This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Parent News.
Is your Facebook feed filled with tips for making this a year of no yelling? I’ve never really been known for spotting trends, but my friends, I believe this could be one. The sad thing is that, for many, it was a New Year’s resolution that has already be long forgotten. The good news is that tomorrow is a new day and we can try again.
Let’s take a minute to remember why we’re doing this. First, it’s completely ineffective. Kids don’t suddenly listen when you yell because they’re ready to take in what you’re saying. They’re usually some form of startled, stunned, or scared. They’re basically holding their breath, waiting to see just how much you’ll freak out. I’m not judging. I’m pretty much describing a personal experience.
Second, it’s just not necessary. It feels good for a second and bad forever. I don’t think I’m a habitual yeller, but I’ve absolutely gone to bed feeling down about how I failed to handle a situation with patience and kindness. Kids deserve that.
Before everyone gets all, “this is too crunchy” or “kids need a parent to lay down the law, not a friend” know that I see your point. It took me awhile to separate the two, but my efforts to yell less revealed that discipline and yelling have little to do with each other.
The road to keeping your composure and not raising your voice takes some thought. Why is it that you’re yelling?
Are you too far away to be heard?
I’m still most guilty of this one. I’m usually working on the computer and I hear my children fighting in another room. Instead of getting up and investigating, I’m pretty prone to simply staying put and yelling, “Stop fighting!” The result? Absolutely nothing. No one stops fighting. Know why? They still can’t hear me, or minimally couldn’t hear what I said.
What’s the solution? Get up and investigate. Sometimes simply walking into the room sends the kids scattering, resolving the situation without even saying a word.
Is this noise level too loud?
The kids are yelling, the dog is barking, the television is too loud and you have something to say. You might say it once in a normal tone. No response. You say it again, a little louder. Nothing. One more time, with just a decibel of two more. Seriously, it’s like you’re not even there.. SUDDENLY YOU’RE TALKING AS IF YOU’RE SAYING WHAT YOU ORIGINALLY SAID IN A VOLUME THAT RINGS ABOVE ALL, AND USUALLY HAS A LITTLE ATTITUDE BEHIND IT BECAUSE NO ONE LISTENS TO YOU. EVER. That’s when your family turns in complete shock and looks at like you like you’re a crazy person. Jeez, mom. You didn’t have to yell. Literally.
What’s the solution? Do something physical like clap your hands, turn off the television, stand in front of your children, or flip the light on and off.
Are you really, really mad?
No matter how patient and composed you are typically, sometimes you lose it. Even the best behaved kids know how to push our buttons. We’re only human.
In times like these, it’s equally about how loudly we’re speaking and what we’re saying. It’s when words come out of our mouths that we later regret. It’s when we start punishing unreasonably (“I’m taking away your iPod for six months!”) and stop listening altogether. This is when we need to zip it most.
What’s the solution? Take five. Assuming your child isn’t in an immediate danger, step away. Think about the questions you want to ask and the words you want to say. When you re-emerge, you’ll still be angry, but you’ll also be thoughtful and deliberate.
This situation is likely still going to end with stern words and discipline, but you’ll be rational and caring. It will be something you and your child will be able to look back on and see that you took the time to calm down and think about your reaction. That’s a priceless lesson, both in compassion towards one another and in teaching our children how to parent their own kids one day.
Photo credit: Flickr
Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.