Do you find your patience being stretched as a parent? Would you like to know how to parent without yelling? Val Mullally, parenting expert and author, shares her 10 simple ways for parents to stop themselves yelling at kids and what to do when kids won’t listen:
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Karen glimpsed herself in the mirror. ‘Is that me!’ That reflection. That red-faced, roaring woman. Was that how her children would remember her? She’d always thought that parenting without yelling would be as normal as building sandcastles on the beach.
How did her peaceful, calm home get swept away! ‘I don’t want to be yelling and roaring at my kids,’ she thought. ‘How did I let this happen?’
She’d always imagined she’d be a loving, relaxed Mum. She’d imagined a loving, peaceful home – not this war-zone of constant battling: ‘Eat your food.’ ‘Get ready for bed.’ ‘’Stop that fighting.’ It wasn’t just her barrage of instructions that concerned her. ‘When did I get to barking orders like a sergeant major?’ ‘Why am I always yelling at my kids? Is parenting without yelling possible!’
If you identify with Karen’s experience, you’ll be glad you’re reading this because your interactions with your children can be different. We don’t have to yell at our kids. The moment we recognise the trap we’ve fallen into we can start figuring our way out of it.
I don’t think any of us as parents deliberately set out to yell at our kids. It probably began when our dear little baby morphed into an ultra-mobile toddler who was capable of exploring pretty much anything and everything we didn’t want explored.
One day we used an extra loud, No! – and Bingo! – the child listened! (This big voice was probably as much a surprise to us as it was to our child). Our yell worked – so we used it again – and again. And when it didn’t work so well we yelled louder.
Over time we learnt to yell louder and louder more and more often, and our children learnt to take less and less notice. The less they listened the louder we yelled.
Somehow we slithered down a slope, without even realising it, until we were trapped in the net of yelling louder and louder, more and more frequently, whilst our children seemed to become deafer and deafer.
For every action there is a reaction.
Maybe you’ve noticed when you yell, then your child:
- develops selective deafness
- ignores your demands
- withdraws from you
- makes excuses
- becomes aggressive or sullen.
We can’t expect different behaviour from our children unless we model different behaviour ourselves.
Einstein said that insanity was repeating the same thing again and again and expecting different results. Laugh out loud, I guess we’re all a little insane as parents at times! The bottom line is that yelling doesn’t get us what we want (a co-operative home). It just adds to the stress.
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So how does a parent stop yelling?
10 simple ways for parents to stop themselves yelling
#1. Imagine your child’s experience and reaction to your yelling.
Is this really how you want your child to remember you? (And is this how you want to remember yourself!)
#2. Recognise the yell trap you’ve fallen into.
#3. Acknowledge yelling isn’t working.
It isn’t working because the more you yell the more impervious your child/ren get to your over-loud commands. The louder you yell, the harder it is for them to hear you!
#4. Acknowledge that yelling is harming your family relationships.
Nobody likes being the yeller and nobody likes being yelled at! If we want relationships of equal respect, caring communication and cooperation it starts with us as adults setting the tone.
#5. Commit to quit yelling.
Change the habit. Like any other habit – smoking, overeating – make a conscious decision to quit. And stick to it! You quit smoking by never picking up a cigarette. You quit yelling by never raising your voice in anger or frustration.
It helps to have a clear picture in your mind of what you choose to do differently, rather than yell, when you need to hold a limit.
Take a moment to finish this sentence: ‘Instead of yelling I choose to … ‘
If you’re challenged to imagine a calmer way to handle discipline issues, see my book, ‘BEHAVE, What To Do When Your Child Won’t’, available on Amazon, or my Online Parenting Course for the three signposts to effective discipline.
#6. When your child acts out, choose to respond, rather than react (unless it’s an emergency where you need to yell to keep someone safe.)
Rather than a ‘knee-jerk’, unthinking reaction – PAUSE, so that the thinking, reasoning part of your brain can catch up with that first reactive impulse. Ask yourself, ‘What really matters here?’ When you take that millisecond to think how your action will impact what happens next, you can choose a more helpful response.
#7. Hold in mind that your child’s behaviour is about him.
Your response is about you. Choose to set the example of calm, in-control behaviour.
#8. Not yelling does not mean abstaining from discipline.
Your children needs you to be the adult, to set clear, firm boundaries to keep them physically and emotionally safe.
#9. Notice your thought patterns.
Our children don’t make us mad. Our thoughts about our children make us mad. Here are a few examples of parents’ unhelpful thinking:
- ‘He’s trying to control me.’ ‘
- ‘He’s deliberately winding me up.’
- ‘She’s a brat.’
Thoughts like that increase our stress, and when we’re stressed we’re more likely to react by yelling. Let go any unhelpful thought the moment you notice it. Remind yourself that all conflict is a protest at the disconnection. Keep calm and figure out how to reconnect.
#10. If you ‘lose the cool’ and yell, stop the moment you recognise it and apologise for yelling.
Tell your child that’s not how you want to be. Don’t make excuses for your behaviour. Focus on your breathing, to calm yourself. Remember – it’s your choice to yell. It’s your choice to respond calmly.
Over to you now. What are your experiences in breaking a yelling habit? It’s a trap we can all fall into. Please comment because sharing your story can help other parents find their way to happier, calmer interactions.