To the Yelling Dad in the Parking Lot

To the dad screaming at his son in the Noblesville Pizza Hut parking lot this week,
Let me start by saying that I’m sure you love your son. And I totally understand how frustrating a four year old can be sthometimes. And I bet you think that what you were doing with the harsh, loud voice was establishing firm boundaries so he would know who is in charge and so he would be safe in the parking lot. Makes sense.

But here’s something to think about. Screaming repeatedly, “Stand up! Stand up!” and yanking him up only to have his feet collapse underneath him again was not helpful to you or him. Doing this had two consequences. You were not in charge of the situation. He was. You wanted him to stand and walk and he wanted to sit. Not only did you give him the power to sit but you also gave him the power to cause you to lose control. That’s a lot of power for a four year old.
Shouting and yanking also caused damage to your relationship. You are no longer the authority figure he can count on to stay in control and in charge. You changed from fun dad to “mean” dad in a moment and that’s confusing. Being someone he can trust is critical. Being firm helps him be secure, but being harsh and cruel undermines the work you are trying to do. Now his focus is on how mad he is at you rather than on his understanding of obedience.
Here’s an option for next time you are in a situation where you can’t make your son do what you want him to do. (Remember, you can’t make a child eat, stop crying, poop, pee, sleep etc. They are in control of those things and you are in control of YOU.) Recognize where your power lies—in your relationship with him and in your authority as his parent. Keep both in tact. Don’t ask him to do something that you can’t make him do. Simply reach down and scoop him up. Whisper in his ear, “Looks like you are having trouble walking today and need my help.” Crisis averted. Tantrum-throwing child is soon strapped in his car seat. The little guy weighed all of 30 pounds soaking wet.
Once home and all have returned to their senses, talk about obeying and the need to obey. Practice obeying. Have a specific consequence for disobeying and tell stories about “little kids” who haven’t learned to obey yet. Encourage him that soon he will be able to obey (like walking in the parking lot) even when he doesn’t want to.
Finally, if this is not how you always respond when he frustrates you, then grace to you. Certainly kids can push our buttons and make us feel powerless. Certainly randomly yelling at our kids won’t cause them to leave home at 16—because mine are still here despite crazy moments. But seek forgiveness for losing control. And know in your knower than yelling and yanking is NOT the same as having boundaries and it will NOT help him grow into the man that he is designed to be. But true authority and a deep relationship will.

Grace to you today,


To the Yelling Dad in the Parking Lot

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