and yelled (quietly). now all i have to do is look as though i might possibly be thinking about doing that again and my kids are supermarket angels.

    so i have no adult friends willing to acknowledge that they know me in the supermarket any more. so what?

    Reply
  37. Gem

    I’m a total bitch. I rarely deliver empty threats (well the one this week about not going away for the weekend was semi-empty to go fair) but I do find consequences that I will stick to. Eldest (7) currently has no iPad until she stops trying out the F word at me and generally stops being rude (that’s one less to remember to charge every night!) she knows I’d take her to school wearing pjs because we’ve got within 5 mins of it happening and she decided she wouldn’t try me on that occasion. I wish I could parent without consequences. I get fed up with it but they don’t seem to respond unless I tell them there will be no jam biccies in the morning if they don’t go to sleep (youngest only went one day without them to change his ways the next night).

    Reply
  38. Pat Jones

    It seems there are two kinds of parenting post in this world: blogs that make me feel better about my parenting, and blogs that make me feel worse. This is definitely one of the former. I wonder sometimes who has the bigger meltdowns – me or him.

    Climbing out of his buggy, dirty protests in his travel cot, volcanic tantrums in the shop: all pretty threat-proof. Stick-and-move is my current strategy: keep varying the threats so he can’t keep adapting. Treating him like a virus, in fact.

    Reply
  39. Heather

    My favourite threat that works is “WELL I guess I won’t do the next thing you ask me to do…” You see their little eyes dart back and forth as they imagine the hunger and thirst that is about to befall them, and they crumble.

    Reply
  40. Jackie

    OMG! I have been having a helluva week and your posts have saved my sanity! SERIOUSLY! Write a book. You will be a millionaire!!!! I want the first copy too. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA SO nice to know someone else is as fucked-up-edly disfunctional as me. ( I hate to tell you this but mine are totally grown…and things are STILL as screwed up!) I think we have to DIE to escape, and that seems a bit extreme.
    Hang in there… we can’t live much past 80 or 90 right?

    Reply

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