Sometimes it feels like kids have mastered the art of driving us crazy. Parenting is damn hard, and sometimes yelling seems like the only language kids understand. Unfortunately, yelling harms your child and it harms you too, and there is evidence to support these views.
Yelling makes us feel terrible. It can also drive kids away, and it’s no secret that relationships broken in childhood are much harder to mend in adulthood.
Parenting without yelling can feel like a Herculean task, especially when yelling seems to be the only foolproof way to get kids’ attention. Some tactics, however, can help get kids to listen without yelling.
Many benefits have been associated to letting kids practice decision-making. Autonomy-granting, i.e. gradually passing on the decision-making power through parent-controlled processes, has been found to be effective in reducing much parental stress.
Research suggests that kids are more likely to respond favorably when they feel that their opinion counts and when they participate in the decision-making process. Even relationships with younger kids are likely to be positive if they're allowed to make decisions within structured decision-making frameworks.
When we involve kids in decision-making – “Would you like to put your toys away now or after your dinner?” – we are more likely to get the results we seek. Kids who feel responsible for the decisions made are more likely to follow through and thus prevent us from having to yell.
Have you noticed that when you yell you’re often at a distance from your kids? You’re getting dinner ready and notice that, although you’ve been asking them to tidy up for the last five minutes, toys are still strewn everywhere.
Moving closer will get you results every time. That’s a trick any teacher will tell you works with even the rowdiest kid in the class. Moving closer has a different impact on kids than just yelling instructions from far away. The closer you are, the harder it is to yell. Next time you want to yell, try it out and see how it works.
You know the saying “it’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar?” This applies to kids as well. When we connect with kids, we’re more likely to get what we want.
When we get to our kids’ level and look them in the eye when we’re talking to them, when we touch them while we talk, when we ask for what we want in a calm and firm voice, we’re more likely to get it without having to yell.
It’s not always easy to see things from other people’s perspectives, especially when we’re stressed, tired, or running against time. However seeing things from your kid’s perspective can make you yell less. It can help you understand that asking him to do something when he’s tired, stressed, or watching his favorite program will not get you the results you want.
Yelling is often the final recourse. We yell because we’ve been repeating the same thing, over and over, and the kids just don’t seem to care. When we teach kids about consequences and accountability, we teach them that they are responsible for their choices, and that those choices will affect them. However, this can only work if we consistently follow through.
The thing with yelling is that it’s a habit and, like all habits, putting a stop to it requires effort. Make a conscious effort to stop your yelling habit. Put up a sticker on your fridge that says “No yelling!” or practice a script such as “I will not yell today.” Give yourself a star for each day you don’t yell. Develop a “yelling emergency kit” you can use when the urge to yell grabs you.
Yelling will get you results, but not necessarily the ones you want.
It takes a village!
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