SAY WHAT YOU MEAN
When our kids were little I was forever getting told off by my husband for exaggerating my dire threats. I suppose telling your recalcitrant child that you're going to strangle them or lock them in their bedroom and feed them Vegemite crackers under the door for a week, is a little over the top in hindsight. At the time I felt I was justifiably provoked into coming up with these graphic descriptions of possible punishments.
Now I look back I can see that I was probably a little bit excessive - and my dire warnings of their imminent demise were fairly pointless in achieving the "stop and take notice" effect I was trying to achieve. Fortunately I had less morbid alternatives to fall back on and time-out was usually for several minutes rather than several days (although the thought of the peace and quiet of a week's time out was rather tempting at times!)
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
On the other hand, when the really important stuff was happening, my husband and I were very focused on being good role models for our children. There was no point expecting them not to smoke, or swear, or swig juice from the carton, or say mean things to others, if we didn't behave that way too. There were times when we would fall down in an area and maybe not be as great an example as we would have liked, but our intentions were always good.
If you don't walk your talk and practice what you preach then how can you expect your children to make good choices? Some will manage to find their own way, but it's so much easier if we set a standard and teach them to live up to it. It also helps to explain why you want that sort of behaviour and the reason why it is the right thing to do. Kids have to learn that they won't always come out on top, or be the best and that's okay - it's about developing strong core values that help them through the ups and downs of life.
Children have very highly developed radars when it comes to detecting their parents' frailties. They always see the moment when we are telling them to behave in a certain way and when we go in the opposite direction. They seem to gain great delight in catching us in our own moments of inglorious behaviour, so it's best to aim to keep those slip ups to a minimum (or at least hope you don't have an audience when they happen).
We don't have the right to expect our kids to behave in ways that we choose to ignore. If we want them to do the right thing, behave in a considerate manner, react in a non-aggressive way, and generally be decent human beings, then it's our responsibility to show them how to do that. If we need to lift our game to achieve those goals then so be it. Maybe parenthood can make us better people as we try to turn our children into good citizens of the world.
We all know the old adage that nobody's perfect and we are always going to fail at times to be the parents our children deserve. But if we have the right heart and the right motives, then the occasional over-the-top threat of Vegemite under the door will probably bounce right off them because they know that their mother is only human. They might even realize that they've pushed one button too many and it's time to back off a bit before she gets to the point of buttering the crackers in anticipation of their week away in time out!