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Don't let anger manipulate you

Our kids need us to be the adult. They need us to be resolute, they need us to be fearless. The fact is, if our children never get angry with us, then we’re not doing our job as parents.

By Harry H. Harrison, Jr.

It seems as if today so many parents don’t actually want to be parents. Oh, they love their kids. They just don’t want to raise them because that can bring up well, using the word “no," which could lead to tears and crying and the dreaded “You’re not my friend,” or worse, “I hate you.” Then being the guilt buckets we are, we rush in and hold their hand and soothe their feelings and tell them of course we’ll buy you a Corvette at 15.

Here’s the problem. The natural course of human events relies on a child striving to please his parents. It’s imperative for civilization to continue. A child does things she doesn’t want to do because it is necessary to please her parents. A teenager walks away from drugs and alcohol because he fears his father’s wrath worse than his friends’ peer pressure. This is how they learn to make mature decisions, which they then take out into the adult world.

Rules upset children and teenagers. Being told no angers 2-year-olds and 16-year-olds. Suffering consequences of bad behavior can result in slamming doors, moodiness and the silent treatment. If you’re the kind of parent who hurts when their child is mad at them, then it’s easy to waive consequences, forget rules and start saying yes to more and more outlandish demands (i.e. “I want a limo for my seventh grade graduation, etc.”).

Why do parents do these things? Because they can’t handle the pressure of their own child’s anger. Today we have a bunch of hard-charging 40-somethings who run companies, chair PTA meetings and kickbox three times a week coming home quaking at the thought their high school junior will be too mad to talk to them. Having their kids like them is more important than teaching them honor, integrity, morals and values, because you know, these things are difficult lessons and like, can make our kids upset.

Fearless parents remember 10 things

  1. Children are natural-born emotional terrorists. They can sense weakness in their parents, and they know how to exploit it — go right for the heart. They are masters of manipulation and say they hate you because they know it works.
  2. We need to remember if we’re going to be the kind of parents our kids need, we not only have to be able to stand up to their anger, we have to parent through it.
  3. Don’t forget teens especially are emotional basket cases. Their brains are still developing so trying to reason with them is like trying to reason with a head of cabbage. You can’t change their thinking but you can change how you react to it.
  4. Allow your child to be angry, but not disrespectful or immature.
  5. You don’t have to be seething to express your anger. When they deserve it, show them flashes of anger and demand change even though you can turn around and wink at their mother. The key issue is who’s trying to please who.
  6. Insist that when they are angry they watch their words and behavior.
  7. Accept that your child’s anger goes with the job, and that today's reason for a meltdown will replaced by tomorrow’s.
  8. Realize the less you react to your child’s anger and the more you just accept it, the less of problem it will continue to be for both of you.
  9. Don’t explain “No.” “My house, my rules, no,” is really all you have to say. Anything more they can argue with.
  10. Accept the fact you can be mad at your child, you can even yell at your child, you can throw down consequences for bad behavior but that doesn’t mean you don’t love your child.

Fearless parents know abandoning their child when they really need a parent just to be their friend isn’t just spineless, it’s a disaster. With no rules, no consequences, no expectations, no discipline we’re raising a generation of kids who will stay kids forever.

Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NYTIMES best-selling parenting author, including the recent Fearless Parenting: Raising a Child to Face the Adult World, with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR. His books are available in over 35 countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East.

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