Why should parents stop screaming at their kids – in all cases – effective immediately? Here are 4 important reasons why:
- With parental screaming, your children will learn that they never really have to change their behavior, because screaming is not much of a consequence. Instead, they will just listen to the yelling and do whatever they want to do anyway. And eventually, they will simply tune you out completely.
- When yelling becomes your usual method of dealing with problems, your kids are also apt to think that it is okay for them to scream a lot. You’re teaching your children that yelling is an appropriate response when one is angry or stressed.
- Screaming teaches that life, in general, is often out-of-control.
- Screaming actually empowers your children (but in a bad way), because it gives them the message that you are not in control …and if you are not in control, they assume that they are the ones in charge.
If you find yourself yelling at your youngster too often, it’s not going to be easy to stop (at least not right away). Learning how to change the way you communicate with your youngster takes practice. You may need a different disciplinary technique, because your children are going to push your buttons to try and get you to lose control (which is what they have been doing for a long time now). But you can learn to stay in control and communicate with them effectively.
Here are 20 techniques that will help you get the behavioral results that you want from your kids without screaming at them:
1. After an outburst, even a minor one, immediately ask, "OK, what could I have done to avoid the frustration?" This is a better question to ponder than, "OK, what could I have done to avoid yelling." Accepting that frustration is likely to lead to a conflict helps treat the cause instead of the symptoms. Now, each outburst, instead of being a failure and an opportunity for guilt, can be an opportunity to learn and add to your parenting arsenal.
2. Because screaming often makes a youngster feel badly about himself, he will often lash back in order to protect himself, and then become revengeful. He may, out of fear and sadness, stop the behavior for a short period of time, however the anger and humiliation he felt will build-up …and soon enough, he will lash out. A good example here is when moms and dads think screaming works when their kids are small, but are shocked when they experience severe disobedience when their kids become teenagers.
3. Count to 10 while really disengaging yourself from the situation. Walk away, go into a different room, and do a different activity. Even if you don’t have a clue what’s triggering your frustration, if you know that you are over-reacting, then you can try disengaging.
4. Find a word or phrase to distract yourself from yelling and remind yourself that your youngster isn't trying to drive you nuts -- he's just doing what kids do. "He's only 3, he's only 3," is one example. Repeat it to yourself several times when you feel like you're about to explode.
5. Find ways to accomplish stressful tasks without your kids in tow. If all of you “lose it” in the grocery store, shop for groceries online after they're in bed -- or even head out to the store after 9:00 PM, when it's empty and you can shop quickly and efficiently.
6. For some, screaming offers a form of physical release. Jogging in place or doing a jumping jack or two can distract you and give you the outlet you need when you feel like yelling. You probably won't want to do this in public, of course, but at home anything goes. Who knows? You may lose a few pounds!
7. Give yourself some time to transition when you come home. Take 10 minutes to get into some comfortable clothes, gather your thoughts, and then come out of your room and talk to your children. They’ll act like they can’t wait 10 minutes at first, but they’ll get used to it …they’ll learn to give you your space eventually.
8. If you get too upset by the situation to maintain control, you are also too upset to figure-out and set long-range consequences for the children. Learn to handle the conflict first - then you get to teach them with a consequence. And if it takes a few iterations before you get the hang of it - fine. When you have successfully handled the problem with patience and kindness, you will usually discover that consequences are simply unnecessary. And on the rare occasion where they are, they should be preceded by long conversations filled with lessons before a consequence should be agreed upon.
9. If you’re caught in a yelling match with your child, it’s always okay to stop at any point. No matter if the fight is just beginning, if you’re deep into it, or it’s been going on for 15 minutes, you can give yourself permission to stop and step away from the situation. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.
10. If you’re trying to get more control and would like to stop yelling, talk to your spouse or your friends, and really acknowledge all of it. There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about—all parents scream from time to time. Your spouse might have some insights or some ideas of what you can do. Maybe he/she can even step in and help out next time when you start to lose it. He/she also might notice what some of your triggers are that you haven’t noticed yourself.
11. If you’ve had a bad day, then after the kids are in bed, take a long hot bath in Epsom salts and have a small glass of wine …works for me :)
12. It is perfectly O.K. to wait ten minutes—or even wait until the next day—to come back and talk with your youngster about her inappropriate behavior. Often times, parent-child conflict is truly not that urgent. Most of us yell about things that are minor if you really think about it. The problem might feel urgent at the time, but that’s only because of whatever we bring to the situation—not usually because of our kid’s behavior.
13. Lower your expectations. If you find yourself screaming at your children all the time, you may simply be expecting too much of them. Acquaint yourself with what's developmentally appropriate and then tweak your actions (e.g., one hour-long trip to the supermarket rather than hours of errands will reduce whining, and by association, yelling).
14. Once the conflict is over, make sure everyone is ok …that there is no permanent damage. It isn't just for the children - it's to alleviate the sense of failure, to enable you to shake it off and continue instead of wallowing in guilt and self-pity for the rest of the day. Saying "I love you very much even though I was really mad at you" is a great way to stay in good standing with your child after the dust has settled.
15. Taking care of your kids can be exhausting to say the least. And yelling is a definite sign of stress and fatigue, which means you need (and deserve) a break! Have your husband or a trusted babysitter step in for half a day so you can get some much-needed time to rejuvenate.
16. Try whispering. It sounds weird, I know. But if your youngster has to strain to hear you, he's less likely to tune you out. And it's nearly impossible to sound angry (and scary) when you're speaking softly.
17. Use prayer and meditation during times of stress (usually after the dust has settled).
18. Walking away from a screaming match will often stop the fight in its tracks, right then and there. Stepping away—taking that time away from the heat of the situation—helps you as a parent to figure out what your response should be. Sometimes this will mean spending some time away from your youngster and then going back later and dealing with the misbehavior.
19. We all have triggers, and often they’re not very rational. Know what your triggers are and what sets you off (e.g., feet on the couch, backtalk, making a mess in the kitchen, etc.). Teach yourself what you can do when you’re triggered in order to respond more effectively. 90% of the time, the reason parents yell is because they were yelled at as kids. Even though they may have hated being yelled at, it is all they know, and they simply fall into that same pattern during times of stress with their own kids. So, be sure to understand your triggers!
20. When you catch yourself screaming, change the message to expressing your feelings (e.g., "I am so frustrated right now!"). Don’t make the mistake of simply trying to stop yelling (this will only create pressure and tension). The problem is that you've already lost control - you can't put a clamp on it - but you can give it a healthier outlet, both for you and for the kids who will receive the message, "Mom has emotions" instead of "you are bad."
Let's face it: Kids can be as exasperating as they are adorable – and parents are only human. But raising your voice is a losing battle. It doesn't discourage frustrating behavior and ultimately gets everyone more upset than they need to be. And then, of course, there's the guilt – and who needs more of that?
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents