Parenting by emotion undermines family dynamic

December 27, 2002|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Each time I hear a parent yell at a child in a public place, I do three things.

I look at the parent's face, glance at the child's expression and make a mental picture of the two.

Then the next time I'm tempted to yell at my children, I'll be reminded of how damaging that kind of behavior is, for both the child and the adult.

The child becomes fearful and resentful. The adult becomes upset and frustrated.

When Derek and Gail Randel, co-authors of "The Parent Manual," give seminars, "I'm yelling too much" is one of the main concerns parents express.

"They're not happy with what's going on with the relationship between them and their child," says Derek Randel, a former educator and coach.


Parents who allow emotions rather than logic to guide their responses will find that children are reluctant to listen, the Randels say.

"So many times we want kids to show us respect, but we don't show them respect," Derek Randel says.

If you can control your anger, you will remain in control of the situation.

Give your child choices.

"They'll be forced to make choices later on," Derek Randel says. "If you allow them to practice now, they'll be more of a leader than a follower."

For example, your child is going outside. Ask, "Would you like to wear your coat or carry your coat?"

If the child decides to carry the coat, and it's 30 degrees, he'll soon decide on his own that his initial choice was unwise. Then he'll put on the coat without being told to do so.

At bedtime, ask, "Which would you like to do first - brush your teeth or put on your pajamas?"

The child's response will be much more favorable than if you said, "Put on your pajamas and brush your teeth!"

Ask your teenager, "Would you like to get off the phone in one minute or would you like me to join the conversation in one minute?"

You know what that response will be.

"Never tell them to do something now," Derek Randel recommends.

Delay consequences.

Show your child there are consequences to the choices we make, and sometimes those consequences are delayed.

Tell your child what the consequence will be for disobedience, and stick to it.

Don't try to control everything.

"So many times we pick fights," Derek Randel says. "Can we control what someone says? How much they eat?"

Realistically, we're not going to be standing next to them when they make important decisions.

Teach them that it's OK to delay decisions. Say "I'll get back to you on that," if your child asks to go to a friend's party as you're trying to get everyone out the door in the morning.

"Kids know when we're vulnerable," Gail Randel says. "We can always put the ball back in our court."

Make eye contact.

Don't call from another room or another floor to tell a child that dinner's ready. Go to the child - get between him and the TV if necessary - and quietly tell him what you need to say.

"So many times we get so angry and they didn't even hear us," Derek Randel says.

Don't intervene in a sibling fight.

Siblings fight because they have an audience. They want to get parents involved. If they don't have an audience, they won't fight ... as much.

"You want to try to butt out as much as possible," Randel says.

Talk about your family's energy.

Tell your children that when they fight, it drains energy from the family. But when they clean out the fridge and other chores, they put energy back into the family.

The next time they start to fight, say something like, "I feel an energy drain coming on."

When they hear that, it causes them to stop and think about all the chores they'll have to do.

Gail Randel says these tips keep emotion in its place and nurture positive family values.

"Our goal is to be more respectful to ourselves and our children so we don't have more angry adults in our society," she says.

We should be able to come home and be nurtured by our family, she says.

Plus, the positive atmosphere makes parenting a lot more fun.

"Our house is very peaceful and wonderful," Derek Randel says. Was it always that way? No. At one point, "It was like walking on egg shells."

For more information, go to You can sign up for the Randels' free parenting newsletter.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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