What’s the number one parenting tool used by 99% of the modern parents, that’s 99% ineffective?


Yep, it’s our “go to” parenting strategy.  It’s our fallback, our parental comfort zone when our kids are getting on our nerves, crossing boundaries, breaking basic rules – you know, being kids.

The second most used and ineffective parent fallback strategy is the time honored one of, “Time Out.”

As parents we think that when our kids do something we must reactively display hot anger or put kids in “Time Out.”  It’s like we pull out our Parent Play Book, Chapter 3, “The Use of Yelling, “ or Chapter 4, “Time-Out for Dummies,” and off we go.

Let me ask you this.  Is it working for you?  If it is, keep on yelling or making the kid go into Time Out while he or she is screaming like a wild banshee.

If it’s not working (and that’s where I am placing my money), then it’s time to try something else.

A much more effective approach is to apply the skill of “cool anger.”  Cool anger is more honest (it’s much closer to how you feel) and, ultimately, more impactful, but most parents usually don’t understand the skill or have become afraid of using it, thinking they are inflicting shame and guilt on their child.

Let’s look briefly at “cool anger” in action.

Young Gavin, age 5, gets in trouble at school by spitting at someone while he is waiting in line.  Gavin thinks he’s being cute.  He is not.  When it is time to pick Gavin up at the end of the day, the teacher is meets you outside and is upset about what happened.

Once in the car, the usual reaction would be to yell at Gavin (Chapter 2), combined with the threat of time out (Chapter 3).  (By the time the kid gets home after the car harangue, he is probably enjoying his snacks and watching TV.  All is fine.  No sweat.)

An alternative to the usual parent chapters would be to make things very chilly and uncomfortable for the child.  Rather than yelling in the car, in the alternative approach there would be virtual silence, but cool anger would permeate.  There would be no, “How was your day sweetie,”  fun songs, iPads in the car or movies on the car screens.  

In short, it would be an uncomfortable environment.

Once inside the house, a brief, chilly and clear statement would be made that goes something like this:

“Here’s the deal.  I am very angry with you for spitting at school.  Spitting is 100% against the rules.  Right now, I am too angry to speak with you.  Everything is off – no iPad, computer, TV, video games or anything.  You’re not allowed to play outside either.  You can sit there for the next hour or so and do nothing.  I will be busy taking care of things around the house.  You are not to be bothering me.”

Once that is stated, that’s it.  No further discussion. Turn on your heels and go about your business.  No yelling, haranguing, lecturing or punishing.    As the evening goes along, you can warm up by degrees, but I would suggest that the tone of the night should be very, very subdued (boring) until bed time.  The usual Fun Parents are not so fun(that includes Fun Dad).

Takeaway Point

Cool anger sends a powerful message and puts responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the child.  The hope with this approach is that the child broods a bit, thinks about what he has done and feels some remorse.

Cool anger sends a powerful message and puts responsibility squarely where it belongs – on the child.

Turn down the heat.   It’s going to be a chilly night.


Adapted from, School Struggles, Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012), Sentient Publications