When’s the last time you thought you were going to get in trouble with your spouse or boss because you made them mad? This happens all the time. People often equate anger with disciplining and punishment. The same is true with children. Children often get scared of getting in trouble because they made their parents mad. However, most parents will agree they don’t punish their kids just because they (the parent) got angry. Usually, the child did something wrong that deserved a punishment and the parent getting mad was just a reaction to whatever the child did wrong. Parents don’t mean to send the message that ‘you’re in trouble because you made me mad’. But that’s usually the only message the child hears.
Too often, when kids do something wrong parents get mad and dole out a punishment on the spot. When this happens, usually the child receives the message of “I made mom/dad mad and that’s why I got in trouble”. Whatever lesson the rule was intended to teach (e.g. ‘we don’t hit our siblings because we’re supposed to love our siblings’) didn’t get learned because it was drowned out through the anger. Parents are most effective when they can discipline calmly and lovingly as much as possible. When parents get mad at children (regardless of their age children often feel scared, ashamed and guilty. Anger will usually get a quick response from your children to stop doing whatever it is that they are doing but this counterproductive if you want your child to learn to be self-confident, courageous and autonomous. Children can learn the same lessons whether the discipline is done in love or in anger but there are more negative side effects when parents discipline in anger.
In order to be an truly efficient in disciplining your children, parents have to keep themselves in check and always be observing their own emotions. It’s easy for a parent to get mad and yell and make some irrelevant or overly strict punishment in the heat of the moment. So calm down, don’t take it personally and think creatively. There’s lots of ways to use discipline as a teaching moment. But if you’re disciplining out of anger, it’s a guarantee that you’ll miss most of these moments.