Managing Parental Anxiety

Parents often struggle with a child who is constantly, if not subtly, disobedient. A firm parent will “nip poor behavior in the bud,” but a passive parent will continually struggle to gain some type of control. Both are difficult but let’s look at the optimal method by which a parent should approach this type of child.
There is a steady climb of parental anxiety as a child misbehaves little by little. She throws food at her little brother and you clean him up without saying a word. She makes a deliberate mess of her room and you say, “Stephanie, don’t do that.” Finally, she does everything but take a bath as you instructed her and you wonder where your parenting clout has gone. I say, “what parenting clout?” As you allow your child to engage in negative behaviors, your anxiety goes up because she is not behaving like you want. You eventually scream to get her to listen and it then takes you a while to return to a state of normalcy. It looks something like this. The red line represents your child’s misbehavior across time while the blue line represents a parent’s anxiety level.

The best thing to do is be swift and direct regarding a child’s poor choices. The downside of this is that parenting anxiety makes a swift spike, yet the positive side is that a return to normalcy can be much quicker. Why does it look like this? Your child is behaving like you want her to. Instead of working tirelessly to manage a disrespectful child, you quickly stop the behavior you do not want to see.

As you can see here there may be a spike in parental anxiety (for some) as they correct their child, but consider the fact that misbehavior is much shorter and a return to a normal mood level is much quicker for the adult.

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