Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.

Empty Threats-A Losing Policy

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Apr 27, 2013 7:56 PM

The parent in the supermarket screams at the little child, "If you don't stop running around, you're going to get it." Then, the child continues to run around, the parents screams and fusses, nothing really happens and the child learns to enjoy the power of annoying the parent. This pattern continues at home and at school. Maybe, finally, this children will have to face some consequences. Hopefully, it will be before the law gets involved. If there never are any consequences, this child will probably grew up to be obnoxious, at least.

Now, let's say that a dictator makes threats or takes action against his people or against other countries. The opposing powers threaten to beat down this dictator but can't do it. The other countries declare a red line but nothing happens when it's crossed. So, the dictator's threats and demands grow and grow. Either there's a stand-off eventually or the dictator remains as threatening and abusive as ever....

The lesson-empty threats are worse than doing or saying nothing. They destroy any chance of respect. Either, threaten to do something possible or ignore the tyrant properly, so that he doesn't feel as powerful as when he knows he has your full attention.

I saw a mother who's little child was disturbing the peace at the supermarket calmly declare, "Well I'm going to buy some delicious food for people who don't run around the store. See you later." Of course, the child suddenly behaved well.

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Comments: 1

  • claudzilla5 img 2013-05-01 08:33

    I have found, as a parent of small children, an unexpected benefit of being mindful of empty threats. Not only does it mean that when I lay down an ultimatum, my kids know I mean it, but it also means I choose my battles carefully. The rowdy play from the other room might be a little annoying because I had a long day and would love some quiet - but they're not fighting, they're enjoying each other's company. Why lay the smackdown on that? I keep my mouth shut and realize that if I listen, I can hear their imaginations at work as they whoop and holler and play.

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