Harsh Parenting

Summer heat seems to bring out the summer harshness in the parents I’ve seen lately. Whether at a fast food restaurant or in the grocery or department store, parents seem to be barking orders and jerking kids by the arm a lot more these days.

I’ve wondered whether we would respond well to a customer service representative who relied on sarcasm, put downs, orders and ultimatums? Can you imagine? “If you didn’t want it, then why did you buy it in the first place, you idiot!?” Do you really think that employee could keep their job with that interaction caught on camera?

Harshness comes from our own frustration. Zig Ziglar used to tell a story we affectionately called, “kicking the cat.” It began with the boss yelling at an employee and that employee’s resulting no-good-very-bad day at the office, in the store and on the way home resulted in his coming in the front door and kicking his cat. Ziglar surmised that a lot of bad events could have been spared if the boss who first yelled at his employee would have just gone to the employee’s home and kick the cat himself! We kick at others when we feel that someone else kicked us. We may lack the power to kick that person back so the next person in our path—usually someone of lower rank—gets kicked out of our frustration.

This is a heart problem. Not heart like high cholesterol or high blood pressure; heart like we are holding bitterness inside rather than finding a healthy way to release it.

One way to release the bitterness is to give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe their boss just yelled at them. Maybe they just got bad news about their health or a loved one’s prognosis. If our first thought is, “You must be having a bad day; I don’t think I’ll make it worse,” it is easier to let go of bitter feelings about what they might have done to you. You can choose to give them a smile rather than a frown.

Another way to release the bitterness is to utilize the golden rule. Our harsh words sometimes come from self-pity or pride. We either feel sorry for ourselves or we don’t want to allow someone to get away with treating us “like that.” If you noticed that the root of either of these thoughts is a focus on yourself, you are on the right track. Selfishness leads to harshness; or maybe harshness is a good sign that we are being selfish. Either way, the golden rule suggests that we think of the other person before thinking about ourselves. Choosing to treat someone else the way we want to be treated is an effective deterrent to the bitterness that oozes out of our pores.

The most effective way to release bitterness is to allow our love for our children to overcome our own selfishness or bitterness. Looking at your child with tender eyes leads to compassion and understanding rather than revenge or spite. Remember their small frame. They can’t take the weight of our adult cares on their shoulders. They don’t need the full force of our loud voice to get their attention. Actually, a whisper is more effective anyway. Correct your child; allow her to face the consequences that will teach a valuable lesson but don’t give in to harsh parenting. She needs your love more than your temper.

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