Don't Cry Over Spilt Milk

My son spilled a whole glass of milk on the couch this morning.  Again.  This is maybe the second or third time that he has made the same mistake, and I have to admit, I was upset.  O.K., I was more than upset, I was mad.  So, I went to him and asked him calmly and respectfully to clean up his mess.  Wellit might not have gone that smoothly.  I think I actually had a panic attack.  And you might have actually seen a nuclear mushroom cloud exploding over my head! 


There is a lesson here for all parents:  how you respond to your child during times of disappointment and stress is incredibly important.  Your kids are going to disappoint you.  Period.  It is an inevitable part of being young.  And when they do, our natural reaction will be to bark at them, "Why in the world did you do that?" or "You have to think before you do something!"  The research shows that these kinds of aggressive responses are more than just annoying to your children.  Over time, aggressive responses lead to mere compliance from children and ultimately to dependent adults.  Translation:  if you are overly focused on boundaries and neglect warmth in your attempt to provide discipline your children will probably struggle to be confident adults. 


Now some of you are keenly aware of how damaging aggression from parents can be.  You've lived it in your family of origin with your own parents.  Individuals who are determined to avoid replicating painful criticism from parents typically end up being passive with their own kids.  These individuals have no problem demonstrating warmth to children during times of disappointment and might shower them with love and attention on a consistent basis.  But you probably struggle with drawing strong appropriate boundaries.  The research indicates that parents who give their children warmth without strong boundaries typically produce adult children who are entitled and self-centered. 


Obviously, you want to shoot for combining boundaries with warmth when you need to provide discipline or correction.  This is a difficult goal, I know, but it is possible!  Start by focusing on listening to your children, even when their behavior seems indescribably irrational.  If you can listen to you kid, even when you are mad, upset, or disappointed, you are communicating to them that you value their perspective even if you don't agree with it.  Ironically, the more you listen to your child, the more they will have ears to hear you.  And when your kid is willing to listen to you, your boundary setting will amount to a teachable moment.  And isn't that the goal of our discipline?  To teach our children how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again and to ultimately help them live a life of character and passion.



Visitor Comments (3)
Flying objects
Posted By KARAMPAULINE@HOTMAIL.COM on January 14, 2012
Yesterday my little nefiew Jimmy,who will be 3 years old in March; just threw at my hand a plastic case it is small. When it came at my hand i felt that a huge amount of pain as if my spirit was going out of my body!In my entire life i have not felt such pain. After crying for half an hour whilst putting my hand under cold water. I did not want to speak to him ever again. But as always the next day i wake up having forgiven him for his action. How can i deal with him? I don't want a flying object to hit me every day!!!

Sincerely Yours,
Pauline Karam, Lebanon
Child -adult dicipline!!!!
Posted By KAYLAH13B on April 4, 2011
Plz how do you respond to your child who is in fact an adult but seems oblivious of this fact?Please help me God the Lord Almighty knows that in frustration I have said all kinds of aggressive things to him
my son
Posted By JACCRT on September 6, 2010
I identify with this. My step-son is 18 y/o and he just moved in with me (his father is deceased)after his mother kicked him out. He was supposed to start college but did not follow through with the application. He said he could not find a job and that his mother wouldn't help him with anything, but he was extremely resistant to any help from me, going to job interviews in dirty wrinkled clothes with hat and mirrored sunglasses. He used every towel in the house and took 5 days before he would wash them, leaves out the milk or other food overnight, makes a mess, eats an entire family portion entree for breakfast rather than cereal, well you get the idea. I tried talking with him, threatening him, and end up screaming at him. He states he is not depressed, he is not lazy he will walk 4 miles back and forth to his friends house. HELP! How can I look at this differently?
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