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Take a Closer Look

When her son barks at her out of frustration, the wise mother in this scene maintains her composure and makes the most out of some challenging moments amid her son’s upset. Here are key elements in the scene:

Engage Logical Consequences

Mom’s unwillingness to fix her son dinner — he didn’t want to leave his videogame when she earlier called him to the table — is her way of letting logical consequences deliver the message she wants him to receive. She wisely avoided unnecessary scolding, knowing that the consequence of missing hamburgers would deliver its own lesson. Too often we discipline our children when a more effective stance would be to step aside and allow natural or logical consequences to prevail (see Fifty Years of Dreikurs).

Asserting Our Needs

In “I Hate You,” mom’s refusal to extend her kitchen duty transmits that she has needs of her own and won’t always put his needs before hers. “You can make yourself a sandwich,” she calmly suggests, knowing he’s capable of tending to that need. Too often we do things for our children that they can do for themselves, denying them the confidence-building experience that promotes their self-esteem (see Too Many Helpings).

Don’t React…Respond

Despite being momentarily startled when her son blurts out, “You’re so mean!” this mother responds rather than reacts to her son’s display of emotion (see Don’t React — Respond). It’s easy to get triggered by our children’s strong words or feelings, and then we react quickly, without thinking. Our reactivity can lead to a regrettable exchange or a power struggle, when something that should remain small turns into something big. Mom in this video keeps her cool despite her son’s insistence that she prepare him a burger. She doesn’t show anger or upset with him but calmly asserts her position that her kitchen duty has ended.

Name Their Emotions

Mom might have objected when her son blurts out, “I hate you!” Rather than scolding him for speaking that way, she doesn’t take his words personally and instead seizes the opportunity to coach him in how to express anger appropriately. “You can just say you’re angry or frustrated or annoyed with me,” she suggests. Not only is she teaching him an emotionally healthy way to express anger, but her non-reactivity models an emotionally healthy way to receive anger.

Validate Their Emotions

In a quick second, mom’s “I get it” lets her son know that his anger makes sense to her. He doesn’t step away wondering if there’s something wrong with him for feeling angry; she accepts his anger, coaching him on how to best express it. Multiplied many times, this parent-child encounter allows the boy to feel comfortable with an emotion that is perhaps one of the most difficult and complicated feelings people face.

Watch the video without narration

Talking to Kids You Love is written and created by Aaron Cooper, Ph.D., in collaboration with Marina Eovaldi, Ph.D., and Benjamin Rosen, Ph.D. The project is made possible by a generous grant from The Golub Family Foundation.