Parent Anger - Child Learning

If you were to ask most parents why they provide a certain discipline for a conflict that happens today with their child, most would say it was to get some behavior to stop or start. For example, when Nicole brought home D’s on her report card mom and then dad each yelled at her about her performance. They grounded her from television until the next report card. A few weeks later the principal called and said that Nicole had stolen a ruler from one child and taken pencils from another. Dad was furious. He ranted and raved, yelled and put her down “What’s wrong with you?” he said, “Are you stupid? We have enough money to buy pencils and rulers. You are given pencils and a ruler, why would you take them from somebody else? What are we going to do with you? We provide for you and you don’t appreciate it. Maybe we should send you to live somewhere else. I can’t stand having these problems go on and on. Go to your room, get out of my sight, I don’t want to see you the rest of the day.” Mom cries, tells dad that she’ll talk to her daughter to defuse the situation. Nicole goes off to her room with feelings of shame and defeat. This young lady won’t talk to mom when she tries to engage her daughter. Nothing else is said until they all begin talking cautiously a few days later. Little is truly resolved, they just act as if life can resume again.

Two types of learning and one process of interaction need to be understood in parenting children. Researchers have been able to identify two types of learning in conscience development. Systematic learning takes place when rules, expectations or directions are provided. This type of learning, when effective, teaches specific detailed direction of what is expected by a parent to a child. It’s often reinforced when parents model or live out in their lives what they are teaching.

Episodic learning is learning that takes place in our senses. How we hear, feel and see experiences we go through. Learning of this type comes from good or bad experiences of what we are learning. And often is more long lasting than systematic learning. Learning that take place in our senses remains a memory long after we’ve forgotten what the teaching was.

When children misbehave they need to face their actions and consequences for those actions. What children most often remember is how we made them feel about their misbehavior. In the illustration, what this child will take away from her confrontation is parental anger and shame about her. She will remember the shame and fearful feelings rather than what the parents were trying to teach.

Show and teach what you want children to learn. Believe in them beyond today’s problems or behavior. Cause them to want to overcome your expectations by love and consequences, not demeaning or shaming anger. What will your children remember about times with you when they grow up? What memories are you creating for them?

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