Parents – Just Shut Up! Toolbox 23


I have to admit that parents, like children, just don’t know when to shut up. I know this from experience. Having watched myself lecture (though I don’t think of it that way – it is more like… instructional feedback), say the same things over and over sometimes in different ways – often applying the “if it doesn’t work, do it louder” strategy, even while watching my child start to ball his fists, scream – STOP TALKING, or worse. Yet, heedlessly I talk on. Even my wife says at times, “I don’t need a lecture”. Sweetie Pie, I’m just giving you feedback. Then I read one of Kirk Martin’s, Founder of (love that title) poignant “must read” articles that I want to share with you. Not that any of you talk too much but you might know a parent who does “lecture” to their children. If so, please pass this on.

Shut Up. by Kirk Martin (reprinted with permission)

I have debated saying this for weeks. I am afraid some people will be offended, miss my point or misconstrue my motives. I planned to send an encouraging message with practical strategies for homework, dinner and bedtime. But this needs to be said.

Some of you need to learn to shut up. Seriously. You lecture endlessly. You can’t just drop something. You have to prove your point. You keep going, finding fifteen ways to say the same thing. You eventually become resentful because people won’t listen to you. You make everything about…you.

Is that harsh? Of course. Because I want it to sink in. Why? Because this compulsion is destroying the very relationships and respect you crave. It is causing more power struggles and backfiring on you. You want your kids and spouse to listen to you. But not only are they shutting down when you do speak, they aren’t coming to you with their problems.

Why do you lecture? Constant lecturing is demeaning to kids. It’s provoking them. It says, “I don’t think you’re able to think and make good decisions, so I’m going to control you and wear you down with my constant talking.” Lecturing is NOT teaching. When you talk too much, it makes you sound weak (not authoritative!) and invites negotiation. It’s a sign you are not confident and not in control of yourself.

You have every right to feel anxious, irritated and angry about your child’s behavior. But that does NOT give you the right to lecture, provoke and escalate situations. There is no scriptural command to lecture. There are plenty of commands to be patient, show self-control, discipline and model appropriate behavior. But not lecture them.

NOTE: Here are several different responses you can have to this article

You can be offended at my words. If so, then you are CHOOSING to be offended. Do you create drama with others because focusing on THEIR wrongs helps you avoid dealing with YOUR weaknesses? I’ve done that. Are you easily offended by your spouse and kids when they don’t do things the way you want them done? If so, you are creating battles that don’t need to be fought. What are you hiding from?

You can lecture ME on why saying, “Shut up” isn’t polite. You want to, don’t you? You’re already constructing the email in your head about better ways I could have made my point without saying those words. Why do you feel compelled to do so?

You may want to gently correct me and teach me, because you really love me and care about the mission of our organization, and because you don’t want sensitive souls to be hurt. That’s sweet and empathetic and wonderful. But when does it cross the line for you? Do you feel compelled to feel needed, to make other people happy, to be the hero? That will lead you into many emotional traps.

Why can’t you just accept this for what it is? If you are one of the thousands of parents who need to hear this so you don’t ruin your relationships and lose your self-respect, this is the most compassionate newsletter I could have sent. It’s a message that *I* need to hear. There is absolutely NO GUILT in this–just be honest with yourself so you can change.

Men, why do you have to prove your point? Has your wife ever looked at you and said, “Thank you, honey, for proving that I was wrong using your superior logic. It feels so good to be married to someone who’s always right”? No. It makes you and ME look like jerks and we need to apologize for it. THAT will help your relationship.

In Summary, the moment you sit down and calmly say, “I’d like to listen to what you have to say…without trying to control your behavior or change your opinion” is the day you begin to become the trustworthy, respected leader your spouse and children crave. The quickest way to change your child’s or spouse’s behavior is to change and control your own. Are you ready?

I do not write this to make you feel guilty. I write this so you can be free. You’ve told people your kids are just so challenging (and they are), but the real issue is you need the confidence and strength to lead them. And I am challenging you to draw a line in the sand, to break these destructive patterns you carry from childhood. Call a therapist or counselor today. Let this message get deep down inside you. Your child’s behavior will change when yours does.

Kirk Martin is Founder of Celebrate Calm. Learn how to stop yelling, sibling fights and defiance by signing up for Celebrate Calm’s (wonderful name yes?) free newsletter at He is pictured above with his son Casey who often presents with Kirk.

by David Durovy, Editor Post Parenting Toolbox Series