PARENTS: How To Turn Empty Threats Into Discipline That Works

Your 3 year old wrote all over the TV with a permanent marker.  You freak out and say:  “That’s it!!!  No more TV for the rest of your life!”

Not only do you not follow through with this ridiculous threat but you don’t replace it with any form of effective discipline.  Your child has just learned that you don’t mean what you say.  Now who’s in the driver seat?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s not you.    

So what do you do?  How do you handle your anger and teach your child a lesson?

In the moment it’s okay to get angry as you’re only human, but just say, “I’m not happy with you.  I’m going to cool down and think about how to handle this.   I’ll get back to you 15 minutes before bedtime tonight.”

This serves 3 purposes:  

  1. It gives you time to cool down and think about how to punish them.   
  2. It gives them time to sweat and worry throughout the day.
  3. It shows them you’re in control.

My kids used to hate it when I did that.  They’d beg me to punish them right then and there but it was far too much fun making them sweat.  Then by the time I punished them it was pretty minor as making them sweat all day was really punishment enough.    

So you don’t need to know what to do in the moment, just delay the discipline.  They’ll probably be perfect angels for the rest of the day to boot … WIN!!!  

So how do you discipline for writing on the TV?  You could keep it simple and just ban TV for 2 days.  Or you could do what I’d do and get creative with it.  I’d say something like:

“You can choose either of the following punishments:  

  • No TV for 2 days
  • No TV for 1 day but you also have to be my assistant for the day and help me do laundry, clean the bathroom, etc.”

Believe it or not, that creative style of punishment is bonding as you’re spending the day together.  If my kids were my slaves, ooops I mean assistants, for the day I’d make sure to include some fun activities.    


What stupid things have you threatened?  I once told my son I was going to throw the Playstation in the garbage because he put his white socks in the darks laundry hamper.  I swear I saw him look over at the calendar where I used to keep track of my menstrual cycles.  Yes, it was right in line with my crazy time of the month.  

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach


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