David Earl Johnson, LICSW

6 minute read

Here is a great post for parents from Dr. Deborah Serani.

  1. Yelling: May be an effective way to vent frustration, but children of parents who yell often learn to tune it out. Results: The behavior does not change, and children learn to be hostile. Better: Stop. Ask what it would feel like to be yelled at. Most children respond better to calm, reasonable commands. Leave yelling for emergencies like “Look out for that car !”…“Don’t touch the barbecue!”
  1. Demanding Immediate Compliance. Children and adults usually do not respond well to immediate demands. Such commands do not take into account how the person hearing the request may feel…what they are doing at that moment. Results: Commands that are demanded immediately are often tuned out, or blatantly refused. Better: Make a respectful but firm request. “At the next commercial, please hang up your jacket.”…… “When I come back from the bedroom, it’ll be time for us to go to get into pajamas”.

  2. Nagging. Parents who nag are generally individuals who are not aware of how they communicate their demands. They also tend to be too lenient. “Did you clean your room yet ?”. This is not a command, this is a question. Results: children respond “no” to such a question. You then get more and more frustrated when the task is not complete. Better: Get you child’s full attention, and assert your request.

  3. Lecturing And Advice Giving. Lecturing is fruitless. People have limited attention spans for monologues that have little interaction. A child’s ability to sustain attention during a lecture is even less. Children experience the least learning from lecturing and advice giving. Results: You child learns to tune you out the minute you get on the soapbox. Example: Lecturing a child about homework that is late, and what happens, how the teacher may feel, how you feel does not change behavior. Better: Ask a question that will illicit consequential thinking… “ What do you think happens if you keep bringing your homework in unfinished ?”. …“ How does it feel to have to miss recess because you were fighting with a classmate?”. …. “ What do you think Daddy will say if he sees you’ve not taken care of your new toy?”.

  4. Taking Anger Out On Kids. Over-reaction and outbursts of rage are all too commonplace in our stressful society. When you take your anger out on your child, you may say something that will stay with him for a long time. Results: Your child feels hurt, you feel hurt, everyone’s self esteem suffers. Better: Offer your child a heartfelt apology if you’ve lost your control and over-reacted. Children learn that talking about angry feelings is okay, and that Moms and Dads make mistakes. Even Better: If you find that you are over-reacting a good deal of the time, you may not be tending to your own needs. Go to the gym, take walks, take quiet time, find a supportive network.

  5. Shaming And Belittling. Parents do not often realize that they may make remarks that leave their child feeling small, inadequate and less intelligent. “ Why are you acting like such a baby ?”… “ That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard .”… “ I’m so sick and tired of you behaving like this.” Results: Loss of self-esteem, feelings of trust are effected. Better: Monitor your language and see how often you say positive things vs. negative things. Make sure that you are dealing adequately with your own needs. Make sure that your expectations are realistic for the kind of behavior you are looking for in your child.

  6. Setting Up Traps. Parents who tend to be punitive and authoritative try to catch their children in a lie to prove a point. Example: “ You overhear a phone conversation that your child is having regarding smoking cigarettes. A trap -setter says, “ Do you or your friends smoke ?”. The child says, “ No.”. The parent insinuates, “Then what was that conversation?”. “Did you put your toys away?” “Then what is this mess here?!”. Result: You have a defensive child who learns to lie and conceal, and mistrust others. Better: Straight forward inquiry. “ I overheard you talking on the phone about something that concerns me. Let’s find some time to talk about .”…. “ I see you’ve not put your toys away, let’s clean up together”. Not everything children say or write is true. You need to explore all concerns in an up-front manner.

  7. Imposing Excessive Guilt. Parents who come from dysfunctional homes may make the mistake of implying that their children are responsible for circumstances in their life. Example, “ Why do you always upset your father?”… “I devote my life to you, and now you do this !”. “If you loved me, you would do this.” Results: A child comes to feel responsible for the problems in the house. Better: Learn other ways to express your feelings constructively, and without guilt . Parents who experience this may need to examine their co-dependent tendencies.

  8. Physical Punishment. The purpose of discipline – from the word disciple – is to teach. This is never accomplished with physical force according to research. Results: Children who are hit as a means of punishment learn hostility and resentment instead of respect. The behavior that was inappropriate is not prevented from re-occurring, and damage is done to the parent-child relationship. Physical punishment tends to run in families. If you routinely hit your children as a method of discipline, you may need to examine your own childhood. Better: Alternative skills are needed so that enhancement of parent-child bond can occur, and so discipline instills respect and learning.

  9. Coercion. This is the use of physical force to get your child to do what you want. Example: Pushing your child into the doctor’s office… or dragging a frightened child to school. With coercion, the parent is generally asserting a need to control, rather than responding to the child’s feelings. Results: Children often resist this kind of intervention. Self esteem suffers. Better: Help your child express his/her feelings. “ Is something scary about going to the doctor?”. “Is there something at school that bothers you?”. Recommended: Give your child a choice such circumstances. “ Do you want me to hold your hand when we go into the doctor’s office?”. “Do you want me to talk to your teacher at school?”. Choices give the child a sense of control over the situation, but leaves no question that he/she is going to the doctor, or to school. References ~ The Bottom Line Magazine ~ Windell, James. A Sourcebook for 50 Fail-safe Techniques for Parents. Collier Books, New York.

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