They seem cruel now–but, back then they were attempts to gain control. Different from admonitions, these were warnings; do/don’t do this, or this will happen.
“Come on, I’m going. I’m not telling you again. OK, you can just stay here at Aunt Edna’s. Your Bubba bear is going to miss you.”
A few tears, later and the recalcitrant youngun’ came dragging along. He wasn’t about to abandon his favorite teddy bear.
Behind Rose’s Market was an outhouse and a storage building. The small town grocery store, was an after school meeting place. Old men from town, met in the back, by the oil-burning stove, for their daily gossip fest. Charlie Rose, the proprietor, gave a familiar warning.
“Get away from that shed–the boogeyman will get you.”
Grandparents gave an ultimatum or two. Some of them quite macabre.
“Don’t play on the telephone.” Or, Nelson Fenton, proprietor of the local independent telephone company, would come and, “Cut our ears off.”
Ultimatums came from everywhere, from aunts and uncles, teachers, townspeople. They were battles of wills; attempts to maintain order.
“If you don’t stop crying and behave, I’m going to take you to the doctor and get you a shot.”
That usually did the trick. No kid I knew liked getting shots. Working in health care later, I discovered this approach, hindered more than it helped.
“Hit your sister again, and I’ll swat your butt.” Direct and to the point–nothing else needed to be said.
Along the path to maturity, these ultimatums were no more cruel, than those elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Mother cats cuffed misbehaving offspring; carried them by the scruff of their necks when necessary. All creatures had to learn their places. There were consequences for misbehavior.