Yelling, for many parents, has become their “go-to” reaction. Many well-meaning, well-intentioned parents feel that yelling is the only way they can get their kids to listen or take them seriously. Been there? Yep, me too!
Although yelling may feel like the answer in the moment, it’s important we consider the longer-term effects this behavior has on our kids…especially when it’s happening day in and day out.
Consider, for a moment, what it feels like to be yelled at. Yelling signals the brain that a threat is looming. When the brain senses a threat, it moves into fight/flight/freeze mode. This is when you may see, for example, defensiveness/back talk/yelling back (fight), running into another room (flight) or blank stares (freeze). Unfortunately, by this point, kids have already tuned out. They’re more focused on self-preservation and will do whatever their temperament dictates as a way of “protecting” themselves. The original message gets lost and the relationship enters shaky ground.
Many parents turn to yelling as a way to exert control, but have you ever noticed that you may resort to yelling when you’re actually feeling OUT of control?? We can’t expect our kids to control their behavior if we’re unable to control our own.
So, to reduce (and ideally eliminate) yelling, begin by coming up with a plan for yourself.
Here are 8 steps to help you yell less and connect more:
1.) Think about the situations that trigger you the most. Maybe it’s when your child ignores you after you make a request. Or maybe it’s when they talk back to you. Or maybe it’s when they throw that wonderful meal you spent hours preparing across the room?
2.) Notice the feelings that come up. Anger? Irritation? Frustration? Powerlessness? Defeat?
3.) Pay attention to the thoughts that arise. “I can’t believe h/she just did that! How dare he/she!” “I need to get a handle on this or he’s going to turn into a delinquent!” “She sounds like such a spoiled brat!”
4.) Challenge and replace those thoughts – “My child is still learning.” “My child is not out to get me.” “I can help him/her learn a kinder way of speaking to me.” “I can handle this calmly and respectfully.” “I need to focus on connecting before correcting.”
5.) Commit to PAUSING when you notice any of the above and do something to TAKE CARE of yourself. For example, BREATHE (slowly and deeply), walk out of the room, count to 10, close your eyes, give yourself a hug (yes, a hug!), grab a piece of paper and write out your thoughts/feelings or just scribble!
6.) Let your kids know about your plan and the commitment you are making to reduce your yelling. Invite them to help you come up with a signal (peace sign, hand over their heart, finger on their lips) they can do when they sense you’re hitting your boiling point. Tell them it will serve as your reminder to pause and choose another tone. The discussion may sound something like, “I know I’ve been yelling a lot. I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to you and it certainly doesn’t feel good to me either. I love you and, it’s not ok for me to yell at you. I want to let you know that I’ve come up with a plan for what I can do instead of yelling. You may see me taking lots of deep breaths, or you may see me walking away. You may even see me give myself a hug! I yell when I’m angry/ frustrated (etc) and it’s my job to take charge of my feelings and reactions and speak to you with respect. I may need some support and would love your help in coming up with a signal you can use when you see I’m starting to lose my patience (ask what they like best). That signal can help me get back on track. If you forget, that’s ok. I’m working on remembering myself. Please know how much I love you and care about our relationship.”
7.) If you end up yelling, do you best to recognize it, take responsibility by apologizing, let your child know what you will do differently next time and focus on reconnecting. For example, “I yelled at you and that wasn’t ok. I apologize. It’s not ok for me to speak to you that way. Next time, I will walk into the other room and take deep breaths like this (show them). I’m sorry. I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a hug!”
8.) Practice, practice, practice and be kind to yourself – you’re learning new skills right alongside your kids!
Wishing you all the best,