Yelling at our children isn’t something most parents want to do, but it happens. Some of us yell on a once-in-a-blue moon occasion; others yell so much the neighbors think we’ve taken up yodeling. But whether it’s rare or frequent, yelling is largely ineffective (and possibly damaging). Learning how to stop yelling at your kids can not only save your kids’ self-esteem, but it can save your vocal cords as well.
Reasons Why Yelling Doesn’t Help
Most parents are aware that physical punishment harms a child, but verbal punishment can too. Harsh verbal discipline, which is discipline intended to cause the child emotional pain or discomfort in an effort to correct misbehavior, can look a variety of ways. Parents may yell or scream, they may curse or swear, they may call their child names or insult them in some way.
Eventually, this parental aggression may turn into child aggression – kids learn from observation. But that’s not the only problem. When children are yelled at, they also feel rejected, which skews their views of the world and negatively impacts their relationships. Thus, vicious yelling only causes a vicious cycle.
There is emotional fallout, too. Children want their parents to like them, to laud them, to find pride in them. When they’re yelled at, they feel worthless and depressed, as though they’re an inferior kid. This can turn into low self-esteem, which can then turn into poor behavioral choices.
All of the above is hard to undo, even with positive parenting. Sometimes, the damage caused by yelling can’t be erased.
Yelling may even impact your child’s ability to trust you. If your child anticipates that you may, at any moment, erupt at them like some sort of volcano, they’ll be permanently on guard. In other words, your relationship will sit atop unstable ground. And this will leave you, in the child’s eyes, not entirely trust-worthy. Of course, yelling is also something kids become immune to, drowning out the noise no matter how long it lasts.
How to Stop Yelling
Now that you know that yelling is probably more damaging than you realized, how do you stop? No, you don’t need a muzzle! Instead, give a “shout out” to the following tips:
Let go of little things:
Yelling about little things only harms your child and gives you one heck of a sore throat. It also creates a boomerang effect – you yell at them to get ready for school and they yell back that they are. Instead of hollering at your kids to come to the table, get ready for school, or turn off the TV, speak to them in a reasonable voice. If they don’t listen, amp up the sternness without amping up the volume.
Chances are, your child makes a habit of telling you to “chill out”; now this article is going to do it too! Studies have proven that taking a few moments for yourself each day to meditate or do yoga can help decrease tensions when the heat of the moment arises. If your child throws a tantrum in the middle of the library, you’ll be less inclined to throw one back.
Have a mommy (or a daddy) mantra:
Come up with a phrase that you can say to yourself in the event things escalate. Then say it to yourself whenever you feel that you’re about to explode. This could be anything from a phrase to a simple word. When you’re going to snap, try, for instance, saying, “Chocolate.” It’s hard to be upset after that!
Use space to your advantage:
Now that you’re no longer yelling when your kids ignore your requests, you need to find an alternative. Closeness and connection work fabulously. Crouch down on your child’s level and empathize with her plight – you get that she’s in the middle of her favorite cartoon and that’s why she can’t brush her teeth, but oral hygiene still supersedes Paw Patrol.
Know the triggers:
Most kids tend to get triggered by similar events – being asked to get out of bed and get ready for school is a big one! Rather than rushing into your child’s room, tossing off the covers, and dramatically stating that the bus is almost here, try a gentler approach. Anything that startles your child is also going to catapult them into resistant behavior. And that’s when you’ll want to scream.
Address the bad behavior:
It’s easy to yell at your kid to “stop doing that” whenever they start engaging in less-than-stellar behavior. But instead of shouting, calmly teach your child why their behavior is wrong. If your child throws ham into the fish tank, refrain from theatrics and teach them that Goldie the Goldfish doesn’t like ham. She’s not into processed meats.
Perhaps the most important thing in parenting is sticking to your (Nerf) guns. If you set rules and don’t follow through, you’ll teach your child that your threats are empty. And that makes them exceedingly easy to ignore (which will make you want to yell).
Let kids act their age:
Sometimes, parents expect children to behave and reason as if they’re adults, all while forgetting that they’re not capable of maturity yet. In other words, make sure your expectations fit their age. Just as you wouldn’t expect a three-year-old to do calculus, don’t expect them to sit still through a two-hour church service, either. Lowering your expectations sets your child up for success and decreases your propensity for screaming.
Acknowledge the mediocre:
Kids, at their roots, are little narcissists, sticky-handed beings that love attention. If they’re not getting positive attention, they’ll find a way to get attention that’s negative. So, acknowledge the mediocre and praise the wonderful. The bad behavior is what you should ignore.
Build a strong foundation:
When you are strongly bonded to your child, your discipline is equally strong. Your child feels connected to you and that makes them respect you. When kids are young, they want to be near their parents – they idolize them. Take this opportunity to make your bond as strong as possible, strong enough even to hold through the teen years when you’re “soooo not cool anymore.”
See things from their perspective:
Nobody likes to be yelled at, not even grownups. Consider this when you feel yourself about the scream. If you’re hurt when someone yells at you, your child will be hurt when you yell at them.
Take a break:
Often, leaving the room, taking a deep breath, or counting to ten can help reset a situation to one of calmness. If you’re about to lose your temper, do what you can to find your serenity.
Stay on a routine:
You might find yourself cranky when you’re hungry or you don’t get enough sleep; for children, it’s ten times worse. That’s why adopting healthy habits is a proactive way to stop yelling. Make sure your kids get enough sleep each night and stay well-nourished.
Don’t ask for trouble:
Another way to keep yelling under control is to play the odds and remove anything from the environment that invites bad behavior. If your toddler always gets out the bag of marshmallows and empties them in the ficus plant, store the bag out of reach.
Let yourself be human:
Even with all the above, yelling still may happen – you’re human; allow yourself to be. But if you do yell at your child, apologize. And explain to them that you were frustrated but you didn’t mean to raise your voice so loudly.
In conclusion, yelling makes children immune to their parents’ requests, it damages children by promoting low self-esteem, it may cause aggression or more resistance, and it makes the parents feel lousy.
This isn’t to say you should never yell but stop yelling about the everyday things. If your child is fixing to set your house on fire, on the other hand, warm up that larynx and scream away! When you only yell for good reasons, you increase the odds that your child will actually listen.
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