Quick Hit on Ineffective Parenting Techniques

Parenting techniques that are utterly, pointlessly ineffective:

  • Yelling at your child not to yell.
  • Threatening your child for unsocial behavior.
  • Demanding that your child stop making demands upon you.
  • Disconnecting from your child seeking connection (manifested, for example, as pleas for attention: “Look at me! Watch me! Did you see that?”)
  • Getting stressed at your child for not going with the flow.
  • Insisting that your child not insist everything be done exactly their way, because you want them done your way instead.
  • Swearing at your child to fucking stop swearing.
  • Screaming at your child because they won’t stop screaming.
  • Throwing your child’s toy because they won’t stop throwing it.
  • Commanding your child to relax.
  • Ordering your child to speak gently.
  • Grabbing an object from your child to teach them that grabbing objects from others is wrong.
  • Lecturing that your child cannot control another’s actions while controlling their actions (by, for example, requiring they get buckled in their car seat right now).

How do I know these parenting techniques are completely ineffective, other than that, when written like this, it becomes obvious how unbelievably foolish they are? Because I have done each and every one in the past week. Many times. And they never, ever work.

So why do I keep doing them?

(…don’t answer that.)

(But if you want a real answer, it’s because kids are triggering, I am my father’s child, and this parenting gig is hard.)

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50 Responses to Quick Hit on Ineffective Parenting Techniques

  1. While not an exhaustive list it is certainly a good one and one I suspect many parents repeat over and over.

    “Insisting that your child not insist everything be done exactly their way, because you want them done your way instead.”

    Oh… oops. Talk about triggering. My mom used to say, “You’re not the center of the universe” in the most scathing, awful way. As a grownup (and as close friends) I can understand many motives and empathize with her fears an ineptitude but… whole-grain JEEBUS is that not an okay thing to say to a kiddo. Especially lots.

    Nice post – thank you!

    • Kelly — So what techniques would you add to the list, if we were attempting to make it more exhaustive? (Though I will point out it’s already plenty exhausting.) (Or is that my exhaustion talking?) (…stopping now.)

      • I’m a little… you got it, right now. Very little sleep last night. When I’m rested I’ll add some if my brain can haz does work tomorrow.

  2. Been there and I’d attempt to write a witty comment worthy of this post except a naked toddler is climbing on me. I’d only add that the worst times for me have been when I’ve yelled, seen how upset my baby is and been to angry not to stop yelling.

    • I’d only add that the worst times for me have been when I’ve yelled, seen how upset my baby is and been to angry not to stop yelling.

      I’ve done this. And it’s bad. Especially at the end of the day, when I’m reliving every part of the day. The guilt. Oh the guilt.

      • Don’t be to hard on yourself. I know, it is the worst feeling of all…seeing the little eyes look at you like they don’t know you and want to be nowhere near you. But the good thing is that every day is a new day; a new day to respond differently. And the more I find awesome posts like this where moms are real, it gives me hope that I am not alone, not terrible (just stressed), and that I have hope for change…and best of all that I am being proactive about learning news ways to parent….instead of reacting with how I was parented.

  3. Hhhmmm … yeah. Done them all in the past few weeks, too. Sigh. I’ve been doing MUCH better the past few days, though! Of course, that’s probably because I’ve had relatives visiting and a husband taking a day off work, etc …

  4. Guilty as charged. :(

    Toddlers are soooo triggering!!
    But I think it has more to do with lack of support for parents, than with the child’s behaviour. Potential triggers are just that, and the emotional resources available to us right at that moment can mean the difference between a deep breath in preparation for screaming, and a deep breath to calm down. Really hard to gather those resources with a whingy toddler hanging off your leg, though.

    • “But I think it has more to do with lack of support for parents, than with the child’s behaviour. Potential triggers are just that, and the emotional resources available to us right at that moment can mean the difference between a deep breath in preparation for screaming, and a deep breath to calm down.”

      Lu — This, exactly. For the most part, I don’t think the Boychick, even when he’s being particularly challenging and boundary pushing, is “being bad”, and no matter what he doesn’t deserve being yelled at. But sometimes (far too often) I don’t have the resources to change the scripts that are triggered by his behavior. But I find that simply being aware of that, and offering myself compassion for how difficult it is, can make the whole moment go more smoothly. Thus posts like this, aimed at increasing my own awareness, and framing it as humorously as I can. There’s nothing quite like being able to laugh in love at oneself to change one’s whole outlook.

      Not that it always “works”, either, of course…

  5. Excellent list – how about letting now repentant children fall asleep around the bed nest they built you because you cannot possibly mother one moment today, even though you should forgive them, and mostly have? ‘Cause I’ve managed that one along with most of that list just in the past 8 hours.

  6. Yeah I have done all of those and will probably do so again. I think sometimes you just get so irritated that you react. I think the worst one I have is telling them that I am not here. When I cannot take hearing them some mom one more time in that whiny voice I will say I am not here and when they answer, yes you are, I tell them that they are imagining me. I will then proceed to put in some ear plugs and listen to music for 10 mins or so I can regain my patience.

    • Do you ever give your kids “time outs” or ask them to “take a break”? If you do, maybe you could shift your language and instead telling them “I’m not here” tell them “Mommy needs a time out” (or what ever is closest to what you would tell them when you see they need a break to calm down). Then instead of disconnecting it turns into modeling a way of calming down and regaining self control. Not that shifting language is easy to do when you’re stressed out, but it might be worth trying if you can remember before you’ve hit your limit.

  7. I like how simply you’ve made this, how you’ve been able to show how ineffective we can be when we stop to look at what we’re doing. While you may not have done this this week, I have one to add — spanking (or hitting) your child and asking them not to hit another person.

    I realize yelling at my child to stop yelling seems ridiculous but my child is so LOUD that if I didn’t raise my voice, ze would never hear me! And one is not always in a position to touch the child and get their attention in another way – because it seems that as soon as you sit on the toilet or start washing the dishes, a child starts screaming and needs you RIGHT NOW!

  8. “Disconnecting from your child seeking connection (manifested, for example, as pleas for attention: “Look at me! Watch me! Did you see that?”)”

    This one is an ongoing problem at our house. Especially with a non-verbal toddler, whose pleas for attention through touching, grabbing hands, or otherwise interjecting himself into view quickly devolve into more destructive tactics.

  9. I whine about my kid’s whining.

  10. **sigh**
    Yes, I see myself in this list.
    Though if we’re talking about modeling behavior, I also don’t want to give my little one the idea that one must strive to be perfect in all things all of the time. I’m not saying I model perfection (far from it), but I think I do model a lot of anxiety that arises from my (futile) attempts to be perfect, or as close to it as possible.

  11. Love it Arwyn! I’m guilty of a few of these this week too. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not alone in my imperfect motherhood, and that they’ll be ok in spite of it. <3

  12. Don’t forget biting your child to teach them not to bite, pulling your child’s hair to teach them not to pull hair or spanking your child because they hit another child. Those are all real gems, too.

  13. thank you! yes, this parenting gig is SO hard. I know what you mean about ineffective parenting, realized through experience. I have a list of ineffective techniques as well, just like yours. thanks so much for being honest and putting all this out there.

  14. Hi, i’m new here. I LOVE this, i would like to add,
    yell at passers by when your toddler has a tantrum!
    I have 2 autistic sons and must (shamefully) admit that i have done this!!!

  15. Check, check annnnnd check.

  16. Long time lurker, first time commenter. Hi :) I think I’ve done almost every thing on that list. Every day I try to start fresh. To count to 10. To breathe. Some days seem to go better than others. Thanks for a great post, and a very thought-provoking blog.

    • Welcome, Wendy!

      It’s interesting to me to observe how much I sometimes can start each day fresh, and how much I hang on to the baggage from the previous day(s, weeks, years, decades…) as though it were a life-preserver and I’d drown without it. Which is pretty ridiculous, given that it’s more likely to drag me down…

  17. Thank you- I was feeling it is only me that repeats the nonsense parenting.

  18. Oh yeah. All of that, but most especially, in my house, the first one. I feel like I yell at my kids to stop yelling every. single. day. and I know how pointless and illogical it is, yet I still do it. Gah.

  19. How about grizzling at 3 year old at bed-time about “how can she be hungry again?” because I want her to go to bed so that I can have a snack because I’m hungry??

  20. I do those things *far* more often than I would like.

    Today I had a “you’re not my child” moment. I didn’t say it, but I thought it. My 4yo laughed when she hurt me. I told her she hurt me, and she smiled and laughed. I was so hurt, disappointed, horrified, and I thought “you can’t be my child; I’ve NEVER EVER modeled THAT kind of cruelty, so you didn’t get it from me (same with your dad). That is not a normal 4yo. Something’s wrong with you.” The best I could manage was to convert my expression of disgust into a “sad” face and quite literally just walk away from her saying “it makes me sad that you think it’s funny when you hurt someone.” I can’t stand her right now and I feel awful for that.

  21. “Commanding your child to relax.”

    Oooohh yeah. Strange that never works here either (and yet we keep doing it!).

  22. That list made me feel better. At least I am not the only one. I’ll just keep plucking away at trying to be better. ;) That’s all I can really do I suppose.

  23. My fave is when parents, in an attempt to teach manners at an inopportune moment, will say to their child after being hit by said child “no, thank-you”. Um, maybe it’s just me, but I thought “no, thank-you” was reserved for times when you appreciate the offer. Can’t say as I’ve ever appreciated being smacked by my child!

    • Rebecca: I’ve never gotten the feeling that parents responding to hits with “No, thank you” were attempting to teach manners, but rather to interact with their children politely — or, if I may speculate, re-write their own parenting scripts. It may not be your cup of tea, but I’m not about to criticize it, given how inappropriate my reactions to being hit tend to be.

  24. Add me to the list of “parents who do illogical things, repeatedly, in spite of their constant ineffectiveness”.

    Here’s the other thing – parenting is a learned behaviour. There are instincts, yes, but most of this is stuff we picked up along the way. And when WE were parented in this manner, it’s no wonder that it comes up in the heat of the moment.

    My goal isn’t to stop, it’s just to do it less. And be gentle on myself, because otherwise I just become more frustrated and irrational, which (no surprise) does not improve my parenting.

    • Amber — “Here’s the other thing – parenting is a learned behaviour. There are instincts, yes, but most of this is stuff we picked up along the way. And when WE were parented in this manner, it’s no wonder that it comes up in the heat of the moment.” This. Which says to me the first step to change (and not only in an effort to change, but simply, regardless of its potential to effect change, because it is a kind, good thing to do) is to offer compassion to myself for the hurts I still carry around from my childhood — and, as much as I can, to my parents, and their parents, and so on. And then to my child, who I know will carry his own pain and hurt into the future.

      Not that this is easy to do, per se, especially in the moment. But compassion is as much a learned behavior as rage; the more I can model it for my child(ren), starting with compassion for myself, the more hope there will be for them and for their children (literal or metaphorical), and on down the line.

  25. Yes. Yes. And Yes. So “glad” I’m not the only hypochrite :(

    With my own irrational, ineffective addition to the list (along the line of the carseat example):

    Having a family mantra of “from your head to your toes, you say what goes”, and then almost forcibly applying sunscreen/wound cream/other “treatment” despite loud protestations.

    This makes me sick with guilt and revulsion every single time. But find myself in that place yet again, and again. Because god I have to get out of the house Right Now and you aren’t putting the sunscreen on yourself properly. So I HAVE to do it for you or else you WILL die from skin cancer.

  26. Trufax. I have to remind myself NOT to get mad at my son because he can’t effectively communicate his needs. He throws tantrums when things don’t work like he wants them to, and throws things at me like I’m supposed to know what he wants. And usually I guess wrong, and he hits me, and I’m just want to go, “WTF STOP IT NOW!”

    Thankfully, after a couple months of slow problem solving under his itty-bitty belt, he mostly resolves his problems after whining a bit. Though why he keeps trying to drive his little riding car thing over stuff is beyond me. You’d think he’d know my now that it doesn’t go over laundry so well!

  27. Boy, does this list hit home. I think I might print it out and put it on my fridge as a reminder. I have done probably each and every one of those things with each one of my kids. Thanks for being brave enough to share this with everyone.

  28. I tried a new “don’t pull my hair” approach today. I removed his hand from my scalp and put it in his own and said “pull your own hair all you like,” and I *hope* it was slightly more effective than what first went through my mind.

    • I like that. But I can’t tell my child to hit or kick herself. That’s not healthy either. :( She doesn’t pull my hair, but that’s a great technique for that.

      • My son likes to headbutt, because for some reason my sister affectionately (and very gently) headbutts him in jest. I have no clue why, but now when he’s angry he starts throwing his head around like a pink fleshy wrecking ball, and that shit hurts.

        If only he could headbutt himself. (That’s not true. He sometimes bangs his head against the wall and it bothers me.)

  29. Telling my daughter that she can only have x amount of screen time, when I’m ridiculously addicted to the computer.

    I’ve done lots of these things, some more than others. It’s good to have it brought up.

  30. I could have written this post Arwyn…right down to the “I am my fathers child” part…

    It is the hardest thing I have ever done, fighting my fathers traits in myself.

  31. Let’s see… Check. Yes. Uh huh. Yep. Bingo!

    It alarms me that I so often see my father’s worst traits in myself (as well as my mother’s) but never their best traits.

  32. “Threatening your child for unsocial behavior” was a tactic that my parents used over and over… it never worked, and made me increasingly angry at them. Thank you for this list, and for showing that no one is perfect! I’m not a parent (yet…) but I learn *so much* from your posts.

  33. Yes, I’ve been testing some of these out lately too. I would add this one – talking shit to/about other drivers in the car, and then not listening to my kid who’s saying from the backseat “Mom, that’s rude.” As soon as I heard myself answer “honey, they can’t hear me” yesterday, I realized I just needed to say “yep, you’re right” and knock it off with the verbal road rage already. Maybe I should be glad my 3 year-old recognizes rude behavior and feels like she can call me out on it. But mostly I just want to keep talking shit.

  34. I have friends who spank their kids for hitting. Hmmm…..

  35. So that’s why I had 100 views out of nowhere! I’m still doing too many of those things, though I’ve found one or two moderating behaviours that are helping me address them.

    Tough, tough, tough, though…

  36. Mirror mirror on the web…Oy, tough list, but thank you.

    shalom v’ahava,
    Menachem

  37. Pingback: On My Mind, 01.24.11

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