I can hear the grumbling and see the eye rolling as soon as I wrote the title of this. Hear me out on this. I have already yelled this morning so I understand and this is as much an article for me as it is for you. Before becoming a Registered Nurse I worked in behavioral health wraparound services, and I try hard to utilize those techniques with my own kids.
You have told your children for the second time to stop hitting each other and to clean up their toys. Two minutes later Wrestlemania is ensuing and somehow the toys on the floor have multiplied. You can feel your blood pressure rising and you lose your cool, yelling threats to sell their toys and ground them for life. Emotions run high and everyone is frustrated. So what can you do?
Take a deep breath and make a mindful choice to not yell. Taking a few deep breaths, five seconds in and five seconds out, helps to lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels and prepares you speak calmly but authoritative to your kids.
Now that you are a bit calmer, speak to your children in a softer but firm voice. Your softer response sets the expectation and models the behavior for your children. Kids, especially toddlers and school aged children, can more easily listen and understand you when you are speaking in a soft but firm voice. Think about how you respond and how you feel when someone starts to yell at you. This is how children feel as well, except they are also not mature enough to process and understand their emotions, so the chances of them understanding you and following your directions the first time when yelling, is close to zero. At first, even speaking calmly and firmly may not get them to listen to you the first time, but like everything that we are trying to teach our children, it takes consistent and repeated modeling of the expected behavior.
Now that you are speaking calmly, it is time to set the expectations and the consequences. Again, concise, calm, and firm is the best way to convey these things, for example if I am talking to my son I could say “H, I want you to clean up your toys. If you don’t clean up your toys you can not have screen time”. I find that it can also be worthwhile to ask your child to repeat those things back to you, so there is no misunderstanding of what you want done and what the consequences will be if it is not done. It is also helpful to have your children working for something, such as what is in place in a token economy. In our house we use a sticker chart so cleaning up toys will earn a sticker and when you earn enough stickers you can have whatever you are working for. This could be a small toy, extra screen time, a lunch date, whatever fits into your lifestyle and is not necessarily a great big reward. This helps to teach your children that when they do their work as expected, they earn a “pay” for it, which is a great lesson to learn for later in life, and in childhood as well. At times I only have to ask my children that they are working for something for them to do what I want them to do. Again, setting expectations early and consistently will lead to you yelling less, and your children learning to make better decisions and follow your directions.
Remember, we are not perfect and neither are our children. Just as we have bad days where things just do not seem to be going right, so do our children. Unlike us though, our children may not know how to express and process those emotions. As parents, we can help our children to learn how to manage and express their feelings, which will set the ground work for them to be able to do that as they grow older and when they become adults.
Parenting without yelling is not always an easy task. We slip up, we yell, we are never perfect, and that is okay. Consciously practicing parenting and behavior techniques that reduce yelling and increase expected and acceptable behaviors not only helps you keep your sanity, but it helps your children as well.
Have you ever lost your cool with your children? Do you have other techniques that you use with your children? Share with me in the comments section!
Thanks for joining the Huddle.