What parent hasn’t lost their temper when a kid misbehaves? Of course a parent who hasn’t lost their cool from time to time is a rarer than a unicorn, but losing your temper and yelling can be ineffective parenting. It’s better for everyone if you keep your cool.
I could count the times I’ve lost my cool as a dad on the fingers of one hand—of course, that hand would need to have limitless fingers and I’d need a really long time to count those fingers. However, I can say one thing: I’m a much calmer dad these days. I still get mad from time to time (I’m human), but it’s no longer a daily occurrence or even weekly.
What’s my secret? Lots of conscious practice. I realized that yelling and punishing don’t work. Let me say that again: yelling and punishing are ineffective parenting methods. If they worked, we’d all be brilliant parents and kids would always be perfectly behaved after we yelled.
But they don’t work. I don’t need parenting studies to tell me that: I can see it in my own kids. Sure, I can yell at them, and perhaps they’ll cower in fear if they think I’ll raise a hand. What I’m teaching them is not good behavior, but to fear me. And worse, I’m teaching them to yell when they get angry, to resolve conflicts with violence, instead of talking things out and coming to a peaceful resolution.
I’m teaching them that what I want is more important than what they want, and I’m willing to do awful things to get what I want at any cost, even at the cost of our relationship. Those aren’t things I want to teach my kids. I want them to know that my relationship with them is more important than getting them to behave a certain way this one time.
And yes, I know that kids need boundaries—I believe in boundaries too. I set them and my kids know it’s not cool to go beyond them. And yes, I know that they need to be taught how to behave appropriately. I just no longer believe that yelling is the way to teach them appropriate behavior. Losing my temper and behaving badly is not the way to teach them how to act when they lose their temper and behave badly.
Because the example we set for them—how to act when things don’t go our way—is much, much more important than the rules we set for them. They learn lessons about behavior by our example, over time. Walk the walk. That’s why I committed to being mindful and peaceful as a parent, even if I violate that commitment from time to time. When I violate the commitment, I apologize and talk about why I was wrong. Because then my example is how to behave after you’ve behaved badly.
So CLICK HERE to read a few lessons on keeping your cool, when things go badly.