“I won't let you” – child psychotherapist Dr Becky reveals why these four words are “better” than empty threats

Nobody wins with empty threats

hot of a young girl looking upset while being punished by her mother at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’ve all used the classic ‘if you do that one more time’ when kids cross boundaries or break rules you’ve set.

The way you discipline your child (or not, depending on which of the parenting styles you choose) is personal to you and even more so now that experts are coming forward with solid evidence proving punishments don’t improve kids’ behaviour. Whether your kid stays glued to their iPad when it’s time to get ready for school or continues tormenting a sibling when you've asked them to stop, last warnings are a common technique for parents who have simply had enough of their child’s bad behaviour. 

If you’ve said “if you do that one more time” like, a thousand times, it’s probably lost its impact, right? That's because when parents resort to threatening misbehaving children, they inadvertently set themselves up for failure and reinforce the child’s belief that they can get away with pretty much anything - especially when the last warning is followed by a threat that you don’t follow through with. Sound familiar?

Thankfully, Dr Becky Kennedy has all of our backs. In her latest Instagram reel, the mum of three breaks down warnings, and uses this example when a child continues to throw the ball in the house and the parent responds with “if you throw the ball in the house one more time, you’re losing your iPad for the week”. 

Dr Becky's four magic words to replace empty threats

A post shared by Dr. Becky Kennedy | Parenting

A photo posted by drbeckyatgoodinside on

The clinical psychologist claims this sturdy – not soft – intervention is better for everyone: "Hey, you’re having a hard time having that ball and not throwing it inside the house. I am taking it, I'm putting it away, and a little bit we can go outside and throw the ball. I will not let you throw it in here again; I won’t let you. I’m saying I won’t let you, not because I want to be a dictator to my kid, but because I want to protect my kid from having another version of this bad behaviour feeling frustrated and then by the way giving them a punishment I don’t even wanna keep." Embodying your authority and setting a boundary is a much better alternative to empty threats, she adds.

It seems that a lot of parents are faced with this dilemma and found Dr Becky's advice so useful, with one user commenting: "I swear, the only “parenting coach” on Instagram that actually makes sense. I have tried the “gentle” method and I do not have “gentle” kids- it has only created more chaos and frustration in our house but THIS makes sense in a no nonsense way. THANK YOU!"

Another said: "Boy do I wish you were around when my kids were young. They are all grown adults and I feel like I follow you just to torture myself that I did so many things wrong. Sometimes I save your posts. For what? My kids are 27, 30 and 32!". Dr Becky to the rescue again.

For more parenting tips, this is how to deal with children who laugh in your face when you reprimand them and this find out the tools you need to teach your kids how to manage their anger.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.