“HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU TO STOP DOING THAT?”
“IT IS TIME TO GO. GET IN THE CAR NOW!”
“BECAUSE I SAID SO.”
If you have ever found yourself yelling at your children then those phrases are probably familiar to you.
Yelling just seems to have become the norm for many families. But how to stop yelling? With all the stresses of our daily lives, long work hours, kids’ activities and sports, dinners on the run and everyone short on time and long on things to get done, yelling can be like the first tool we pull out of our tool box. Yelling happens to the best of us. Tom Madison agrees. He finds that he yells at his two girls more than he would like. “It usually comes from the fact that one of the kids is doing something (i.e. jumping off the couch) that we have told them 10,000,000,000,000 not to. And I realize that often it is not the end of the world kind of thing – but usually it’s one of those things that can be extra annoying or you don’t want them to get in the habit of doing.”
Tom’s experience likely sounds familiar. We have all been there. So many of us have resorted to yelling. Doone Estey, a certified Adlerian Parent Educator, founder of Powerful Parenting and Mom to 4 teenagers, is one of several parenting experts at www.parentingnetwork.ca and she says the key to remember here is that it might work in the short term because if you yell loud enough your kids are scared and do what you ask but what do you do the next time? It is not solving the problem in the long term. It just means the next time they don’t have to do it until you yell loud enough. Estey says the worst part is that we are role modeling an adult out of control and then we expect our kids not to yell. Here we have been yelling at our kids and then when they yell we wonder why. “We are not treating them respectfully and we are expecting respect back”, says Estey.
How effective is yelling? That is the real question for parents. Tom says in the short term it works. The kids hear him when he yells but says he isn’t sure if it actually improves the listening. He says he wishes he never had to yell, as do many parents. Estey says it doesn’t have to be that way. She says there are tools that parents can use to stop the yelling but there is no quick fix. It does take some time, effort and commitment. She says parents have to think about the long term goals. “When you start yelling at your kids is it because you want them to get out the door on time and have your kids listen to everything you say or are the long term goals to get them to be independent, responsible and respectful children?” says Estey.
Here are some tips for parents on how to stop yelling:
This is a big one. Parents need to make sure there is enough time to do what needs to be done and if there isn’t enough time and you are going to be late you need to think about how important it is for you. For example, Estey says am I going to miss a flight or be late for an important meeting or am I yelling at my kids everyday just so the school teacher doesn’t give me the look? So planning ahead is a great way to work in enough time so that you don’t stress yourself out and ultimately yelling at your kids because you are stressed out. Estey says if mornings are a problem for your family then talk to your kids the night before or at dinner about what everyone is going to do to make mornings go smoother. The idea is to have options and to keep moving to get out the door if that is your biggest trouble in the morning.
Parents need to act and not talk so much in order to get children to do what they need to do or what is expected of them. For example, Estey says if you have said that you are not going to help the kids get dressed in the morning because they are now old enough to get dressed themselves, then you should just let them do it. Rather than continuing to have the conversation about getting dressed, Estey says parents need to say it and then tell the child that you will meet them downstairs when they are done and leave the room.
Estey says she finds parents are often afraid to follow through. The idea is that parents need to work in expectations and consequences and if it comes down to it actually do what you say you will. For example, if you have a child that just can’t seem to get dressed in the morning, rather than running after them, you wait by the door with the understanding that if they don’t get dressed then they will have to put their clothes in the bag and get dressed at school. And you actually follow through with it. “Being consistent, not giving in, being firm but kind and not yelling really can make a difference” says Estey.
Parents need to include children in this process. It is not only a list of house rules but also about what needs to get done and in what order. For example, she says if mornings are your issue then get the kids to make a list of what needs to be done in order to get out of the house and to school. If they can’t write, have them draw pictures. You work together as a family to decide what needs to get done. Post the list where everyone can see it and then parents should refer to it; ask kids if everything has been done on the lists.
Change your words
When you are trying to get children to what you want try not to say because I said so because that is a parent exerting control and power over the child. Estey says that is where the power struggle comes from. “Parents can say something like, it is time, it is time to do this or time to do that or there is no time do this or that or say it is the rule.” It is non-judgmental, it is firm, it is kind and you try to keep your tone calm. You role model a respectful, kind and firm person.