Last week we talked about the “Anger River” that resides, often unseen, beneath the “ADD Swamp. ”  Control battles, punishments and other attempts at compliance feed the river.  (See Anger River:

Homework is the great battle ground.

We “grown-ups” often have misguided notions of childhood  with tapes running through our Parent Brain as to how children “should be” and how we should act as parents.  Some of those tapes include:

“If I just yell at the kid, he’ll do what I want.”   (Good luck with that.)

“They should just listen the first time.  I shouldn’t have to repeat myself.”  (O.K., keep watching those shows from bygone eras.)

“My parents use to swat me once in a while – it worked for me.”  (Nostalgia for the good old days when swatting was a go-to parent strategy.)

The tapes go on playing endless loops in our Parent Brain.

Punishments are 99% reactive delivered in the heat of the moment.  Most of the time they (like yelling) don’t work,  yet because of Parent Brain  we persist.

If punishments are misguided, what reduces the Anger River?   Two words  –  “listening and understanding.”  (Note, I didn’t say “agreeing and complying.”)

I saw a kid recently who had the river flowing.  When I asked him about his anger he said all he wanted was for his parents to listen to him.  His perception was his parents were being unfair about certain things.  When his parents did listen (after being coached on how to keep Parent Brain out of it), even though they didn’t fully agree with him, their son felt better, at least for the moment.  He felt understood.  The river was a bit lessened.

There’s one other strategy that helps to ease the Anger River.  Take guesses.  “Look, I bet you’re angry with me because you think I am being unfair, right,” is often a good place to start.  (Most of the time kids think Parent Brain is being either overly controlling or unfair.)

Once taking a guess like the one above, you will likely get a good nod of the head and then you should ask for your child to tell you more.  For Parent Brain, the key move at this point is to not defend or explain why the kid is wrong.  JUST LISTEN.  When your child is done, say something like, “I get it.  I understand why you are angry and think it’s unfair.”

That’s it.  Who knows.  Perhaps by listening and airing the feelings some compromise solution may emerge.

Wouldn’t that be nice.

Takeaway Point

Fight the Parent Brain tapes.

To get blogs and other updates from Dr. Selznick, go to