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Do your kids lie to you or hide things from you?
Do they blame others for their mistakes?
Do they look away or fall silent or seem to shrink when you come into the room?
Do your kids cry even before you yell at them?
Do you yell at them? Or hit them? Or make sarcastic remarks?

Too many children are afraid of their parents. Mom and Dad mean well. They’re just trying to get the day accomplished and it seems to them that the kids are getting in the way. So they lose their tempers. But the children are the real losers. If your children are afraid of you – if you see the kind of behavior listed above – then you’ve got to turn things around, and fast.

This turning around is something for you to do. It’s not true that you’d be a better parent if you only had better children. It’s not true that the way to have better children is to destroy them so you can build them into people who are nicer. What is true is that our children were created by us. The problems we see are problems we created.

Which means the problems we have with our kids are problems we can solve.

If you have a short temper, if you get stressed and overreact, if you want everything to be perfect and things are never perfect, then your children are your victims. This is a hard thing to realize. We love our kids and we’d never do anything to hurt them. We only want the best for them. But the demands we make, the blame we assign, and the punishments we mete out take their toll. If your children are afraid of you, you’ve got to begin to back off.

Children who believe the important adults in their lives are dangerous have only two outlets. They can become small and timid, afraid to shine, afraid to try. Or they can become even more dangerous than you are, to their siblings, to other kids they know and, eventually, to you.

If what you’re yearning for is the perfect family, then making your children afraid of you and afraid of your anger and your unhappiness is the wrong way to go. Make a change.

  1. Give up your electronic devices. The constant pinging is like having an insistent puppy always demanding your attention. Give your children your attention. Put away your phone and your tablet while your children are home. See if you don’t feel calmer.
  2. When something goes wrong, make your first reaction a smile. See setbacks as opportunities to work together with your child to solve things. Help your child get back on track in a way that is supportive and loving. When you quit assigning blame and quit being angry all the time, your children will become more responsible and happier.
  3. When anger bubbles up, take a deep breath and strive for self-control. Don’t take things out on your kids. There is nothing, nothing, that matters so much over the long term as your relationship with your children. Whatever just happened is a momentary distraction. Don’t let it become more.
  4. Speak in a quiet voice. There’s no need to yell. You don’t need to shout to be heard. If your children are used to you fighting to be heard, if your kids are used to being out of control until the moment you scream at them, it will take time for both of you to get back to a more normal interaction pattern. But it has to start with you. You’re the grown up.

When we realize the damage we’ve inflicted, to the point that our children are actually afraid of us, we’re embarrassed. We’re sad and ashamed. We want to hide. But none of that solves anything.

The way to repair the hurt we’ve inflicted is to become the parent we wanted to be all along.

© 2015, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Look for free downloads on Dr. Anderson’s website at