“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter Three

“Who’s The Boss?” is the title of this chapter, and it opens with the premise that children test authority.

This chapter does have one section geared toward toddlers, but for the most part I really feel much of this chapter, with its talk of consequences and such, is geared more toward parents of older children (ages 7 and up). However, if you are the parent of a child under the age of 7, certainly the parts about how we as parents react to challenges to our rules are worthy as a topic for our own inner work and personal parenting development.  Did you all feel this way regarding what ages of children this chapter might be most applicable to in reading this? 

So anyway, let’s kick it off with this gem of a paragraph on page 50:

It offends our sensibilities as parents to be confronted with the fact that we are not the all-powerful bosses of our children.  They tell us this themselves.  “You are not the boss of me!” is the favorite parental button pusher of many children.  What we want is for them to understand that our judgment is based on years of experience, that what we say is the rule, and that they should do as we tell them because we love them and have greater wisdom than they do.  (We also want them to be grateful to us for all the efforts we make for them.)  When they refuse to accept our restrictions, we become frustrated and enraged, and threaten, punish, and hit or – just an ineffective- back down and give in.”

Woo boy, I could write a whole series of posts off this one paragraph.  However, two main issues or challenges of parents today come to mind.  The first challenge is this:  I see so many parents who seem afraid to have rules in their homes, but who are then angry when their children do not do what they want, and don’t seem to know how to hold authority in their homes without yelling, screaming, demeaning, feeling “put-upon”, etc.

So, to begin with, one must accept the fact that one has authority and power just by virtue of being a parent, and that part of this authority is demonstrating a good use of power, not an abuse of power. You can set the rules and tone in your home, and you can be calm when those rules are broken and you can come up with better ways than yelling, screaming, hitting or anything else to help guide your children.  That is essentially what this book is about.  It is also what this blog is about in many posts!

For the back discussion of power and authority,  try this series of back posts for help: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/  and here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/

And don’t forget the posts regarding EVERY AGE from birth through age 9 on typical development and ways to have peaceful living with each age.  Just use the search engine on this blog and type in the age and see what comes up or go through the archives month by month.

I think the other thing the above paragraph from page 51 makes me think of that is a challenge for many parents is this: CONSISTENCY.  Consistency is so important in discipline and alleviates so many difficulties.  Rhythm is a huge part of consistent help for younger children in guiding what behaviors happen when and what is appropriate.  It is also important in matters of restitution for all children, but especially for older children.            

You can do this! On page 51, the authors remark that knowing developmental stages is half the battle.  However, knowing this does not mean that you do nothing and completely ignore the behavior, but it also means that you have an idea that your child may not grow up to be The Terrible Person Who Makes You Look Like You Failed As A Parent just because it takes 500 times to make something stick.  You must find the Middle Way in your feelings about this. 

I think part of  the learning curve and you must be consistent and persevere longer than your children do.  Do not get discouraged, keep going! “Many of today’s parents, who have rejected the punitive environments of their own upbringings are, like Rebecca, confused and disappointed when their children still express anger and defiance. They had hoped that their more benevolent approach to parenting would do away with these inevitable power struggles.”

Children are immature, they are not rational and logical, and they will use words and actions in immature ways. Their words and actions may anger you. But, the question is, can you hold on that one second past your child? Can you drop your end of the rope when your child is in a tug of war with you? Can you express your own emotions in a mature way? We most likely cannot do these things all the time as we are not perfect. However, the striving is really, really, important. The thinking ahead is really important: what are the limits in my home? What will I do when these limits are broken? How will I react when my child says they hate me or they won’t? What will the consequences be?

The authors suggest to stop turning things into a power struggle and to frame things with a “yes” if you can – “yes, you may have that later”. Use humor instead. Set consequences when you are calm. Take a breather before you respond. I think in some ways technology in our society has deluded people into thinking we don’t have to think carefully or prudently, that there should be an answer right away. Most things in parenting don’t have such a simple answer, and if you have not thought it out ahead of time or dealt with something similar before, you need to stop and think and not provide a new jerk reaction to the situation.

Anyway, okay, that was a lot of my own tangents from reading this chapter…I would love to hear what you thought and what your reaction was to this chapter.

Many blessings,


6 thoughts on ““Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter Three

  1. Carrie, I’m really wishing I had ordered this book now…!

    Wanted you to know that there is no link included for the back posts for the series on power and authority. 🙂

    Warmly, Courtney

    • Opps, you can tell I meant to go and put that back in…Thanks for reminding me, will go do now!
      Blessings to you Courtney!
      Carrie 🙂

  2. I agree that this chapter was more focused on older children. What I have found particularly helpful with this book is the author’s real life anecdotes. So many times I have felt that I am the only mother I know that yells, threatens, etc.. There is so much relief to be had in just knowing that while it is not ideal to lose your temper with your kids, they will survive if you do. It has really helped me break the cycle of yelling then feeling guilty and becoming more angry and on and on.

    I also noticed in this chapter that there was a focus on using “natural consequences’ instead of yelling, nagging, threatening, etc.. I don’t think this will really work with little ones. This leaves me wondering what to do with them because yelling, spanking, threatening and bribing do not work long term and neither does just giving in. When my 4 year old says, “You’re a brat, I’m going to cut you into pieces”, responding with, “We don’t call names in this house” seems really weak and doesn’t seem to stop it from happening again.

    Finally, I think this book ties in really well with “Hold On to Your Kids” by showing how to control the anger that can get in the way of maintaining connection with your kids.

  3. Dear Carrie

    I have a question.. I have trouble exercising authority as a parent. I know you mentioned somewhere that just being a parent gives you authority.. and I also remember reading your post on being an authority.. still it is one of my weak points that I want to overcome. I do just fine on most days… but sometimes, not so good and my husband and mother in law are quick to remind me that I am weak as a parent, and don’t hesitate to add that perhaps I was parented that way too, which makes me real angry /// part of the problem perhaps is that I temporarily gave up my career (I am a foreign trained physician) to be with my kids, but nobody seems to understand or appreciate my view, and I feel even more underconfident as a mother and a failure as a professional.I am always tense and it defeats the whole purpose of staying at home and being with my kids. I can make my husband understand but there are in- laws who have fixed opinions. I guess we will have to endure it until we are independent, until then, do you have any advice or tips to handle my situation? I really value your advice and will be gratefull for it.

  4. Dear zigma pluto,
    May I offer my opinion,….
    Please do not take this the wrong way but it sounds like your troubles are not really with your child rearing, but within yourself and your in-laws. I can understand where you are coming from, as I am an architect and have given up my career to be a stay at home mom. I am homeschooling my children now and it took me a while to be at peace with this decision. This is so very important so that you can concentrate on your family instead of feeling guilty about leaving your career, even if it is just for a short time. Being a full time mother is so much more difficult than most people think, a lot of times more difficult than working at a workplace, you can not leave your job of motherhood at 5pm or for lunch and you are responsible for this little soul and the world this little one is going to shape, after all you are responsible for the future generation. This is a very challenging job!
    I am not sure about your family situation with your in-laws, but they had their chance of raising their children, this is your child and your turn to make decisions as to how you want your children to grow up, not theirs. If they graciously point your mistakes out to you, just say thanks and ignore it. After a while I think they will notice that their comments will not bother you anymore and they let it be. If not, I think you will need to come to an agreement with your husband and have a talk with the family.

    I hope some of this might be helpful to you, being a mother is challenging work, one really does not need to be undermined by family or friends.

    • Maggie,
      That is so beautiful and right on….The mothers who read my blog are the best. 🙂

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