People yell for different reasons. Many people do it because they’re stressed, other’s because that’s how they were raised, some don’t know any other way, and many populations do it because it’s culturally acceptable.
Certainly there are many every day life events that if aren’t managed well, can lead the most lenient, non-strict parent finding themselves yelling.
These stressors can include;
- sleep deprivation,
- work stress,
- relationship issues,
- financial problems,
- hectic schedule,
- adjustment, and
But the list can go on, and for those people caught in this tug-of-war between life’s demands, it means they don’t always have time to de-stress or reflect upon how their actions and words impact others.
And we all know what happens when we don’t have time to de-stress, don’t we?
It builds up and up and before we know it your cup is half empty/full and you’re losing patience quickly, you seem to have little resilience, you can’t remember that parent strategy you ‘should’ be using, and you’re not parenting they way you want to.
Some parents are regular yellers, other’s only yell sporadically. Regular yellers do so for some the reasons listed above – that’s how they were raised and they’re not sure how else to get the desired outcome from their children.
Some parent’s only yell when their buttons are pushed such as when they’ve asked their child a dozen times to do something and it’s not done, or when they’ve slaved over a healthy dinner cooked especially for the kids only to find their child piffing (technical term for a toddler throw) it across the room because they ‘want the blue plate’.
Researcher’s tell us, however, that yelling is not an effective way to change children’s behaviour.
Sure, when a parent yells the first and even the second time, the child will probably stop what they’re doing. But this traps the parent into thinking that it’s effective, only to find the behaviour returns the following day. So, what does the parent do the next time the behaviour happens and yelling doesn’t work, they yell louder.
While parents may see a short term gain from yelling, it has seen to have a negative long term impact on children’s emotions and behaviour, and the relationship between the parent and child.
It decreases the child’s self-esteem and confidence, it can frighten them, and can lead to physical and mental health problems.
The parent/child relationship is also impacted. Research has found there’s a great deal of disrespect going both ways in relationships where parents yell to discipline. According to professionals, yelling is a disrespectful way to parent and leads to children not being able to trust their parents.
But there are many alternatives to yelling that set the foundation for long term behaviour change, and are the cornerstone for a respectful and enduring relationship.
Here are thirteen of them:
1. Catch your child doing good things and praise them
On the days, or even moments, your child is behaving well, compliment them. Don’t just notice it, make a conscious effort to acknowledge and praise it to your child.
“I like the way you’re playing with your toys, James. I think your toys like you playing like that too!”
And leave it at that. Don’t say, “I wish you could play like that all the time” as that can undermine the praise you’ve just given. Less is more in this scenario.
2. Point it out in the community
If you’re out with your child and you see another child behaving well, i.e. playing nicely with his younger sibling, point it out to your child.
“Look over there, that boy is playing so nicely with his sister. What a lovely big brother he is.”
And leave it at that. Don’t add comments such as, ‘I wish you would play like that‘ as this can be perceived as a criticism of your child.
3. Role model the behaviour yourself
Role modelling the behaviour you want to see in your children, is the biggest impact you can make on your child. The behaviours that you think go unnoticed are the ones your child notices. They are intelligent little people who pick up on everything. They will mimic everything you do because they love you and to them, you are their world!
So, be kind to others, show empathy, speak positively about others and do all the things you want to see in your child, yourself.
4. Give your child choices
On the more practical side of parenting, giving your child two choices instead of open-ended options means your child has independence to make their own decisions but you also get your child to do what you’re asking.
“James, would you like to put on your pajamas before your book or after your book?”
5. Pretend play
Pretend play is a great technique at not only promoting your child’s imagination but also getting your child to perform every tasks such as cleaning teeth, tidying up toys and putting on shoes.
James won’t get into the bath: “James, it looks like T-Rex is a bit smelly. Can you be in charge of cleaning him while you’re in the bath?”
Sarah won’t leave a friends house without the Peppa Pig Toy. “Sarah, oh dear. Peppa Pig looks so tired, would you mind putting her to bed before we go? Night night Pepper”, and promptly leave the house.
6. Express empathy
Expressing empathy is an effective way of communicating with your child. It creates a respectful relationship, lets your child know you understand how they feel, gives your child permission to feel that way, and then helps them work through their emotions. They will also mimic empathy to others.
“James, you’ve had a long, busy day and I can see that you’re upset and tired. Let me give you a cuddle.”
7. Give yourself time-out
Do you find yourself getting angrier and angrier the more your child pushes your buttons? Can you feel yourself getting to boiling point?
Give yourself a time out. If the kids are safe, leave the room, pour yourself a glass of water in the kitchen or make yourself a cup of tea or have a shower or take some deep breaths in another room. Whatever gives you a quick way to calm down, give yourself time out to recharge, remind yourself you are a calm and in control parent, then go back to your kids feeling confident, calmer and empathic.
8. Reframe the situation
Sometimes parents worry. A lot.
Is my child going to hurt themselves? Is my child bothering other people? Are they getting enough stimulation, or too much stimulation? Why isn’t my child playing with others?
But often parents need to take a back step and reframe the situation.
Your child has been ‘defiant’ all day. Every time you ask him to do something, he yells “No”. You’re at the end of your tether when he throws his lunch across the room and yells “Go away. I want the big fork!”.
At this moment you realise, he isn’t being defiant, he is learning to be independent. Yes he’s driving you crazy, but he is three years old, and pre-schoolers of this age push the boundaries to see what they should and should not be doing, to see what they are allowed to get away with.
With this realisation you change tactics. You give him the big fork and with this new found independence, he feeds himself lunch.
Later you may ask,
“James? I’m looking for a helper today that could wear this badge? But only someone who is willing to help me can wear this badge. Do you know of anyone?”
“Me, me,” he says.
“Okay, if you want to wear the badge you have to help me. But if you don’t help me, you won’t get to wear it and I’ll put the badge away. It’s your choice.”
Finally, you are able to encourage your child to be independent and helpful without yelling and without going prematurely grey! Hooray!
9. Make time for yourself
For many people, yelling is a stress reaction. While finding alternatives to yelling are effective, in isolation, they are usually only a band aid solution. But finding the source of the problem, will give you outcomes that are beneficial long term.
Finding time and ways to de-stress means you are less stressed around your child and less likely to yell. Combine this with a tool box of alternative strategies, means that you have an increased chance of using a more respectful and long lasting response to your child.
So tomorrow’s task – find time to yourself to de-stress. Make it happen!
Don’t undersestimate this beauty! A strategy that you probably used for your little baby, you can still use for your toddler and school-aged child.
Your child is waving around a toy and you’re sure she’s going to end up hitting someone or knowing something valuable over. Instead of yelling, “Sarah, I said put it down now” you say calmly, “Sarah, let’s play with that toy a different way” and you set up a different game with the toy or your discreetly put the toy out of sight.
11. Tag with your partner
We all need to tag at some point, particularly on one of those days. Recognise what your triggers are for yelling, and before you get to breaking point, tag with your partner. Have a conversation with them about using this as a strategy before hand so when you say, “Mike, I need to tag out,” he knows what you’re talking about.*
Remember, you can tag out with anyone you trust to care for the children if they’re around. You might only need five minutes to have a shower and calm down, and you can tag back in. You might need longer. That’s okay too.
If you’re not able to tag with someone. If your children are safe, give yourself a time-out (see above), to calm yourself.
*Read all about recognising your trigger points in my ebook, “Why won’t my child listen to me.” Get your free copy from the home page.
12. Refer to your Family Fun poster
This is a strategy many families use if they have a number of carers, or carers who struggle to discipline the children in the way you want them to (Nanny, I’m looking at you!!!)
Using a happy moment during your day (i.e. not when your child is tired, full of sugar, or crying), ask them to sit with you and do some posters for the wall/fridge. One is called Family Rules and the other Family Fun (name them whatever you like).
Talk with your child about what family rules you have in the house and why we have to abide by them. Prompt them if they need help. Talk also about what the reasonable consequences are for breaking them.
Then talk with your child about what family fun you have in the house and write them all down. Stick both posters side by side where you can go to them if your child breaks that rule…
“Can you remember the Family Rules, James? No throwing toys. If you choose to throw your toy again, I will have to put it on the bookshelf until you’ve finished your lunch. It’s your choice.”
13. Use a Hierarchy of Response
This is another technique outlined in my ebook.
It refers to putting together a Hierarchy of Responses to problem behaviour.
Overtime you collect more ways to handle situations, so that eventually you find one that works effectively and for the long term.
You might use different responses for different situations which is why it’s a good idea to have a few up your sleeve.
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