Are You Cruel to Your Children?

I tore into my 10 year-old-daughter yesterday.

It wasn’t a half-baked telling off.

It was a full on balling out.

I was so angry, I must have screamed at her for 10 minutes.

The poor little mite was in floods of tears by the time I finished.  She sobbed for half an hour.

Why was I so angry?

She stepped into the road without looking.

It is my worst nightmare that my children are killed by some fool using a mobile phone instead of watching the road.

We hear horror stories about children being abducted, but if anything happens to mine it won’t be a kidnapping, it will be a man in a white van not watching the road.

It makes me shudder to even think about it.

Ripping into her didn’t help

When I finally calmed down and the fear and frustration had abated I said to her

“Don’t you know how to cross the road?”

she replied:

“No, not really”

This isn’t the first time I have put the fear of God into her, but screaming at her hasn’t told her what to do.  I assumed she had been taught at school, but apparently not.

She was just following me down the street.

How is she supposed to know how to cross the road if I have never really shown her?

It’s not just my daughter

How many times have you put up posters telling people that “The Customer is King” or “Safety Matters” then balled out your staff and put them on performance improvement plans without ever giving them the method, tools and training to do the right thing?

Will they know what to do better next time?

A goal without a method is cruel – W.Edwards Deming

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  1. James, you are a brave soul. If I were to publicly admit to a 10-minute “balling out” of my daughter, I would be typing my next blog on a mid-90s PC in a grimy jail cell. We are emasculated parents here in the US, where the tail wags the dog and the dog can whimper nary a protest. That being said, nice post and I love the Deming quote. I must use that in my next DMAIC teaching.

    • James Lawther says:

      I need to watch that

      Balling Out (UK slang) ~ To tell off, to publicly humiliate, to scream and shout at.

      Not to be confused with

      Ballin Out (US slang) ~ To spend exorbitant amounts of money. Usually with the confines of a one ridiculously drunken evening. Often accompanied by sluts, assorted bling, and no regard for any type of human reason.

      Hope that clears it up.


  2. Hi James,
    I was facilitating at an away day yesterday and one thing came up that applies here: Assumptions often get us and others into trouble.

    I’m glad your daughter is safe and hope that you have calmed down.


  3. Hello James

    Great way to point at that which needs attention. As I read your story, I hear a strong need to ensure that safety of your daughter. This need triggers inappropriate behaviour because your button gets pressed, the amygdala gets highjacked, you act instantly. When you have calmed down then the reflective part of you considers the situation and asks intelligent questions. And you get the insight: aha, I assumed, my assumptions is incorrect, then you act to supply that which is missing.

    What I find fascinating is that we are brought up in cultures that put agency, rationality and free will at the centre of what is so. Which means EVERYTHING gets attributed to a human being. The further assumption, is that everything is predictable if only one had used one’s reason to figure stuff out. Therefore, when you and I do not get what we want – perfection – then we automatically attribute agency, blame, and criticise. This then ruptures relationships and generates self-protective behaviour from those whose self-esteem is dented.

    One of the wisest sayings i have heard goes like this: a person’s behaviour is direct function of the way that shows up for him/her. Which means that given how the situation shows up for the person he/she could not have done anything else. Now if you stand in this space and look/act on the world then a whole new world opens up. You start to ask questions: how would the situation/world have to show up for X for him/her to do Y? And then you check with X. Just like you did with your daughter.

    Imagine what kind of world we would co-create if we operate from this stand: every single person is doing what shows up has the right action course of action given how the world/situation shows up for him? So let’s listen first, understand, build a relationship, create an opening to inform/educate, then inform/educate.

    All the best

    • James Lawther says:

      Absolutely Maz, I love your point:

      A person’s behaviour is direct function of the way that shows up for him. Which means that given how the situation shows up for the person he could not have done anything else

      A reaction often has more to do with the person who reacted than the person who provoked it in the first place.

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