I define self-control as the ability to select an appropriate response to a feeling or thought from among a number of possibilities.
If you accept the assumptions (and conclusions) of the Volcano Theory, and if you accept that control over another’s behavior is a delusion (a belief falsely held), then how are you to “manage” or “govern” your child’s behavior? How are you to “get” him or “make” him do the right thing, or do what you want him to do, or behave the way you “need” him to behave?
The answer to these questions is really quite simple. You can’t. So the best thing to do is to stop trying to do the impossible.
What?!? Stop trying to make your child do the right thing?
Then what about the child who never picks up her toys? What about the toddler running blindly into the street? Or hitting her mother? Or biting her brother? What about all her unacceptable behavior at school, or in the neighborhood, or in your home? What about your teenager stealing, or fighting, or cheating, or cursing?
Again, you’ll stop trying to make her do the right thing. You might think I’m crazy. So, what am I talking about??
When you are angry or frustrated, it’s almost impossible to NOT communicate those feelings.
So you might as well do it constructively, and increase the chances of relieving your tension as well as making things better with the other person.
You will automatically be expressing yourself non-verbally through body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. So do it right. Here are three things that will help you control the expression of your angry feelings in a way that is not only non-threatening to others, but also constructive in the sense that you and your child will be able to benefit from your anger.
Note: I am indebted to Thomas Gordon, MD, for so clearly identifying in his wonderful book Parent Effectiveness Training the following (and other) forms of parental communication that cause problems with children. He calls them “the typical twelve.” I have modified a few of them, left some out, and added some below.
How Parents Invite Anger and Defensiveness in Children Without Even Knowing It.
The following common methods that parents instinctively use to confront unacceptable child behaviors are exactly what the parent should NOT do. These are invitations to trouble. They are likely to be felt as an assault by the child, which then compounds the frustration and anger the child might already be feeling.
These everyday forms of parental communication are “power and control tactics” aimed at making a child do something. They are almost always experienced as attacks by children. (They are also felt as attacks by adults, too, when adults are spoken to in these ways.) They are disrespectful ways of talking. If the child is already upset or frustrated,