Choices Should Not Be Threats

Choices Should Not Be Threats

If you have a strong-willed child, you probably have sensed how much they love control. In fact, the control needs of these kids are so strong that many are willing to perform all sorts of self-defeating or even self-destructive behaviors just to show that they’re the boss.

When we are confronted with someone who has a strong need for control, it seems natural to respond by trying to exert our control. Unfortunately, if we try to hoard control from our kids, we end up losing it.

You’ve probably met parents who constantly boss their kids around. Parents who do this often feel some small sense of control in the short-term yet quickly lose it all as their kids respond with passive-aggressive behaviors or become downright rebellious.

On the other hand, wiser parents give away all the control they don’t need so that they can maintain the control they do need. One way they do this is by giving lots and lots of small choices when everything is going well.

Sadly, some parents sabotage their use of choices by turning them into threats or delivering them with an angry or frustrated tone of voice. Here are some examples of threats with suggested choices as alternatives:


Threat:  “You’re either going to pick up your toys or lose them!”

Choice:  “The toys you pick up you get to keep, the toys I pick up I get to keep.”


Threat:  “If you don’t get home on time, you’re losing your car keys!”

Choice:  “Would you rather get home at 10 pm or 10:30pm?”


Threat:  “Stop arguing with each other or get out of the car!”

Choice:  “I charge $1 per minute to listen to arguing”


What turns a choice into a threat largely depends on how it is said and when it is said. When we deliver choices with empathy instead of anger, our choices are far more likely to remain choices—not threats. In our audio, Nobody Wins a Power Struggle: Avoiding the Battles that Ruin Relationships and Lead to Rebellion, you can learn more about how to share the control that you don’t need so that you can keep the control you do.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay


Nobody Wins a Power Struggle

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