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Parents Do You Use The Look Effectively?

You know just what I’m talking about – The Look.  When you saw your mom or dad with The Look on their face, you already knew you had trouble before they said a word.  Hard to be confused by that one.  But sometimes we undermine one of the most powerful parenting tools known to mankind.  Read on to see how.

A common complaint from parents is how much their kids argue with them.  Granted, I know this is frustrating from personal experience.  But the biggest problem isn’t the argumentative kid in many cases.  It’s the parent letting the argument continue.

What?  If a kid is trying to argue, shouldn’t the parent show the kid who’s boss and set the record straight?  Unfortunately, the more words a parent uses with discipline, the more diluted they tend to become.  And yes, you should show the kid who’s boss.  By closing your mouth and giving the look.

Take yourself back enough years to when The Look from your parents made you shudder.  What was worse, your mom or dad rattling off a lecture or stone cold silence with The Look?  The Look actually gets its power from the near lack of words.  I say near lack because just a few is all you will need to clarify things for your child.  A low voice spoken slowly with great control of each word.

But the silence – it felt like an eternity when you were waiting for the verdict from your parents about your report card, your missed curfew, the dent in the fender, or whatever.  You just wanted it to get over with and were often willing to do whatever was necessary just to get out from under that stare.  The waiting nearly killed you, and you hung on the few words spoken, hoping for mercy.

Compare that image and feeling to seeing a wordy parent carrying on with a loud angry voice.  It’s pretty annoying and unpleasant, but do you really care what they are saying after a while?  Don’t you tune out after the third time they repeat the same explanation?  You can end an argument pretty quickly with your child.

When they lash out or say something outrageous to you, get quiet.  It’s only an argument if two people participate and you aren’t going to no matter how wrong they are.  If they are speaking to you in a disrespectful way, they’re done for a while.  The Look is about speaking to their mannerism not the topic.  Getting quiet will get their attention much more readily than getting louder or arguing back.

Give The Look with much fewer words, and then address their disrespect with firm consistent consequences.  Make it known that you aren’t going to play the game anymore.  Have consequences ready to go that you know you can pull off 100% of the time.  If you have engaged in an argumentative pattern for a long time,
you may have a taller hill to climb.  You and your child may have allowed the power structure in the family to get somewhat upside down.  But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a change anyway.  You may need more support and it may get more difficult before it gets better.

For fun, get a mirror and perfect The Look you use.  Try a few different types of The Look, see what looks scarier and more intimidating.  With a Look like that, you won’t have to say much at all.

Parents Do You Use The Look Effectively?


Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.


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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Parents Do You Use The Look Effectively?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 27, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/family/2009/09/parents-do-you-use-the-look-effectively/

 

Last updated: 11 Sep 2009
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