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Zen Parenting

By Beth Proudfoot, LMFT

Did you ever have a boss who yelled at her employees all the time? Did you respect her? When you left a meeting with her, were you thinking, “I’ve got to try to do a better job, and I know how to do it now?” Or, were you thinking, “I’m getting my resume out tomorrow!”

In every interaction you have with your kids, especially when it comes to discipline, at least three things are happening at the same time: you are communicating around behavior you want to change, you are modeling how to be a leader, and you are either building or destroying your relationship. When you scream at your kids, you are accomplishing none of these tasks in a positive way.

After you have set a limit for misbehavior, what you want your child to be thinking is: “That was a bad mistake. I’m not going to do THAT again.” What you don’t want is for your child to be ashamed (I’m a horrible person) or to focus more on you than their behavior (Mom is crazy. This is SO unfair!). When you lose control and yell or spank, you lose respect, and you lose relationship. And, most importantly, long-term change doesn’t happen. This is because either your child doesn’t hear what you were saying because they are so tuned in to your anger, or they have decided that you are over-reacting, or the excitement around creating such a big reaction from you is SO rewarding, your child just has to do it again to see if they can recreate it.

Here’s the good news for parents who lose it with their kids (and that’s all of us – our children make us more angry than anyone else in our whole lives!): an occasional “venting” doesn’t cause lasting damage. It doesn’t work to change behavior, but it also doesn’t create an evil child. If you’re blowing up every day, though, or if yelling at your kids is the main way you deal with problem behavior, then you’re going to run into serious problems.

There are two things all parents can do to be more effective leaders with kids who are successful in following the rules at home and school. First, it’s critical for parents to take care of their own emotional needs. Daily exercise, meditation, and/or support can go a long way to reducing stress levels. And second, they must have a good plan. Most parents don’t yell the first time a behavior occurs…it’s the second or third or fortieth time when the frustration builds to a crisis.

When you find yourself yelling at your kids, stop. Call a “Parent Time Out,” and think about whether this behavior that made you so angry has happened before. If it has, then your reaction to it obviously didn’t work…and it was probably yelling, so more of the same is not going to do anything constructive. What WOULD work? A parenting class could be just the ticket for finding out about behavior plans that work. It’s worth the investment…for your kids and for your employees!

Come join us August 28 at 12 noon to learn more about Happiness, presented by Beth Proudfoot, LMFT. RSVP by August 27 to

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