It’s not entirely uncommon, even while maybe less prevalent, to see parents yelling at kids while out at the grocery store, at the park or even in your own backyard. In fact, the parents yelling in some of those scenarios may very well be you and your partner losing your cool with your own kids. Even when you don’t want to, you may find its your only form of coping through a toddler tantrum or kid meltdown. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution.
Can Yelling at a Child Be Harmful?
The short answer here is: Yes. But don’t go into a downward spiral if you’ve been raising your voice more than you care to lately. Parents are human too. And what better way is there for our kids to learn to adapt and improve their own behavior then by watching us do the same?
“I Didn’t Want to Be a Mom Yelling All of the Time Either.”
It was early in the morning. My kids were getting ready for school, moving at a turtle’s pace. I kept reminding them we didn’t want to be late. After many attempts to hurry them along, I realized we were officially running late, and I yelled at my kids to hurry up.
Somehow we made it to school on time. I had a few minutes to feel relieved, and then the guilt settled in.
Why did I yell? Is making it to school on time more important than starting a day from a place of love? The answer, to me anyway, is no.
I don’t want to be the mom who yells.
I yelled because I wasn’t being heard.
We needed to leave, and the kids weren’t complying with my request. I felt powerless, and instead of getting their attention some other way, I took the easy road and yelled.
It is true that when you yell, your child complies most of time. But, do they understand why? If you find yourself yelling over the same things over and over again, it’s probably because your child doesn’t understand the situation.
In this example, they might get it’s because we didn’t want to be late for school. But what does that really mean? Why is it important to be on-time? And is it even important to them?
If we want to discipline our children they need to understand the why. And this understanding doesn’t come when we yell. It doesn’t come when we’re frantic and desperate. It comes when we are calm and loving.
Pause for a moment and think about your own life. How do YOU feel when your partner, boss, or friend yells at you? Do you comply happily with their request, or does it cause resentment? Now, how do you think a child feels when the person that loves them the most, their protector, the one person they can count on, yells at them?
How to Discipline Without Yelling
It starts by connecting with your child. It doesn’t matter how many strategies we try or how many parenting books we read, we simply cannot have a profound effect on our child’s behavior if we don’t take the time to connect. It’s easy to let these busy days go by without fostering a deep connection with our children, but it is crucial that we are mindful of this and make the time.
Connecting with our children is not hard or complicated, it doesn’t require us spending money or creating an elaborate outing. Connecting with your child happens when you are truly present with him or her – no distractions, no phones – when your mind and heart are there with your child.
Play a game, read a book, have a chat on the couch. If you are present and mindful about it, you will pick up cues from your child or you will get a feeling of what to do. Trust yourself when it comes to connecting with your child because how your child needs to connect may vary day and day.
You will be able to pick up their cues if you allow yourself some uninterrupted time with them.
This is a long term solution to help you discipline without yelling, not something to try only when you want them to comply. If you do it regularly, they will want to listen, just as you listened to them so many times.
Set Yourself Up for Parenting Success
Most of the time when we yell it’s because we ran out of patience. We tend to yell more when we are not rested or when we haven’t had time to recharge ourselves.
If you’re living a busy life, recharging yourself can be as simple as listening to a positive or self-help audiobook or podcast, taking a bath or closing your eyes and listening to your favorite music. You need to feel good in order to spread goodness, so taking care of yourself, in whatever capacity you can, should be a priority.
Reprogram Your Mind
Yelling might be our go-to reaction because this is how we were raised and what was ingrained in us as kids. But if we want to discipline without yelling, we can reprogram our mind and change how we react to things.
A great tool we have to reprogram our minds is visualization. At night, when you’re in bed, when the house is quiet, go over the event in your head. Think about your own feelings and why you reacted the way you did. Then replay, in your mind, how you would have liked things to happen instead.
Do this frequently and consistently, eventually a new pattern will form. Your automatic reaction will become whatever you are visualizing. That’s how you train your mind to react in a different and positive way.
Find New Ways to Discipline
Old habits can be replaced by new, intentional habits.
Ask yourself, “What would love do?” and act from that place.
Read books and blogs or listen to podcasts on gentle parenting or positive discipline. Talk to your friends who are parenting in ways you’d love to imitate. When we’re exposed to different practices, we can tweak them to fit our own family situation.
Try these gentle discipline tips instead of yelling:
Here are some gentle and (once you get the hang of it) easy ways to discipline without yelling.
- Stop yourself and take a deep breath: Go into another room for a minute or two and come back when you’re calmer. Don’t discipline out of anger.
- Talk to your child: Truly explain why you need her to do whatever it is need her to do.
- Kneel if you’re talking to younger child: Get down to your child’s eye level when you talk to them. This makes your child feel heard, and sometimes all they need is to tell you how they feel.
- Set yourself up for success: Avoid situations where you know you’ll get angry. For example, if you know your kids are very slow at getting ready, start the process sooner than you usually would.
- Encourage your child to come up with a solution: You need to do one thing but your child wants to do something else. Explain the situation to your child and ask him to come up with a solution where both things get done. They will surprise you!
- Be honest: When I feel overwhelmed and like I’m about to yell, I let my kids know. I tell them, “I am feeling frustrated because I need you to do this and you are not listening. I feel like I’m about to yell, and I don’t want to yell. Can you please help me?” I use this as a last resort, and it always works because my kids know I have reached my limit. Don’t overuse this strategy or it loses its effectiveness.
Apologize When You Yell
If you yell, don’t be hard on yourself. Feeling guilty only puts you in a bad mindset, and it doesn’t create any changes. Instead, be open with your kids about it and apologize. I explain to my kids, “I’m sorry I yelled. That’s not the right way to communicate. I yelled because (insert your explanation) but I know this is wrong. Next time can we (offer an alternative solution).”
When you talk to your child, explain things. You’ll not only create a stronger connection with your child but give valuable life skills by showing that you’re a human who is able to admit to mistakes, apologize, and improve in the future.
They will learn how to control their emotions, and they will learn that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as we make things right. They will learn that a mistake is not the end of the world and that they can change and improve whatever they want in life. And you’ll be giving them the same tools to pause and ask themselves,“What would love do?”
Editor’s note: We’re delighted to welcome Carolina King as a new contributor to Green Child. As a mother of two, she’ll be sharing her advice on gentle parenting and positive discipline. We hope you enjoyed her first article on how to discipline without yelling.
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