father and son talking in the park

Parenting: Emotional Self-Control and the Apple

Children create many challenging situations. As parents, we are optimistically amused. But sometimes we are frustrated and discouraged. Often, we feel embarrassed and guilty. Our children are a measure of our success and worthiness. We judge ourselves by their success and achievements. We occasionally compare ourselves to other parents.

Understanding negative parental emotions

Have you ever watched people buy apples? We rotate each apple looking for a blemish. We hold it up to the light, examining the reflection. We squeeze each one for firmness. We study each candidate looking for the perfect apple.

Parents want flawless apples. We want successful children. We want them to be happy and well adjusted. We want them to feel good about themselves. We want children who are loving and respectful of others. We want them to be well behaved and self-motivated. We want them to be independent.  All parents have similar goals and aspirations. Achieving these qualities does not happen without some struggle.

Most parents confront similar behavior problems which often create common reactions, moods and emotions. We become annoyed repeating everything three times. We spend too much time arguing. We become drained from the nagging and whining and manipulating and quarreling. We become exhausted from shouting and threatening. We feel guilty for getting angry, but it appears to be the only way to get results. We blame ourselves and feel ineffective for not knowing what to do.

Anger, stress, fear, anxiety, guilt and most other unpleasant, negative emotions do not help us become better parents. Anger impairs your judgment. Stress, fear and anxiety create worry and tension. Guilt causes you to compensate, to give in and to be inconsistent which may cause misbehavior to worsen. When you feel guilty for not being a perfect parent, you may blame yourself which prevents you from seeing the situation clearly and objectively. These feelings interfere with successful parenting. They inhibit your relationship with your children.

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What's a parent to do?

Here are a few tips that will help you become more confident in your parenting ability. When you become more confident, you are less likely to feel guilty and much more likely to achieve success.

(1)  Expect good behavior from your children. Explain what you expect. Give them examples. Children must know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. When children can predict how you behave in given situations, they make better choices.

(2)  Acknowledge your children when they follow rules and expectations. Teach your children to seek self-reward — to feel good about doing the right thing. This builds their self-confidence.

(3)  Be positive when disciplining your children. Use punishments that are fair and make sense to your child. Punishments should teach your child to make better decisions. Do not use punishment to get even with your child for something he or she has done that hurts you or makes you angry.

(4)  Teach children to understand their weaknesses and accept their faults. Use yourself as an example. They will learn to admit their shortcomings.  As a result, their weaknesses will have less power in their lives.

(5)  Support yourself, even when others sit in judgment. Control your own behavior to be a good example. Remember, your children learn about emotional self-control by watching you.

Many parents measure their worthiness by their children’s success. They feel that if their children are not perfect, then they must be less than adequate as a parent. All children misbehave at times. Knowing how to react to misbehavior and achieve the goals you have for your children requires an understanding that every parent can learn and skills that every parent can master.

March 27, 2020
Sal Severe | Psychologist and Best-Selling Author

Sal Severe | Psychologist and Best-Selling Author

Dr. Sal Severe has been a school psychologist for over thirty years. He has concentrated his practice on children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral disorders and their families. Dr. Severe served on the Board of Advisors for Parents magazine for ten years. His New York Times best-selling book, How To Behave So Your Children Will, Too! has sold over 900,000 copies and has been translated into twenty-one languages. His second book is How To Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too! Dr. Severe has appeared on more than 1,100 television and radio talk shows, including Oprah, the View with Barbara Walters, the Today show, the CBS Early Show, CNN’s Your Health, The Learning Channel’s program Teacher TV, MSNBC’s Daytime, Fox Network’s Fox on Family, National Public Radio and Seattle’s Northwest Afternoon.

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