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The Illusion of Fear Based Compliance - Why Kids are Not Listening.

I had children quite young as many with my background do. I had to work hard to circumvent my lack of skill in parenting. I spent hours while pregnant reading books on parenting and digesting everything and anything about raising a healthy child. I only knew that I would not raise mine as I had been raised and that the strength of the kindness of my nature and my resilience would serve well as a parent. I developed self-regulation skills and delved into psychology, rendering a deep understanding of the damage that was me. My brain had been rewired and my early story written changing who I may have been but I knew that only I could forge who I would become, for my children. We all have the power to heal and rewrite our stories. We can stop cyclic dysfunction in its path, passing only a positive future onto our children.

When I was a little girl, my dad would say no to everything. His approach to conversation, when he did not like what was being done or said, was to start yelling. This was especially true if you disagreed with his point of view. Now, for me, the yelling was often followed by a beating but that is not the typical case. The problem with his approach, however, goes much deeper. As a society we seem to view children as less than, vehicles to act out our own rages, a safe place for us to lose control. We mistake discipline for a simple lack in our own control. The response then, becomes about us not about teaching something or sending a message. In turn, we are most often only acting out what was done to us, the skills we learned as children. This is the cyclic nature of dysfunction.

These behaviours of my father did not make me more compliant though they did make me afraid. I developed a strong sense of distrust which only made me work harder not get caught doing what he may not like. He gave me no reason to respect his authority over me. After all, if he could not control himself, why should he control me?

That brings us to that nasty word - control. Why do we feel the need to control others in our lives? To have them think like us, be like us; live out a future that we have envisioned for them. Control is only ever about the controller not the controlled.

Children do not like what they fear and they will always respond negatively; their compliance only a temporary illusion. Once they are out of line sight, they will do what they choose because they have been given nothing to believe in, respect, trust or model themselves after. The fear of what may lie ahead if caught becomes simply a game of cat and mouse. They know what the outcome will be because it is always the same; meaningless exchanges.

Yelling itself is an ineffective response. It never works. It simply teaches the child that they have the upper hand because you have lost control. It lends to a lack of respect for the person raging and poorly models how to respond to disagreements or problems.

As adults we cannot simply yell at our coworkers, friends or spouses or slap our boss or punch out our coworker, yet unilaterally we see it as ok to yell at and rage at children and some people deem it necessary to hit them. Why? What message are we going to send? What is our intended message?

As children we learn to tune out this kind of berating, quickly losing any message that may have been intended. I often think of the Peanuts cartoons and the sound of the unintelligible adult’s voice in the background. That is all that is heard when someone is yelling. For me, as a sensitive soul, it also had a more sinister effect as it made me hyper sensitive to loud noises.