Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Parenting Without Hate

What can you do to promote world peace?
Go home and love your family.  
~Mother Teresa 

Some parents seem to think that hate is a necessary part of the parent/child relationship. They believe that if they are doing their job there will be times when their children will hate them. They assume that teenagers will be angry and resentful and that there will conflict. When a parent says publicly, in real life or on-line, that their child is mad at them because of some punishment other parents will respond with support. The other parents say that it's normal, that the child will get over it, that the parent needs to stay strong, and that it's important for children to know who's boss.  Some parents think that they have to use punishments that will upset their children and make their children angry.  They think that they have to do this to control problem behaviors.

Definition of HATE: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury (

Is that really what you want for your family?  Do you want your children to hate you? Do you want yelling and screaming and tears? Do you want hostility and aversion to be a part of your relationship with your children?  Do you want your children to fear you?

Do you remember being punished as a child? Did it make you less likely to do something again or less likely to get caught the next time?  Did punishments make you more likely to do something because it was the right thing to do or less likely to do something because you were afraid of punishment? When you were sent to your room did you think about what you had done or did you think about how mad you were at your parents?

Many parents think that by punishing their children they are being "good parents."  Some parents parent this way because it was how they themselves were raised.  Many parents simply do not know that happy, confident, loving, generous, capable children can be raised without parenting that causes conflict in the parent/child relationship. Many parents don't know that the most effective way to have children who are all of those things does not involve punishment, bribes, rewards or other forms of parental manipulation and control.  If you don't believe me I encourage you to read Alfie Kohn's book "Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason."

Parenting does not need to involve hate.  In fact, parenting should not involve hate.  Parenting should be based on unconditional love, respect, compassion, trust and connection. Imagine a family without conflict, without yelling, without punishment, without consequences that are created by parents.  Imagine a home where parents respect the children and the children trust the parents. This is not some fantasy I've created in my mind, this is how families I know are living today. This is how my family lives.

Do you enjoy parenting?  Do your children enjoy spending time with you?  Do your children choose to spend time with you?  Do you choose to spend time with your children? Do you want to have relationships built on trust and mutual respect? Do you want to be able to trust your children?  Do you want your children to trust you?

We can be our children's partners on the journey of life. We can live together joyfully in peace. This is possible when we meet the needs our our children. Meeting our children's needs is The Easy Button of Parenting.

If you are parenting with punishments and find that yelling, tears and even hate have become a regular part of your family it is time to look at what is causing the conflict.  My blog post on Triggers which will help you begin identifying and neutralizing the triggers that are causing conflict.

It is never too late to create a more loving and peaceful relationship with your children.  I know because I made dramatic changes in my parenting when my children were between the ages of 8 and 12.  I am now enjoying the teenage years of my oldest daughter which lead me to write "Hopefully some day you will have a teenager." I'm actually looking forward to when I have three teenagers in the house.

Hate has no place in our house.  If my children are angry with me than I know I need to find out why and figure out what I can do to reconnect.  Notice that the above sentence is all what I need to do, not what my children need to do.  I do not want my children feeling "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury" because of something I have done.  If they do then I need to examine my behavior and apologize for what I have done. Have you apologized to your children for your behavior lately? Perhaps that's a good place to start as you begin to change your own behavior and learn to parent without hate.

If we have no peace,
it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
~Mother Teresa


  1. You keep on rockin these posts my friend! Awesome!

  2. This is wonderful. I'm sharing it on FB, my family is sharing a status about how they are happy that their parents were mean to them. I think this will be a nice alternative. Thanks! :)

  3. Another book I recommend is P.E.T. (Parenting Effectiveness Training). I'm re-reading it now and it has so much good stuff about living as a family without punishments or rewards, without power struggles, and about how to listen and talk so that everyone gets their needs met -not just the kid, and not just the parent.

    His take on the "difficulties" of adolescence: adults who use punishments/rewards are using their position of power to change a child's behavior. When the child is little it "works" to an extent because the child is so dependent on the adults. Physically and also emotionally dependent. As kids grow older and more independent the threat of punishments and promise of rewards don't weigh so heavily on the teen. And there are all the years of resentment, fear, etc, too.

    Jen Hughes

  4. Very nicely written! I, too, am baffled and frustrated at parents who are proud of being mean.

  5. Oh I didn't know how to say what needed to be said... aha! because you said it for me :) Thank you for this incredibly timely post ♥

  6. Okay,so I have been thinking about this all day as I have dealt with issues with my son. He's six and he's a good kid but there have been times when I have said "if you don't stop that you are going to your room." I have found myself thinking about what you have said I trying to look at it differently. His fit may be difficult for me to listen to but he is throwing it for a reason. I have tried to listen to that and look to fix instead of punish. That said there are two situations that (one happened today, the other comes up from time to time) that I am left stumped about. The first (the one that happened today) is that he let our dog into a room the dog is not allowed in. He did this by simply not closing the gate behind him when he left that room. The dog made a big mess. I informed my son that from now on if he continues to leave that room open and the dog makes a mess he will clean it up. Now, he does not like this idea at all. When it happens, and I am fairly certain it will, he will be very upset with me. But I think this is not a punishment so much as being responsible for yourself and your actions. But I am curious how you might handle that. The second situation is probably typical to any household - he is my oldest and I have two daughters who are one and two. When he is bored he does things to annoy and upset them. It comes from boredom and I try to catch it before it happens but when I don't I usually give him a chore, or something to do or simply tell him to play in his room for awhile. Again, I am curious to hear what you would suggest.

    And I want to say that I am not criticizing you or your philosophy. I like it. I have not read the books you mention and I will take them out of the library and read them. But for now I am curious to know your thoughts. :)

  7. :) Hi Upstatemamma,
    Your son is only six, which is really young. I know that I always expected a lot from my oldest because she seemed so old in comparison to the babies, but looking back I realize how much of a baby she still was. Everyone forgets to do things, even adults. It may not be a realistic expectation that your son will remember to close the gate to keep the dog out of the room. Recently a high school band teacher friend of mine forgot his work keys on the first day back to school after winter vacation. Many of his students also forgot instruments, papers, music the first day back. They expected their teacher to be mad at them. My friend explained that everyone forgets things sometimes and that even he had forgotten his keys. Why did the kids expect to be in trouble? It was because we often have a double standard. We expect kids to not make mistakes and if they do they often face anger or punishment. When we forget something we brush it off. What would happen if you forgot to close the gate and your son scolded you? If it was an honest mistake, he forgot, why hold it over his head? Why set up a punishment that already has him upset? Instead, why not tell him that you realize everyone forgets things sometimes, even you. I'm sure he knows that the dog made a big mess and that it isn't a great idea to leave the gate open. I'm guessing he feels bad about that. You could ask him if he'd be willing to help you clean up the mess, but if he doesn't want to than you can clean up the mess without making a big issue of it. Why? Because he will see that sometimes we make messes and the people who love us clean them up. Maybe some day when you spill the juice or drop eggs on the floor he will kindly as if you would like help cleaning up the mess. (It happens! My oldest actually cleaned up the egg my middle daughter dropped on the floor without being asked :)

    I think one of the biggest drawbacks of sending children to their room is that they are removed from the situation which makes it impossible for them to continue learning what they might do differently next time. It can be really challenging with three young children to meet all of their needs all of the time but sending a child to his room because he's annoying his siblings does not help him figure out what to do when he's bored or how else he might interact with his siblings.

    And, when you make a chore a punishment or a "consequence" your child is learning that chores are not fun, something bad, something to be avoided.

    It's hard being the oldest when the younger siblings get more time and attention from mom and dad. Responding to your son with compassion might be more effective in the long run rather than sending him to his room or giving him a chore. Validate his feelings. Try to find ways to connect with him while you are caring for the girls. Try to create some special one-on-one time with mom or dad on a regular basis so that his cup is filled up with love and attention. It may be that he's bored, I have a daughter who feels that way often and sometimes it does lead to her doing her best to annoy other family members :), but it may also be that he's feeling a lack of attention and he's trying to get that need met.

    You might also read Naomi Aldort's book, "Raising our children, Raising ourselves."



  8. Great post Jenna. Thanks for the link back to triggers. I struggle the most with yelling. And it comes from feeling frustrated about the situtation. I must get better at stepping back and reevaluating outside of the frustration. Or better yet work to be more connected so the issues don't happen as often. I do have a question though how do you handle things when it is siblings throwing around the "I hate yous" Sadly it happens between my older girls.

  9. i don't have much to add to jenna's response except to agree with it all. it can also help to look ahead to how the dynamic you are laying the groundwork for now might play out later on. adolescence can be pretty peaceful, with little of the typically expected rebellion, when there's nothing to rebel against!

  10. :) JoAnn, I posted my response to your question as a blog post because I think that is something that most of us have struggle with at some time if we have more than one child! I'll post it here, too:

    I've struggled with the "I hate you!" statements made by my children towards each other. It can be hard not to feel reactive when people you love, and who you hope will love each other, are using the word hate to describe how they feel. However, that was actually the answer for me, realizing that the word was being used to describe how they were feeling.

    If I say "Don't say that!" I am discouraging them from expressing their feelings. The reality is that they are using such a strong word to express some very strong feelings. When there are strong feeling swirling around it is easy to get sucked into the situation and become emotional or angry. However, I have learned that if I can disconnect from the word they are using and connect with the emotions they are feeling it makes it a lot easier for me to stay calm and compassionate.

    It is then easier to say, "You are really feeling angry towards your sister," instead of lashing out at the use of the word hate. Sometimes validating their strong feelings can help diffuse the situation and lead to each child feeling more heard and understood. Sometimes we have to step back and let the children work it out for themselves, particularly with older children. In that case we can then make time later on to reconnect with each child to provide them with the opportunity to talk with us about what happened and how they felt about it and how they are feeling now.

    If we get distracted by the words that our children use it is easy to lose sight of what our children need. If we start scolding our child for using a particular word we are creating a disconnection. If we focus on how our children are feeling and what their needs are we are creating connection.

  11. We had dogs for many years and my kids learned at a very young age that things left out would be eaten by the dog :-( They got in the habit of keeping their bedroom doors closed, and we did a "sweep" of the house before we would leave the house to make sure everything was put away. If I saw that a bedroom door was open I would simply close it. Sometimes I would say "I closed your door so the dog wouldn't go in". When it was time to go somewhere I would say "let's get everything picked up" and we would all go around putting things away. I guess it was leading by example, just doing it myself and counting on what I think everyone has: the desire to be a competent, appreciated person. I appreciate whatever help they are able to give, figuring that they give whatever help they can. It is difficult for ME to know exactly what another person is capable of physically and emotionally, so I let them show me what they can do. The helpfulness of their help increases as they get older :-)

    So, for your specific situation I would be saying things like "I want this gate to stay closed so the dog doesn't make a mess" and then I would be keeping an eye on it so I could close it myself if he forgot. I might say "it takes awhile to make a new habit, like closing the gate." If the dog gets in and makes a mess I would say "oh no! the dog got in and made a mess. Oh well, let's get to cleaning it up!" Messes will happen; for us they added a bit of motivation to be more vigilant.

    I think the main thing is to express your needs and your feelings and get them met without using words or tone of voice that say to the child "You're so forgetful" "You let me down" "I'm so disappointed in you" "You're bad" Creating bad feelings in a child isn't going to make them more cooperative. Think about how you liked to be asked to do something. Think about how you would ask a cherished friend or spouse to do something.

    Throw out all that emotional stuff and see that this is just a problem that needs a solution. Ask your child for ideas: "What else could we try?" Kids come up with the most amazing solutions to problems!

    I hope something in here helps :-)

    Jen Hughes

  12. So, I blogged about this. I linked you. I want to say here (and I said in my post) that I am not criticizing you. I am sort of writing out my internal debate. I am intrigued and for me that means a lot of thinking, rethinking, posing issues I forsee and so forth.

    Asking my son for a better solution has often given me a whole mew perspective on things. Kids are so smart. Way smarter than people give them credit for. What someone else is capable of is hard to say. But sometimes, I find I have to require things of my family - husband, kids (well just my son I guess) - and friends because otherwise it is asking too much of me.

  13. @Upstatemamma :) I really appreciate the process of sorting out new parenting ideas. I've been there myself! I hope to read your blog post more carefully soon.

    I think that involving our children in coming up with a solution is a wonderful thing. :) They do have amazing and creative ideas.

    I'm curious about your comment that you require things of your husband and of your friends. What happens if your husband doesn't do something he's required to do? Or your friends? Do you punish them or give them consequences? And do they require things of you or are you exempt from requirements?

    In our house we all have choices. If I ask my husband to help me with something he has the option of saying no. If I ask my children to do something they have the option of saying no. If I don't want to do something I have choices, too. I see meeting my family's needs as a gift to them. I talk about this perspective in this post:

    And speaking of meeting needs it's time to make some food!

    I look forward to our continued conversation.

  14. I suppose if I have a friend that consistently does not meet a need I have that friendship will eventually fall asleep. For example, I had a friend who she and I both agreed to swap babysitting. I would watch her son one Friday evening and the expectation was that she would do the same the following week. Well, for months I watched her son and she never watched mine. Eventually, I said something. I felt taken advantage of. When I told her she did not care how I felt at all and eventually I stopped watching her son and shortly after that our friendship fell apart.

    As for my husband I suppose I will probably tell him what I need from him. In truth he will often choose to do what I ask because he understands that I need this. I suppose if he were constantly ignoring what I need our marriage would not be in a good place. And yes, they have requirements of me as well. I think that every time two people are in a relationship - no matter what the relationship is - they require things of each other.

    Now, to address this concept of what happens if they don't? Well, most likely nothing. That would be true of my son, my husband and my friends. I don't tend to deal in what if they don't. True for a friend it can ruin a relationship but that is simply not the case with my son. If he is refusing to do something then he and I (and probably my husband) must sit down to figure out what to do. But that doesn't mean that I don't expect certain things. I suppose it would be better to say I expect certain things of my son, my husband and my friends. That may be a better choice of word then require.

    I appreciate the discussion. :)