“I’m not joking around.” This is a phrase uttered by many a parent. It usually means that the children have been wearing away at the parental sanity all day, and the parent doesn’t have many resources left. Far too often it’s an empty promise and ultimately serves to undermine parental discipline. It may work a couple times, but once the “I’m not joking around” gives way to no action, the child can now call the parent’s bluff. I’m a proponent of starting young. You count to three, then either spank, or take away the object that is most important. They may cry, but if they learn when they’re young you’ll follow through with your threat on small threats, you can make them appropriate when they’re older. The key at all ages is to make sure that the threat is 1. actionable, 2. legal, and 3. you’re willing to carry it out. That way counting to two can often have the effect you desire, but getting to three will immediately enact the threat. Threatening to take away Christmas, or to drive all the way back to Hoboken when you’re almost to Disney Land won’t cut it, unless you’re a meaner dad than I. It’s also key that both parents stand united on this one. To give them the object is to pit the parents against each other, leading to bigger problems. Stand united, stand strong, and don’t make me count to three.