No More Threats

Thank you for joining me in some collaborative parenting discussion.


Welcome to the Fabulous Hybrid Blog Carnival hosted by The Fabulous Mama Chronicles and Hybrid Rasta Mama. Enjoy the reflections on change in all of its many forms (more links at the end).


What comes to mind when I mention the word threat? Here’s the definition for reference, according to Merriam-Webster:

  • an expression of an intent to do harm
  • something that threatens
  • an indication of something impending

I will sum up those definitions with my own:

  • a tactic used to have power over, or control the actions of, another person

How often are threats used in the parent-child relationship? A question to consider deeply…

In my experience, threats are not conducive to creating a collaborative environment in our home or world. Yet, they are one of the top tactics that parents use to get kids to do what they want, to get control. If our hackles are raised, possibly it’s because we have some unresolved stuff about being controlled ourselves or question our ability to positively influence others without directly or indirectly controlling them.

This is exactly why I am bringing up the subject. I have seen myself resort to some sort of threat (attempt to control or have power in the situation) too many times. I’m not talking about just harsh threats, but any attempt to bait someone into doing what I want based on a future consequence (especially those that may be negative). I have been watching this tendency unravel itself for my entire life, although it is parenting that puts it in my face so I am actually doing something about it, allowing it to change.

Here are some steps I am taking to stop threatening and start collaborating; to create a home, family, and world where people don’t have to feel under or over – we can just work together. Some are in-the-moment while some are over-arching principles to guide my actions.

  • Notice when I feel a tense sensation in my body while I am interacting with my children, spouse, family member, or friend. The body provides signals and if I pay attention, I can work with them instead of stuffing or otherwise not honoring them. Tension generally precedes the desire or attempt to control.
  • Acknowledge that control and power over is not really what I want; it’s a tendency to grasp when I feel out of control, not heard, or otherwise may not see a solution to a perceived problem. This is huge! I choose whether or not I threaten anyone. If I take the time to stop myself and watch what is occurring in my mind and body I can choose to make another choice, to work together.
  • Declare what I do want. I may not want to threaten, manipulate, or control (however I may be able to rationalize such behavior) and I do want to work things out together, nurture a mutually respectful environment, and discuss whatever needs to be discussed. I do want to feel safe in my home, and for everyone else to also feel safe. I do want people to care for one another and to act quickly to help one another whenever reasonable. I do want communication that takes into account all perspectives. I do want to cultivate peace in our home.
  • Choose to listen. Sometimes (most times) just resting in a listening space inside myself allows me to realize that there is a solution present or through some either time and space apart or more conversation, a solution will present itself. A solution that feels collaborative to everyone.
  • Choose to stop, get space, and come back with an intent to work together when necessary. Much of our experience is about determination – and choice. We are really not dictated by the actions of others. The more I realize this the more I am able to choose how I work with the kids, how I see them, how I honor and respect them.
  • Learn and apply ways to encourage others that are not manipulative. I have never enjoyed being manipulated. I don’t want to do it to anyone else. It just feels slimy. Teaching myself other ways to relate to others is having a profound effect on my life. Just a drop the bucket of resources include: Eckhart Tolle, Alfie Kohn, Scott Noelle, Nonviolent Communication, Thomas Haller, Planting Seeds, and Chick Moorman. Here’s a link to more.
  • Embrace modeling as the most effective and positive way to nurture. Our kids follow us. While they are their own independent people, they live what they learn, what they see. As I take full responsibility for who I am and what example I set, I find much less of a desire to control and much more of an inclination to sit down, invite the children to participate, and work stuff out together – human to human.

How do you transform the tendency to control or influence others through the use of threats?


Visit Hybrid Rasta Mama and the Fabulous Mama Chronicles to find out how you can participate in the next Fabulous Hybrid Carnival!

Enjoy the submissions of other carnival participants…


Are you are struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something invaluable with you: hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this challenge.

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7 Responses to No More Threats

  1. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama April 30, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    You know I always love your writing. This post is another brilliant one. Threats in all forms are thrown about with ease nowadays. They have almost become part of casual conversation. You bring up some really good points in this post and I think everyone would be well served to review your ideas and take a hard look at how threats enter their relationships.

    I really like the step about declaring what you want to do. I know that this is one thing that I fail at doing consistently. Knowing what you want is very different than vocalizing what you want.

    It is also so important to remember that our children are listening and soaking our essence in. They probably feel the “threat” in a much deeper way that we even realize. Taking steps to change threats into positive, respectful interactions is critical to the health and development of our children.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about something all too commonplace and something not given a lot of thought to!

  2. Destany April 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    This is lovely! I’ve read it three times because I feel it’s so important. This is in direct line with a subject I have been exploring today, which is parental bullying. I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t recognize, and they don’t connect the way that their interactions with their children will spill out in their childrens interactions with others. Wresting power and control away from our children often causes them to seek control and power elsewhere and causes dysfunctional relationships and self-perception. I KNOW this is something I need to work on, and there are two more reasons why I love this post: it is applicable in other situations besides offering threats. With it being national spank-out day, it applies to that as well as any other form of parental bullying.The second reason, is that you’ve given some steps to help us stop and think before we act on our emotions, and ways to help us behave more in the way we’d like. Thank you very much for sharing this!

  3. Melissa Vose April 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    Amy, this post has given me much food for thought. I try hard to be as positive as I can with my kids, but sometimes I’m not. I think that the longer I parent, the more I see that I don’t in fact need to force my kids to do things, but rather that I simply need to support them while they develop. Perhaps much of the desire to control children is simply an inappropriate expectation of them. We expect babies to be more independant than is biologically appropriate. We expect toddlers to share before they have the developmental capacity. We expect little boys to control their impulsive behaviours before they are developmentally ready for it. Etc, etc. With my older two boys, I enforced rules because I thought that was how to have reasonably behaved children. With my younger two, I teach respectful interactions but don’t expect these to be internalized before it is developmentally appropriate. All they need is repetition, modeling, patience, and positive encouragement, and when they are developmetally ready, they will do the things I want them to (like be kind, respectful, and less impulsive/more thoughtful). The hilarious thing is, my older two were about as well behaved as my younger two are. So all that punishing, it was about as effective as all the non punishing I do now. =)

    I do still have ‘threats,’ though, and maybe those aren’t as necessary, too. Or at least not as often. Although I have one kid with special needs and he requires such clear boundaries because his impulse control is largely externalized, because of his special need. For him, I have tons of positive strategies, but have to bend my desire to have ONLY positive ones because of the way his special need works. He always challenges our most cherished parenting techniques and tools!! No matter what they are. Sigh. Including the desire to be solely positive. Not that his ‘threats’ are all that threatening. But they are of the loss of privlege variety, and they help him to cope in a world and culture that expects ‘normal.’

    Good post! Thank you =)

  4. Wolfmother May 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    The need to control people’s behavior through coercion, bribery, threats and other such tools is a plague, one that has seemed into parenting styles as well. I catch myself doing all those things at times, from my own programming, and I am ashamed because it is not how I want to be either. For me it is linked to my anxiety around things and my need to control the outcome and that means I unconsciously try to manipulate those around me (like my son). The guilt sets in because I NOTICE it now which allows me to change that behavior but it is HARD! When I catch myself falling back on those negative ways of relating to people, I try to immediately apologize and ask for do-overs. So far this has helped heal the rifts it causes.

  5. Momma Jorje May 6, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    I try never to threaten any consequence to my children. When I hear my husband threaten, it makes my hairs stand on end. I can’t stand it. That said… I warned my older daughter that if she didn’t buckle down and get her school work done in time, she’d have to work on it through the Summer. The threat apparently hit her hard because she keeps throwing it back into my face. :-\

  6. Angela November 26, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    I try my hardest to never use threats with my children, or anyone else for that matter. You provide some wonderful steps that I will certainly use, thank you! My extended family has a hard time understanding the lack of threats in our parenting natura, I think that I will have to share this article on my personal FB page in the hope that they will see it :)

  7. Naturallysta November 26, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Thanks for this post – I also love the declaration part – it’s always amazing what voicing and expressing can do for one’s self confidence. I have used threats in the past but like the others who commented before me, don’t want to and yet find myself caught up in the moment of trying to ‘fix’. Ugh! Keep the motivation going, we all need to keep hearing it :-) x

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