Anger and parenting often go hand in hand. When the kids push your buttons, it’s easy to get angry, and then parent out of that anger. Although this is a natural reaction, it is not what is best for your child.
Parenting out of your anger may result in you punishing your child, instead of disciplining them.
Punishing vs. Disciplining
Although parents often use parenting and disciplining interchangeably, they are actually not the same thing.
Punishment purposes to hurt someone because of hurt or frustration. Punishment is often a parent merely venting and expressing their own anger at their child. This often comes out as yelling, harsh consequences, and in severe cases, physical abuse. When a parent punishes out of an angry outburst, then the child only learns not to provoke a parent’s anger; they do not learn why the behavior is wrong or hurtful.
Example: Your child gets caught lying to you and you become angry. You raise your voice, ground your child for two weeks and the discussion is over. You may feel better because you assume you took care of the situation by punishing your child, but the only lesson from that punishment is that your child learns not to make you mad and definitely not to get caught.
Discipline, on the other hand, takes more thought from a parent. Discipline focuses on what your child needs to learn from the situation. Your child can still suffer the consequences of their action, but they go along with a conversation about the what and why of their behavior.
Example: Your child gets caught lying to you and you become angry. You send your child to their room for a time-out while you take 30 minutes to calm down and think it through. What does your child need to learn in this situation? After 30 minutes you have a talk about lying, why it hurts relationships, and how hard it is to win someone’s trust back once you’ve lied to them. If you choose, you can still give a consequence, such as grounding.
The lesson that your child learns from this discipline is that lying not only hurts them because they suffer consequences, but lying also hurts others. They should also learn that it’s not always easy to win back someone’s trust once they’ve broken it.
The bottom line is that it is usually best not to parent when you are angry. Give yourself a chance to calm down and think through what you want your child to learn. The honest truth is that what you say when you are reacting in anger and what you say when you’ve had a chance to calm down will be two different things.
Your child’s maturity and growth are the objectives of discipline. Take the time to be intentional about teaching your child, not just “dealing with their behavior.”
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