Try Not to Take it Personally

I think the best I advice I ever received when I began my peaceful parenting journey was to not take anything your children do personally. If your child is upset and throwing a tantrum, it doesn’t mean they hate you or want you to suffer.

The purpose in not taking our children’s behavior personally is help us remain calm and composed, in order to think rationally about what needs of theirs are not being met, and then to figure out how to meet them.

It’s plain and simple advice, but was not plain and simple to take to heart. My own upbringing was by parents who yelled and got violently angry first, asked questions later. Those were the tools I was taught, and so those were the tools I used once my first child hit that age where it his negative behaviors were ripe for misinterpretation is an attack on me personally.

There is one caveat to this advice, however: if you have been the cause of your child’s suffering, then their anger may very well be personal. You should take it personally, but if only to learn from it. It’s no different than when an adult is angry at you for causing them some degree of suffering. Take responsibility for your actions, apologize, and make it right.

This has me thinking more about adult relationships. Sometimes people are angry or upset, and sometimes that anger is directed toward us. But it’s not always the case that our actions inspired that anger. If we know that it did, recompense may be in order. If we are unsure, then stay calm and composed, and do some digging. Taking it personally is unhelpful, both to you and to them.

I see angry people in the world. Some of them are my peers, others are distant strangers. Their anger sometimes seems directed at me as a man, or as a white man, or as an American. I really need to heed this advice, and not just in my home. People are suffering, this is true, and I know it’s not because of anything I’ve done. I don’t hurt people or take their stuff. I’m a good person. I truly believe that. I work very hard at being that way, day in and day out. It’s my life’s mission, really. Anybody who knows what I stand for can attest to that.

But people are hurting. They truly are. And for all sorts of reasons, all of which, I now know, are because they’ve been made the target of coercion and aggression and violence by other people, as children first, and as adults later. It’s the greatest injustice of our time.

But I’ve had enough of it. I no longer employ these tools, nor do I stand for others employing them. I speak out. I write. I podcast. I discuss. I disobey. My greatest hope in life is that others will do likewise. Will you?

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Founder and editor of and, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.

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4 years ago

Well stated Skyler you. was violated by angry parents and swore to never be that way and so my son has never been spanked nor yelled at and he is extremely Intelligent, Curious, Gentle, Caring, Personable and as one of his rewards, he is at TOP of his SCHOOL, not just his grade or class His teachers were told in advance to NEVER yell at him nor use any kind of Violence against him, which, UNFORTUNATELY, is the norm in Uganda, where he attends school, BUT they TALK to him if they have a problem with him or TALK… Read more »

4 years ago

You’re welcome and I think I should have mentioned that MOST people have a very delusional/bigoted or at the very least,an UNINFORMED idea about all so-called “Developing Countries”, in many areas, and with education ,in particular IN Uganda, the country where my son is attending PRIVATE school, MOST schooling is PRIVATE, which is why Education is rare for most, as the majority of people in those countries cannot afford Private school. Thus unfortunately the majority must send their Children to Government school, if they want them to have at least a modicum of education, such as reading writing and math.… Read more »