Yelling at Oscar

This morning I yelled at my son.  I mean, I really yelled at him.

My typical eight year-old wouldn’t change from shorts to pants, even though it was cold outside.  I stood close to him and roared, “Aaaaahhhhhhhh!” right in his face.  ”You’re driving me crazy.  Go upstairs now,”  I yelled.  He stood motionless for a second and looked at me a little shocked.  After a moment, he adjusted himself and stood still.  He said in a zen way, “I am not motivated by anger.”

I said, a little less angrily, “Go upstairs now.”  My son stood in his place, looked into my eyes, and said again, “I am not motivated by anger.”  I took a breathe and said more calmly, “Please go upstairs now.”  He went upstairs and changed into pants.

As soon as he was gone, I smiled and was so entertained by how he had handled my anger.  A few minutes later, we ate breakfast while having a warm and friendly conversation. Oscar said he didn’t like that I was using anger to try to motivate him.  I explained that I don’t like how it feels either to be mean to him.   “However,”  I added, “anger does work sometimes to get you to do stuff.”  Oscar disagreed and said it doesn’t work.  So we agreed to do an experiment this week.  I said, I would do my best to ask my son to do things in a nice way.  We agreed that I’ll keep track of how often he does what I ask him to do, when I ask him in a nice way, and not in an angry voice.

I know so much more about parenting well because Cal is autistic. I’ve found the best experts to help me with Cal, and as a side effect, my typical son has experienced awesome parenting.  He has also had the most well-trained fun babysitters on the planet.  (Everyone who plays with my autistic son, plays with my typical son.)  So my eight year-old is able to express himself and communicate with me about emotions in a profound way.  I learn so much from him!  I would have been a good parent anyway, even if Cal wasn’t autistic.  But I would not have known things like  how to teach my kids about whether they want to use anger to motivate people.

I feel like I know stuff.  I don’t mean that in an arrogant way.  I feel confident and blessed.   I often know what to do.  I’ve learned so much about parenting.  Because of Cal, I have access to really smart practical people who have helped me raise my sons.


  1. ellen sandor says:

    you have helped create an eight year old guru

  2. Eric Taub says:

    I love that kid!

  3. Julie says:

    awesome! i am so impressed by Oscar’s mature response. I think I may try your experiment. Even if it fails, i have a feeling it will yield some interesting results.

  4. Melissa Studdard says:

    Awesome story. What an amazing son you have! How many adults would even think to say that they are not motivated by anger? We can all learn something from him!