As a licensed mental health counselor at Legacy Counseling Service in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and as a previous elementary aged school counselor, I have seen many parents lose it when it comes to their kids. Why are we so quick to lose our cool when our kids make us angry? We can stay calm at work and with friends, but why is it so difficult to think rationally with our children? When we react with our emotions, instead of reasoning, we allow our child’s behavior to determine how we behave. When parents lead with anger, children will follow their parent’s elevated emotions and become conditioned to their parents getting upset. When parents chronically lose their cool with their kids there is a lot at stake. Parents may be on the verge of being physically abuse to their children, they may develop poor coping skills such as drinking too much alcohol or avoiding the family and friends which may lead to depression or anxiety. The children may also develop depression, anxiety, or bullying behavior as a result of not understanding their parent’s behaviors. Here are 3 reasons why you can’t let your emotions control how you parent.
Reason #1: Parenting with your emotions is exhausting!
Picture this, you tell your child to throw away their popsicle wrapper and he acts like he doesn’t hear you. You say it again, and again, getting louder and angrier. Then, your child listens. If your child is used to you yelling at him, he is probably going to get into the habit of only listening to you, when you yell. They might think “Mom isn’t serious yet, she hasn’t started yelling.” Instead, remind him once that trash goes in the trashcan, and if he can’t pick up his trash, he won’t be eating those popsicles anymore. Then stick to it. If you have to show your child how serious you are by getting upset and yelling, you are going to get exhausted. The predictable consequences will have a much better affect than yelling does. Figure out what the consequences or boundaries are that you can stick to and practice relying on those more than yelling.
Reason #2: Kids need predictable, reasonable parents
Start by setting reasonable expectations and stick to them. Your child needs to know what is expected of them and what will happen if they don’t do what is expected. One way is to make family rules together. My family has two rules that we take very seriously: Tell the truth and do not hurt each other. If someone breaks the rules, they will have a consequence. A friend of mine had a great idea when she felt stuck in disciplining her daughter. She created Consequence Sticks; when her daughter misbehaved, she would tell her daughter to go pick a popsicle stick out of a jar, and whatever that stick said, that would be her consequence. So instead of the mom trying to think of consequences while she is steaming mad, the sticks made the choice for them. The consequences would range from doing jumping jack, taking a break in her room, to sweeping the kitchen.
Reason #3: Children should obey because of your relationship, not out of fear.
I was at the store the other day and my middle child pushed my oldest. My middle child wouldn’t apologize like I asked her to, so my oldest child said, “Mom, you should say it mean like this” and gave the example, “Apologize now!” in a deep voice. I explained to both of them that I didn’t want to make her apologize; I wanted to her WANT to apologize. It might sound a little complicated, but don’t we all want our children to make good choices when we are not around, and for them to own up to their bad behavior without being threatened. My daughters and I continued the conversation and my middle child explained why she was mad. I empathized with her that I would have felt mad at that situation too, but because she broke a family rule, she won’t be able to play on the tablet. Children should want to obey their parents because they have a good relationship full of love and respect. If you feel like you are always disciplining, take time to build your relationship. Some great ideas are to go on a bike ride, eat breakfast together, color a picture, or play catch in the backyard. These simple things will make a big impact in your relationship.
Parenting can be very difficult and learning to manage your own emotions is just a part of it. If you worry that your child if suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, or adjusting to a life change feel, or if you believe that you or your child would benefit from learning more about changing behaviors and regulating emotions, please contact Abby Simpson, License Professional Counselor at www.legacycounselingservice.com. Learn how Abby can help you respond to your child in a way that you can feel proud about. Or, if you believe that your parenting struggles are part of a larger issue such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, life transition, or substance abuse, we have mental health professionals who provide counseling for those issues as well. Visit our website at www.legacycounselingervice.com to meet all of our providers.