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My Children Only Respond When I'm Angry

Is it only anger that elicits obedience?

Sunday morning church was always a contentious issue between Thomas Abraham and his mother. It took Sara Abraham a good half-hour to turf her son out of bed. They both followed the same ritual unfailingly every Sunday morning. First, Sara would employ the gentle approach; next, she'd become mildly threatening; the third stage was when she would begin to yell. As soon as she raised her voice, her son would leap out from under the covers and make for the bathroom. "He doesn't take me seriously unless I shout at him," Sara complains.

Children may not believe this, but parents really do not enjoy blowing their top. It is not a right that they enjoy exercising with sadistic pleasure. Losing their temper often leaves them feeling drained and remorseful, saddened that their children do not seem to respond to gentler disciplining. 

Children can be manipulative

Children develop an uncanny ability to judge when you really mean business. As a result, they also know exactly how much they can push their luck before you come down on them like a ton of bricks. However, as common as this situation may be, it is not necessarily a good one.

For instance, anger often makes you say and do things you might regret later. You may say nasty things about your children's characters or humiliate them in front of their friends or make exaggerated threats that you have no intention of or cannot possibly stick to. You also tend to use absolute statements like: "You never listen to anything I say," which only makes your children more defensive and resistant to authority.

Losing your cool at your children makes them realize how much they can affect you emotionally. Subconsciouly, they use this knowledge and wield it like a power over you. It's like a game to reassure themselves that you really care. Children are also able to use your frequent temper outbursts to their advantage. In all likelihood, when you lose your temper, you are distracted and take time to cool down. Children find that this is a good way of keeping you off balance.

Anger is exhausting and lowers your credibility

Frequent bursts of anger also lower your credibility. Often, the point you are trying to make does not hit home because it is buried under so much bluster and often gets confused with other issues you may raise. Sometimes raised voices are less effective. Your children become immune to your yelling and will probably take you more seriously if you spoke to them in a calm, no-nonsense manner.

Anger can be exhausting. Frequent emotional outbursts can tire you to the point where either you become less tolerant, flying off the handle at the slightest thing or you just don't have the energy to get into another screaming fit. Either way, it is not good for discipline.

Anger is not the best solution

The problem with this style of discipline is that it becomes a habit. You and your child both know what is going to set you off, but your child has become apathetic and accustomed to your temper. The entire purpose is defeated when your child listens not because he thinks you make sense, but because he wants you to lower you decibel level.

A good way of breaking this unhealthy cycle is by establishing rules right from the beginning and adhering to them strictly. This way your children know that for every minute they come home late, five minutes of their play time will be cut; or every time they leave their things lying around, they don't get to watch their favourite television programme.

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