Any parent can tell you, the maddest they ever got at your kids is not because they did something to pissed you off or hurt your feelings. It was because they scared you. By running away in a parking lot. By getting caught with some dangerous drugs. By not coming home at curfew. By playing with something you told them they could never touch without an adult present.
The reason you react so intensely in these moments is because the feeling you felt was so intense. You care about this person more than anything else in the world–and here they are risking that, endangering that. Out of ignorance. Out of selfishness. Out of stupidity. By not listening. By not taking you seriously.
This is what was obviously at the root of the story we told recently about Jimmy Carter. He had gone out to sleep in his treehouse and not answered when his parents called for him. They must have been worried sick! Where was he? Did something happen? His father gave him the “whipping of his life” so he wouldn’t ever, ever, ever do something like that again.
Well guess what? That’s still not ok. Your emotions are not to be taken out on your child…who by the way cannot possibly comprehend a parent’s worry until they become one themselves. The outlet for your frustration and fear and anxiety and anger is not your child! Especially when you claim that the severity of those feelings is rooted in your love for them. Really, Jimmy’s father cared so much he whipped his son? How silly does that sound?
Yes, you need to send a message. Yes, you need them to take this seriously. Yes, they need to know how they made you feel. But force and anger and passionate emotions are not the way to do that. In fact, if you don’t get control of yourself, you may well send the opposite message.