You remember the firm voice. And if you’re a dad, you’ve used it. Please write me if you’ve never used it to tell me exactly how that is working for you and how you manage to do it.
There are the moments when a firm voice is absolutely necessary. Say, a toddler reaching up toward a pot of hot boiling water on the stove. Or a young child running into the street after a ball. Certainly appropriate. But how about when you’re in another room, you hear a smack and the two-year old toddler starts screaming, followed by the five year old running up the stairs? Is this a necessary time?
Probably not. Siblings fight. Overreactions occur daily, sometimes hourly. But I felt the need to use the firm voice as my son ran up the stairs. “What did you do,” I said.
My reasoning was stress. Prior to this moment I had put up with what felt like a half hour of screaming and being yelled at because my son had left a bag in the car, and I brought four other bags and items in but forgot the one he wanted. Emotional rationalization out the door and hysteria entered.
Yes, looking back I lost my cool. I tried to talk with my son about the screaming and the bag and how he could have went out to the car to get it. But no, what he remembers most is the firm voice. The scary dad. Because when he’s in that state it’s a state of fear and irrationality.
Fear and during times of threat can cause people to concoct an extreme negative reality. In The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot, she uses the example of a seventeen-year-old Palestinian girl experiencing a cough, shortness of breath and fainting that triggered the Palestinians to accuse the Israelis of using chemical weapons against them.
This epidemic of acute illness sent 1,000 young girls to the hospital fearing that they were coming down with these same symptoms of chemical attack. The New York Times article from 1983 quotes the directive general of the health ministry as saying the outbreak had “no organic basis.” It was all in their head. Psychosomatic.
The reality we perceive is the reality we live in. If your son or daughter perceives you as the mad scary dad, even if you’re just stressed, that is what you are. Their reality is the one they develop.
The lizard brain is the term described for the fight or flight basic fight for survival state of the brain. Humans have inhabited this earth this long because of this brain, but fortunately, in today’s world, we don’t have to worry about fight or flight. Unless maybe home life is stressed–due to poverty or illness–or you live in a country like Syria at the moment, stay calm and work to maintain the father you want your kids to perceive.