How to Stop Punching Each Other In the Face

In civilized life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would seem quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face.
– C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

We KNOW this to be true, don’t we? The exasperation in our voices as we tell our child for the umpteenth time to BRUSH YOUR TEEEEEETH! Or for the love of all things holy, could you remember to put the tooth paste cap on??!

This is the point when we think to ourselves, “When did I turn into my mother?!” Aaaargh. (no offense, mom!)

As C.S. Lewis knows fully well, it’s habitual incidents like this that chip away at our domestic relationships, create the Mommy Guilt, and build resentment between us and the ones we love most in the world. But what recourse do we have, considering that part of our responsibility in raising these small beings is making sure that they make it to semi-adulthood with most of their teeth intact?!

I have this alternative to offer: disengage from the power struggle. It’s not the words themselves but the tone. So how does one deliver the words without the tone? Use signs. Wha? (VIDEO 1:13)

This is a technique that I learned in the Yoga Parenting lesson on Boundaries. What I love the most about using signs is that we can use the way our children’s brains work to help us maintain a healthy, loving relationship with them. When a child reads, they are responding to visual stimulus rather than to your tone of voice.

In my house, this is how it plays out. Instead of the above aggravation, I hold up the sign that says, “BRUSH YOUR TEETH.” My six-year old READS the sign. He says, “I’m going to go brush my teeth now.” It’s HIS thought, not mine (per se). Really, I’m not TELLING him what to do, which he hates. He is choosing to do it himself, which is very empowering.

So there it is. I’ve created a situation that allows him to make the choice I desire for him — no screaming, no threats, no guilt about screaming and threats, and no cavities! (crossing fingers)

And no more emotional punches.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon, co-creator of the Yoga Parenting course. Are you ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful?


  1. Zen Mommy says:

    Love the C.S. Lewis reference for this. And yes, signs work. Pretty amazing. Think my hubby would get mad if I held up a sign? “Trash Night”. Ha.


  2. Hmmm… maybe not as long as you preface it with one of those sweet ones! *wink* Flip away, ZM!


  3. love!


  4. I remember you both talking about the signs when you first premiered Yoga Parenting…. I loved the idea then, but didn’t put it into practice… But am thinking this would make my life THAT much more peaceful – especially since my tone has a way of escalating as I get (fill in the blank… more tired, less patient, etc)

    Thank you for this! xoxo


  5. I don’t use it nearly enough. Just tonight, I was reflecting on the things I say over and over… those are the things I must put on signs.

    Doing. Now. Yes, I know it’s 2:25 am.


  6. love it! just heard that sentence in the radio performance of the Screwtape Letters – SO worth listening too!

    thanks for sharing!




  1. […] wonderful new friend Ria included a Screwtape mention in her post this week. And yes, next week Screwtape wil be back. […]

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