When we teach parents to avoid responding to their children in anger we get a common reaction: “But my kids won’t obey unless I get angry.”
And you’re probably right, but only because you’ve taught your children to wait until you’re angry before they have to obey. You give your kids cues to know when you mean business. Those cues tell your child that it’s time to respond because your action point is coming next.
There is a definite connection between action point and anger. Many parents use the energy from anger to finally take action. When parents learn to tighten up their action point, then they don’t have to use anger as the motivator. In fact, anger can often be a flag that your action point isn’t tight enough.
If you find that you’re relying on anger to motivate your children, then it’s time to make a change. First, though, you need to develop a new plan. What signals do you want to use to indicate that it’s time to clean up, or it’s time to go? Maybe you’ll use the child’s name, obtain eye contact, and use the word “now” in the instruction.
When you’re ready to make the change, talk with your children. Explain that you have been wrong in teaching them to wait until you get angry before they start obeying. From now on you are going to tell them once, then comes the action. If your child doesn’t respond to the new cues then move right to your follow through.
You may use a warning at first as your children are learning to respond to new cues. This helps them see that you mean business, but don’t add several warnings or you defeat the purpose. Develop a routine with your kids so that they know when discussion or delays are over and obedience is required.
We don’t encourage parents to always demand obedience. Children also learn from negotiation, compromise, and cooperation, but there is a time for children to respond whether they like it or not. Your kids need to know when that is and clarifying your action point will help them learn it.
This parenting tip comes from Chapter 1 in the book Home Improvement, the Parenting Book You Can Read to Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.