12 Ways To Yell Less And Have More Fun Parenting
There's a lot of yelling going on at my house, lately. And not the "woohoo, ain't we having fun?" kind of yelling. When I am very frustrated, I yell. And the kids yell back. I recently instituted a no-yelling rule (with duly noted exceptions for imminent danger, to placate my little future lawyer) but I must admit at least one person has broken that rule every day. We're not quite at the call in America's Supernanny stage but I know we need to make a change.
Very little research has been done on the effects of yelling. Some studies suggest that the type of yelling and the frequency make a difference--screaming, "You are such an idiot!" is likely more damaging than occasionally shouting, "I am so frustrated right now!" However, I do not have to look very far to see that yelling breeds more yelling and usually just results in everyone feeling rotten, including me.
Speaking with the experts, I found near unanimous opinion that yelling hurts, models poor behavior, and just plain old does not work.
So, how do I stop yelling and start disciplining more effectively?
A 12 Step Program to Stop Yelling (Expert Tips)
- Take Care of Yourself: Instead of running myself ragged to give my kids have the best of everything, I need to sleep well, eat right, and find my own center to make sure my kids have the best of me. Easier said than done, I know, but it is worth repeating. "Put on your own oxygen mask first and then help your child," reminded Dr. Tia Horner, child psychiatrist with the Massachusetts General Hospital PACT program and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
- Plan Ahead: "Yelling often results from poor planning," explained Dr. Ramani Durvasula, licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. Boy am I ever guilty of that! And the yelling usually just makes my kids drag their feet more, resulting in us being even later. Dr. Durvasula suggested, "Wake up on time, lay stuff out ahead of time. If you have to leave by 8:00, shoot for 745; then you will be out by 8:00."
- Check-In With Your Own Emotions: "Start to notice the your body signals prior to yelling…heart racing, emotional temp rising, sweaty palms. The sooner you recognize the signs, the sooner you can stay in control," advised Stacey R. Kaye, MMR, author of ParentSmart/KidHappy books.
- Signal to Your Child: "Long before the argument…set up a signal, verbal or non-verbal, letting the child know 'mom is angry and needs to take a break.'" Kaye also recommended. "As you feel your temperature rising, you might hold up the peace sign or the okay sign. Then, calmly walk away from the situation." When I was a kid, I think this was just called "the look" but I love the idea of a more neutral signal.
- Breathe: When we hold our breath, we get more tense. Almost every expert recommended breathing to regain emotional control. "Take a step back, use self-soothing talk, reassuring yourself that you can handle this situation best using a calm, relaxed tone. Take three slow deep breaths, holding your breath for seven seconds before each exhalation," explained Laurie A. Couture, parenting coach, author, and mental health counselor. "If necessary," she added, "walk out of the room and take space. Remind yourself that the goal of each interaction with your child is to build the relationship and that yelling will hurt it." Even better, this is a technique you can model and teach your child for handling his own emotions.
- Get On Their Level: When you are ready to talk, it is important to get close to your children. You will know you have their attention and will be less likely to yell if you get down to eye level with them. In the same vein, Dr. Durvasula said, "Don't yell through the house - if you can't see someone's face, unless it is physically impossible [to do so] - don't try and communicate with them."
- Have Clear Consequences: "Have a consequence and follow through. Do not yell about homework not getting done, have a consequence. The child cannot play, watch TV, move on, until it gets done," urged Brandi Davis, founder of Child And Family Coaching. Think through these consequences in advance so that you are not stuck with a poorly-conceived consequence that you do not want to implement.
- Give Second Chances: Everyone deserves a second chance, especially your children. Silvana Clark, author of "Fun Filled Parenting: A Guide to Laughing More and Yelling Less", offered this idea: "Make or buy (at a party store) one of those black and white Hollywood director clap boards. Explain to your child that when you ask them to take out the trash (or any other direction) and they have a disrespectful answer, you will simply bring out the clapboard and say 'TAKE TWO!' That means your child can 'replay' the scene. This puts your child in control of their actions and gives them a second chance." If they do not use the second chance to make a positive change, implement the consequences.
- Include the Kids: While parents are responsible for the family, kids can have age-appropriate input. Ask, "I notice there has been a lot of...rude talk, yelling, mess...lately. How can we solve this problem?" Dr. Thomas M Seman, President of North Shore Pediatrics, also recommended allowing children to brainstorm possible consequences: "The child will more often than not create a consequence that is harsher than the parents. And since they created the consequence they feel that it is fair."
- Have a Sense of Humor: When my kids start screaming, I run in, looking worried, and ask, "Where's the bear? No bear? A tiger, then? A dragon? I'll protect you!" Usually this diffuses the tension and reminds my kids that we do not yell unless there is danger. Or if my kids start making impossible demands, I turn the tables and ask them to fly or turn the sky green.
- Try the Opposite: If yelling doesn't work, how about whispering? Dr. Susan Bartell recommended this effective way to literally get kids to listen. After all, they have to stop and pay attention to hear you when you speak softly.
- Be Positive: The best way to discipline without yelling is to work on your relationship before kids even act up. Almost every expert emphasized the importance of positive reinforcement. Dr. Durvasula said, "I actually set a timer and when we get through 15 minutes of good play - I take the moment to reinforce them for playing nicely, cleaning up, being cooperative, whatever. Kids love praise - but we don't avail ourselves of those opportunities."
Most of all, if you do yell, be a good role model and apologize, forgive yourself, and try again next time. Dr. Horner said, "Parenting is hard and children know better than anyone how to push a paren'ts button. Be aware of your buttons, take care of yourself, remember the journey of raising children is a marathon and not a sprint, and the goal is not 'Perfect Parenting', for this is impossible but rather, 'Good Enough'."
Do you sometimes lose control? Have you found a way to yell less?