Reasons Why Parents Shouldn't Use Scare Tactics

Parents arguing at teenage daughter
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One communication trap that parents get caught up in when discussing serious issues with their teens is the use of scare tactics. It is a trap because while a scare tactic seems like it should work – it certainly scares us into thinking it will – it often doesn’t work at all. Even worse, it can backfire.

Before you feel the need to use scare tactics in communicating with your teen, read the reasons below why you shouldn’t, then check out other alternatives:

Scare tactics simply do not work on teens. Developmentally, teens are still getting the gist of reality. The thought that ‘something could happen’ means to a teen that ‘something will happen to someone else, but not me’. It is always easier to get a message across to your teen when you dwell in the here and now with concrete information.

You lose the respect of your teen. There is a price to pay when you scare someone because being scared hurts. When someone hurts you, your withdrawal and lose respect for the person who hurt you. So, instead of ​opening up the lines of communication with your teen about a serious issue, by using scare tactics you’ve shut the door.

Using scare tactics undermines your credibility. This, to me, is the biggest reason to avoid using scare tactics for any issue that comes up with your teen. There is always a bigger issue around the corner, you’ll be needing your credibility in order to keep your teen talking with you, listening to you and caring about his/her family.

Guard it by using appropriate communication and discipline skills.

If you’ve used scare tactics before and you like to get back on the right track of open communication with your teen, try some of the tips in our article, Learn to Fall Back and Regroup. For more information on how you can communicate openly and use appropriate discipline with your teenager, see these resources:

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