parenting

What Is Meant by “Emotionless Parenting?”

“Emotionless parenting” might sound like a harsh phrase or a recipe for cold indifference. However, the term does not suggest that parents hold back love and affection from their children, nor does emotionless parenting mean that we cannot experience our own emotions in response to our child’s actions. Rather, emotionless parenting means that our emotional response to our child’s behavior is not a natural consequence of their behavior.

Yes, Kids Might Make Us Mad or Upset

Our kids might wreck the car or throw a party and destroy the house when we are away. We want to teach our kids that these actions do have natural consequences. Iff these events would make anyone angry, isn’t our anger a natural consequence of our child’s bad behavior? Shouldn’t we yell or discipline them in some way to teach them to fear us getting upset? Doesn’t our child need to experience consequences right away to make the lesson stick?

When our kids were small, our anger had some gravity. We were bigger than them, and we could yell at our kids to change their behavior. What options did they have? Small kids are much more reliant upon us for all of their needs. However, once kids grow up, our ability to “out-scream” them holds very little weight, as they can now fight back. We have to think of better ways to teach our kids responsible behavior.

Consequences Do Not Need to Be Immediate

Many parents believe that they need to have a consequence right away when they find out that their child has done something wrong. We might think that we are supposed to appear as if we always have the answers. Yet, we know that we don’t, so why hang onto this illusion? When we try to think of a consequence right away, we might not be thinking clearly. Anger and other heightened emotions do not lend themselves to clear, rational thinking. We are not in the best space to make decisions.

Consider the example of a teenager taking our car without permission, then wrecking the car. We get a call from the police. We are worried—is our child alright? Are they in trouble? What happens next? Our child is physically fine, yet they had us worried, and now we are angry! They need to know how mad we are right now. 

Is this emotional space the best place for us to teach our child anything other than the fact that wrecking our car got us angry? Our child already knows that. But what do they need to learn from this experience? We might need to take some time to cool off before we deal with this issue.

Emotions Are Fluid and Kids Need Consistency

Reacting to our child’s behavior in the moment when we are upset leads to inconsistency in the consequences that we set. One day, our child might slam the door on their way out, and we scream at them; yet another day, we just ignore the behavior. Maybe we had a bad day and our child’s behavior set us off the deep end. Yet, on another day, we might not even get upset if our kid talks back to us. Emotions are not consistent; they are a changing system of expression.

Kids need matched and equal responses to their behaviors. If we only react based on our emotions, we will never be consistent in our responses. We need to take the focus off feelings and on behaviors. To understand how to respond, take a step back, calm down, and focus on what happened. Consequences for behavior need to be directed at the behavior itself and not on our emotional reaction.

You Are Allowed to Feel Upset

Emotionless parenting is not the same as saying that our emotions do not matter. We just need to deal with these feelings on our own and be careful not to overdo—or underdo—consequences for our child’s behaviors. One day, we might feel depressed ourselves and respond with apathy when our child returns home with a failed exam. The next day, we might be angry after a rough day at work and yell at our child about their failed test. We are allowed to feel upset about what is occurring in our lives. We might need to talk with our friends, begin therapy, or join a support group to manage our own emotions.

However, our kids are not responsible for fixing our emotions. They need us to take care of ourselves first to be at our best for them.

Emotionless parenting techniques remind us that our kids are not responsible for our emotions. While our kids might do things that make us feel sad, angry, shocked, or upset, we need to take ownership of these emotions. Our emotional response is not a natural consequence of our child’s behavior. We might believe that we need to remind our kids to behave appropriately or fear us. They are not allowed to do anything to make us upset! However, deciding consequences from a heightened emotional state will not lead to consistency or fairness—nor will our kids learn anything to prepare them for becoming responsible young adults. If your child struggles with problematic behaviors, you might need support and guidance to navigate this crisis. You are not alone. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for kids who struggle and their families. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to make your family’s fire burn brightest.

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