While waiting at the gate for a flight, I overhead a parent say to her daughter, “If you aren’t nicer to your sister, we’re just going to go back home right now.” I had to stifle a laugh, because the daughter (who was around 11) and I both knew there was no way THAT was going to happen.
First of all, I encourage you to avoid threatening whenever you can. It’s a form of coercion, and there may come a day when you find you can’t enforce it. Suppose, for example, you carry out your threat to pile on extra chores, and your teen refuses to do them. Now what? You can’t carry him to the time out chair! You might find yourself adding more threats to the original one and creating a new batch of issues.
But if you must threaten, stick to what’s realistic and easily enforced. For example, “You be nice to your sister, or you’ll be sorry!” isn’t a realistic threat. However, “Stop picking on your sister, or I’ll take away your phone!” might be easier to carry out.
Better yet, try phrasing it in a positive way: “When you stop teasing your sister, I can take you both shopping.” Offer a reward instead of a punishment. This also avoids giving a direct order, so there’s no opportunity to be defiant.
Even better, get your point across by using humor: “Tell you what – you stop picking on your sister, and I won’t show up in your classroom in my swimsuit.” If nothing else, this approach will distract her from the situation, and she and her sister might join together to beg you not to think of such a thing!
Like bomb-sniffing dogs, kids are quick to sniff out empty threats. Be sure that you can back up what you say!