Yell, Spank or Drink?

The Wall Street Journal has an article in the Personal Journal section today under the Work & Family section that talks about the damage from yelling at your kids vs. spanking them.  

Parents today have been conditioned to avoid spanking and have turned to other means to maintain control and order, which might be more harmful than spanking.  The title of the article is “Damage Control: Talking to Your Child After You Yell.”
WSJ article on Yelling

This is a hot topic in my household as we leave the Golden Years of Parenting (Ages 4-12) and transition into the Resistance Movement (Ages 9-18+).  

I was listening in on different conversations with three groups of women last night who were all talking about the same topic, but with different age groups.  

There was one friend talking about parenting an adult child who still lives at home, yet does not see the significance and importance of doing the limited tasks that are asked of him and the conflict that ensues.

There was me talking about my challenges of parenting teenagers (and one who thinks he’s a teenager because he has older siblings) who seem to know it all and don’t want to do the limited tasks that are asked of them and the conflict and slow resolution process that ensues.

And then there were the grandparents talking about their under 4 year old grandchildren who were in their care, and the temper tantrums and discussions that they were dealing with as they tried to figure out the best strategies to help the little ones do what was expected of them.

This got me thinking, we’re all in this parenting gig for life and there’s no end in sight!  Just kidding… but seriously what can we do besides yell, hit or drink too much or give up?

We know we have to set expectations and guidelines and boundaries and be consistent and follow through and enforce consequences. But knowing how and when to apply the right tools in a kind and loving and firm way is the challenging part, right? And we need time and patience to do a good job, and both of those are highly limited resources.  And heaven forbid we throw in sickness or PMS or being overworked or overtired!!

We don’t want to yell or spank or lose our temper, yet we want to manage and shape the behaviors of our future leaders. So how do we do it?  What are the best practices?  Here are my top 10 ideas – for now.  What would you add? What would you change? Let’s write our own How To Manual!  Wouldn’t that be great if kids came with one? 😉


1. Don’t take their behavior personally.
They’re not usually intentionally doing things to upset us or to go against us, even though it might FEEL like that. They’re usually just self centered and doing what feels right for them in the moment. Their priorities are different than our priorities. Their wants and desires are not the same as ours and they don’t always have the self-discipline to know the difference and when/how to put their own needs aside to do what’s right and expected of them for the greater good. We have to listen and be understanding too.

2. Before you react (yell, scream, hit or say mean things), count to three inside your own head and breathe in, breathe out with each count.
Practice self control. Give yourself a time out and moment to plan how to address the behavior in question. We want to focus on problem solving and try to stay away from the emotional roller coaster ride. 

3. Start with a positive perception of your child, despite their negative behavior and before you begin the discipline process.
I like to look at them and think, “I love you more than anything you say or do.”  It’s my little mantra that I say over and over again in my head, to help me focus on my goal of loving them through the parenting process. And when I’m mad at them, I try to think of all the good qualities they possess and I remind them of their goodness despite the behavior we’re trying to improve. And I try to not make the issue a big issue, because this too shall pass and the relationship between us and their self esteem is more important than one event. Yet, I still hold them accountable and love them through it. 🙂

4. Parenting takes time.
We all have other things we want or have to do and time is limited. But it takes time to lovingly teach and guide them at any age. Give yourself time to teach the lessons, with kindness and firmness. Set a timer, and it doesn’t have to be long, but we do need to make time for it. We can do anything for 15 minutes. Be patient and practice waiting.

5. Use “I” messages, instead of “You” messages.
For example, say “I feel frustrated because your room isn’t clean and we agreed to that expectation. It’s important to me and I’d like your cooperation. When can you finish this task?”  Say how you feel and what you expect and ask them to be part of the timely solution.

6. Have realistic expectations and be flexible.
Expect your children to be perfectly imperfect too. It’ll help with both your frustration levels.  

7. We are all teachers.
We don’t get paid enough and it’s a very important job. We want to help our kids to focus on solutions and to be contributing members of their family and to society. When something isn’t as expected, wait for a calm moment to explain the situation. Give the child a choice in how to fix the wrong and help guide them to possible solutions. This teaches problem solving skills and helps them to be part of the solution that they choose.

8. If you lose your temper and react negatively, apologize and forgive yourself as well.
It’s ok for us to make mistakes too and it’s the right thing to fix the relationship when we make a mistake. This teaches our kids that it’s ok to make mistakes, to be vulnerable, to say you’re sorry and to try again. It also teaches positive communication skills and takes the pressure off from trying to be perfect. Love is unconditional.

9. Be consistent, kind, firm and confident.  
We are setting boundaries and expectations for our kids and they desperately need us to do that. The boundaries and expectations will change over time and they will challenge them, but it is our job to define them, to communicate our expectations, and to consistently enforce them and follow through. They need to know what the boundaries are, what the consequences will be, and they need us to follow through with our words and actions. And we can do this kindly and firmly, without yelling or losing our temper as we follow through. Whispering is actually a powerful tool.

10.  Have fun with your kids.
Laugh and play and be silly. Life is stressful and we don’t always have to be so serious. Use humor and joke around and dance and tickle and wrestle and hug and love one another. Each stage is so short and this too shall pass. Sometimes hugging it out is all that is needed and having a Do-over moment, that gives everyone a chance to start over and try again. It’s never too late to try again. It’s a new minute. Try again.

All of these are easier said than done, but we have to remind ourselves that we are still learning and practicing this life thing just as those who are in our care and we have to keep trying and practicing and not give up as we learn by doing. Forever. Sigh.  

We are not perfect, nor should we expect ourselves to be. And we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others or their Facebook updates for the sake of feeling badly, or to pass judgment, but rather for continuous learning. We are perfectly imperfect and have to be gentle and forgiving of ourselves and those in our care as they are perfectly imperfect too. We’re all still learning and have to continue this journey together, breathing through each event and moving through them peacefully, hopefully. 😉

Hugs! xo


3 thoughts on “Yell, Spank or Drink?

  1. Intellectually, we all know what we should say or do (as a rule) to raise our kids to be polite, kind, and follow rules. Sometimes though, all our parenting skills go out the door, and all we want to do is to shut the little suckers up with any means possible. All the kind and firm words go out the door, and all you want to do is kick their little butts out the front door with all your pots and pans flying around their cute little heads and calling them every bad name you cannot find in the dictionary. lol. I am smiling right now because I am sure many of your followers have been there, done that, right! Now the guilt comes two seconds after you have lost your cool, and that beautiful child of yours comes to you with those big teary eyes and says ” I am so sorry mom “. We forgive and forget until the next time it happens again. Thank God we love them unconditionally, and pray that we have the patience for the next 40 years to continue that love!!!! Too funny!

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