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I swore I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be the parent that shouts warnings at my children without thinking. I would very consciously think about the behavior that my child was exhibiting and come up with a logical, appropriate punishment to fit the crime. I would absolutely follow through and keep my word because that is the only way to show the crew who is running the ship. Because that’s what all the books say, right? And parenting by the book is completely realistic and easy peasy in every single day life.

And then, well, I actually got children. I mean, I got them from my uterus. So I suppose I didn’t get them. I had them. But regardless of how we became parents, we felt so blessed with their smiles and coos and even their dipes full of poos. We were mesmerized by the miracle of life that they stood for. We were convinced they were the cutest, smartest, most incredible humans to ever had and that ever could grace the planet. 
And then. Then those tiny little cherubs who were only capable of mere squawks and coos and giggles and so in need of you {okay, mine all screamed for hours on end for the first six months of life but they were still cute and most definitely needy…}. Those people… they start to become tiny dictators in your world.
Around age two. It happens. With each kid. Without fail. Tantrums. 
And suddenly, I find myself to be some form of Mommy Dearest, making empty threats on the reg. Or maybe not empty threats as much as outlandish attempts at correcting my children’s completely bizarre behaviors. And the threats are really only labeled by me as “empty” because when one punishment or threat doesn’t work, I start randomly spewing other things that come to mind, without any forethought of the reality of how this punishment will have to play out. 
Let me set the scene: A child stands at the cupboard and points to the bag of pretzels. You hand them the bag of pretzels. And then. Then. They scream and flail and throw the pretzels. How could you insult them with the pretzels when they wanted the pretzels? How could you not know what your child realllllly wants when they say they want the pretzels because of course they do not want the pretzels. Because the pretzels are offensive and you are the worst parent ever. 
Maybe you know the scene? You know, from a movie or an after school special from 1992. Of course not from your own house. But this is a moment where one of three random threats/punishments is often used:
1. I’m going to count to 10… (To a child who cannot count. Or speak Ummmm…)
2. You will eat the pretzels or you will have nothing! (This is a lie. The child will scream until you give them some sort of snack or a bottle of ketchup they want to carry around. Because some days, mama won’t back down… but then, somedays… wellllll… she will. Because motherhood.)
3. I am just going to walk away. (And when I come back 12 minutes later, the child will still be screaming and the pantry will be 100% empty and they will be mixing goldfish and flour together to make fish stew. Which, if I don’t clean up immediately will be all over the back of said child after an attempted snow angel in the fish stew.)
Usually, one of the three works. But when they don’t, I have the choice to a) reach deep into my bag of tricks and attempt to keep the just-turned two year old in some form of “calm down time” OR b) throw up the white flag. So a bottle of ketchup is carried about and the child is dipping flour-laden goldfish stew in it. 
And then, there’s this scene: You tell your child they need to get dressed for school. Said child refuses to get dressed for school and insists on continuing his Hugh Hefner lifestyle of wearing pajamas all the live long day. So instead, he runs around his room, naked, and screaming with his little tookus bouncing up and down as he slams himself onto his floor over and over. Which results in one of the three following parental threats:
1. Pajamas! I will take away all of your pajamas for a week and you will wear clothes to bed! (Anytime I say one word first, the fact is, it just came to mind. So, the first time I made the pajama punishment, that is exactly how it sounded.)
2. If you would not like to earn any screen time today, keep throwing a fit (which, if I’m being real, is really a greater punishment for me… I mean, that half hour before nap and half hour before daddy gets home are pretty much saved by a screen of some type. Please stop screaming. Please. For Mommy’s sake. And for the sake of the household. Please don’t make me follow through with this.)
3. I’m gonna put a timer on and if you’re not downstairs in five minutes, you won’t eat breakfast (this one is pretty much an empty threat, if I’m being honest… because I always forget to set the timer. And really, I’m not gonna don’t deny one of my kids breakfast when his teachers are going to have to put up with his hangryness the rest of the morning.)
Number one and number two do work. Although, number two is slowly losing street cred and seems to be much less effective in achieving the intended outcome. Number 1 though… current GOLD!!!
And then, there’s this: You give your children 10 and 5 minute warnings that the Mom-Wagon is leaving the station lickety-split. You ask your gaggle the following questions: Do you have your socks and shoes on? Are your bags on the hooks? Is there anything else you need for school? And then… the one minute warning. Suddenly, the shoes have gone missing?! The socks are crinkled and hurting the feetsies of one child. The other child needs you to sign his extra take-home piece and doesn’t remember where he put his backpack. The backpack that was by the back door just 7 minutes prior. The Littlest is grunting at you because he doesn’t have a backpack and wants to take his breakfast on the road. This {of course completely made-up scenario} results in the following phrases parting my lips:
1. If you stop screaming, I can help with your sock. {Um. Don’t tell a screaming child to stop screaming. I mean. Biggest. Rookie. Mistake. Ever. Instead, start screaming back and have a screaming contest. It’s completely immature and ineffective but at least you’re doing something fun.}
2. If you don’t find your backpack and I do, I’m taking it away. For good. {It’s alllllll well and good until mama accidentally adds on phrases like “for good”. I mean, really. For good? The kid needs some sort of pack of the back variety and taking his away is only gonna make him want a new one. And then you have to try to own that. Man alive.}
3. If you’re not in the car in two minutes, I’m leaving without you. {EMPTY. Totally bananas empty. THREAT. There’s no freakin’ way I’m leaving a kid behind. Clearly. The last thing I need is a kid Home Aloning it at my casa. That’s just more mess for me to clean up later. Additionally, I feel like that threat might actually be illegal given the current ages of my boys. So, perhaps, it actually can damage a child in some way. And seriously… these are the statements that assure me my children will someday need therapy. And it will be 100% because of Mommy Dearest… oy.}
So, I don’t know if you, too, sometimes suffer from emtythreatitis or not-so-thought-out punishments. I know that when I feel it coming on, I must, I have to, I absolutely need to check myself before I wreck myself. But sometimes, I’m too far gone. The mama is not thinking straight. And so I make these threats… blerg. And so then, I have to get them to “earn” things back. Because it’s really about rewarding kids now anyway, isn’t it? Isn’t that really what “the books” say {and can someone tell me? Because I don’t seem to have a lot of time to read parenting books these days… what, with the three children under 6…}
What’s your biggest empty threat or your most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said you’ll do in response to your kiddo’s bad news bears behaviors? Because let’s be real… even the mightiest fall… sometimes;).
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Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at

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