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Why Aren't My Kids Afraid of Me?

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Sometimes a little fear is a good thing.

mom yelling at her kid

Momlogic's Yvette: I don't get it. Back when I was a kid, all my mother had to do was give me the evil eye and I knew I better get my butt in gear and start behaving. The same goes for my father, although with him, there was no evil eye needed -- a mere glance in my direction made me hop to it and put on my best behavior. My parents didn't hit me (except for the occasional butt whollop) but I knew they didn't fool around when it came to me fooling around. Punishments were swift and stern. The rule was listen and behave ... or else.

Fast forward a few decades and here I am, a mother of two. Sure, they're good kids, but they can also be real pains sometimes. Lately they've been perfecting the art of arguing, fighting, moaning, whining and bickering. It seems we can't get through the day without an all-out brawl breaking out. I've done everything in my power to get things under control. But for some reason, I just don't have the same control over them that my parents had over me. Unlike my own childhood, my kids are not afraid of me. And that pisses me off sometimes.

It's not like I want them to shake in their shoes when they see me, of course not. I love being the warm and fuzzy mommy, the one the kids want to cuddle up with or run to when they have a boo boo. But there's something wrong when I can't seem to get them to listen or stop misbehaving without screaming like a banshee or threatening to throw away every single toy they own. It's not like I'm making idle threats here -- several Barbies and even Bakugans have gone missing in my efforts to get my kids to behave.

My husband doesn't seem to have the same problem. The kids virtually stand at attention when he reprimands them. He says my problem is that I give too many warnings, that I'm not tough enough from the beginning. Add that to the feedback I got from one friend who says I'm too tough ... my head is spinning while my kids are spiraling out of control.

Here's the thing -- more than anything, I want my kids to respect me. I want them to listen to what I say because it's the right thing to do, not because they're afraid I'll bring out the garbage bag and clear out their toy chest or because they may get spanked (no, I don't spank -- but I have to admit that lately I've been tempted a few times.)

When we were kids it was black and white. Parents were to be listened to and even feared sometimes. They made the rules and we followed them, it was as simple as that. Today, we teach our kids to use their words and talk to us about their feelings and motivations, even if that means listening to them give a half hour monologue on why they went ahead and gave their sister a wedgie even when we warned them not to.

Sometimes I wish we still did things the old-fashioned way. I know we've come a long way -- our kids will be better off because of what we've learned. But I have to admit, there are some days I'd be happy to trade in a little respect for a whole lotta fear. Sometimes I would have to agree with my mother, those were indeed the good old days.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. December 31, 2008, 1:04 PM

My Dad had “the look”, my Mom had the voice. She didn’t yell, she spoke quietly. If my brother and I could barely hear what she said, we knew we had better do whatever or stop doing whatever.
My daughters, 8 & 10, are generally well-behaved except for arguing and at times hitting each other.
I seperate them, each in a kitchen chair facing a wall. I “ground” them from their computers or their new and precious Wii. I rarely have to, because if I say I will, I will, and they know it.
I used to send them to their rooms. Although neither has a t.v. in their room & they don’t keep their handheld games there, there are books and art supplies, so that isn’t really a punishment.
I think the key is calm and consistent consequences to not Mindin’ Yer Mama. ;)

KaBoogie December 31, 2008, 1:12 PM

I’m a mom of 6. Worked out great til #5 and 6, then the chaos started LOL. The key is do NOT argue, warn or threaten. I remove, isolate, punish, whatever, with no warnings. Hubby argues, yells and threatens, and gets no respect in return. Are my kids perfect? NO! But at least they know when to quit!

Lisa Singer  January 4, 2009, 1:35 PM

Wow - I could have written that very same article. I feel the same way. I am always hearing what nice kids I have. This comes from parents of friends, teachers, coaches, etc. Both of my boys get good grades and are kind to everyone but me! I have tried to be strict to the point that they should be afraid of me! I have made it my resolution for ‘09 to say what I mean and mean what I say. My follow through is not always the best and I think this is where my problem lies. I want my kids to respect me and not take me for granted. I’ll let you all know how it goes. Thanks for letting me know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Happy New Year!

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