Do You Make this Parenting Mistake? "Wait till Your Father Gets Home!"

by James Lehman, MSW
Do You Make this Parenting Mistake? Wait till Your Father Gets Home!

Sometimes when we feel powerless as parents, we resort to bringing out the big guns. Have you ever found yourself  saying things like, “Wait until your father gets home!” or “Wait until your mother hears about this!”? I'm here to tell you that if you threaten a child with what their other parent might do, you’re making two serious mistakes.

The first is that you are giving up all your power and transferring it to the other parent. When you say, “You just wait till mom or dad hears this,” what you’re really saying is, “I don’t have any power over you, but the person who does have power over both of us is coming home.” Another message you’re communicating is, “I’m powerless just like you,” or even “You’re more powerful than me.” These are very ineffective messages to give children because they are not statements that hold them accountable or define the parent/child relationship in healthy terms.

The second mistake that happens here is that the parent who says, “Wait until your father/mother hears this.” is setting the other parent up to be the bad guy, and that’s unfair. When mom comes home, her first job shouldn’t be all the unfinished business that dad has left. Believe me, that’s no way to start out your night when you’re dealing with children. If a parent needs to rely on their partner for something important, the way to say it is, “I think I have to talk to your father about this before I make any decisions. Please go do your homework or read in your room.” Be sure to emphasize “I.” And of course, that statement should be saved for things that are important, not minor behavior or back talking. A good example would be if your child steals from you or lies to his teacher. When faced with an important issue such as stealing, it doesn’t harm the situation at all for the parent to wait for their partner to come home. Remember, when dealing with any serious decisions where a response is necessary, waiting a little while or talking with another parent or adult never hurts and is always the preferred approach when dealing with emotionally charged situations. So instead of threatening your child with their other parent, present a unified front and emphasize the fact that you and your partner are making the decisions together.

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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."


Thanks for writing about this--I am the "bad guy" in our house and want to change things. I'm going to show this article to my husband. Sometimes we get into roles as parents, but it's helpful to remember that we do have a choice and can change things.

Comment By : Marissa

I did this exact thing last night. In fact I called my husband at work (he works 24 hour shifts) and told on the kids and had him speak to each of them- he wasn't happy about it! I can't believe I did that! Thanks for the incredible article.

Comment By : Paula

I understan the hard work and important descisions a parent has to make about raising thier teens. I have seen this in various cultures which creates major problems with schools. Many times the mother that attends meetings when there are discipline problems.


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Wait Until, Father, Bad Cop, Good Cop, Power Struggles, Accountability, effective parenting,

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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