Transforming your parenting when things heat up just got easier! Learn how to reduce yelling and create a positive home with our 7 expert tips.
A new year is traditionally a time for resolutions. One popular one amongst parents is to try to yell at their kids less, to create a more peaceful and calm family environment. The problem is, even for those of us with the best of intentions and the patience of a saint, it's easy to get frustrated and resort to yelling as a way to try to get children to listen and behave. Sure, it may work in the immediate term and at first, however eventually you have to yell louder and longer for the same short term results.Yelling is simply not a healthy or effective long-term solution, for you or your kids. In this blog post, we discuss why it's important to reduce yelling, how we can turn a ‘wishful’ resolution into an intention that sticks, and provide some strategies for parents who might be trying to reduce their yelling or find healthier options for addressing negative behavior. Deep breath guys…we’ve got this!
First of all, let's talk about why yelling at our kids is a problem. Children are still learning and developing, it’s literally their‘ job’, and they look to their parents as their role models for how to behave and cope with difficult emotions. Self regulation is an important skill to learn but this STARTS with co-regulation…. Being your kid’s place of calm when they are feeling upset/angry/overwhelmed or hurt is Vitaly important. If parents are constantly yelling at their kids, the child is likely to internalize and learn this behaviour and think that it's okay to express anger and frustration through yelling and screaming. This can lead to a cycle of negativity and conflict in the home. Parents yell = kids learn that yelling is how we get our way or resolve conflict. ‘When Mum yells I’m meant to listen. Maybe if I yell too she will have to listen to me’.
In addition to modelling unhealthy coping mechanisms, science tells us yelling can also be damaging to a child's self-esteem and sense of self worth. When parents constantly criticize and yell at their children, they may start to internalize these messages and believe that they are somehow "bad" or unworthy of love and respect. ‘If Mum and Dad don’t like me, maybe I’m not a likeable person’. This can have long-term effects on their mental health and well-being.
So, why do parents yell? It's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and lose our temper, but there are often deeper underlying issues at play. Stress, exhaustion, overwhelm at work or the family budget, and unresolved emotions can all contribute to a parent's tendency to resort to yelling. It's important for parents to try to identify the root causes of their anger and find healthy ways to manage and cope with these emotions. The good news is that yelling as a way to resolve things or get people to listen, at it's core, is a habit. And habits CAN be broken, in this case by intentionally choosing to stay calm and choose connection and communication. Easier said than done we know… but as with all habits the more you practise it the easier it becomes, and the more you MODEL respectful communication skills to the little people watching you carefully!
So, how can parents intentionally make a resolution to yell less and follow through on it? Here are some strategies that may be helpful:
- Take a deep breath and count to ten. This may seem like a cliche, but it really does help not only to give yourself a moment to pause and calm down before reacting, but also by sending oxygen to the appropriate part of your brain, and not just the amygdala which operates your FIGHT or flight response.
- Practice mindfulness. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions in the moment and try to stay present rather than getting carried away by negative thoughts or past experiences. When reflecting on the encounter retrospectively, question why it may have ‘triggered’ you and how you could respond differently next time if needed.
- Find healthy outlets for stress and frustration. Exercise, hobbies, and spending time with friends and family can all help to reduce stress and give parents an outlet for their emotions.
- Seek support. If parents are finding it hard to manage their emotions on their own, they may want to consider seeking the help of a therapist or joining a support group for parents. Facebook can be great but try and find groups that give positive and uplifting advise and support, not ones that just bemoan how terrible their kids are.
- Set clear boundaries and expectations for behaviour (theirs AND yours!) Be consistent in addressing negative behavior choices and make sure kids know what is and is not acceptable. This can help to reduce negative behaviour and the need for yelling.
- Apologize when you do yell. It’s important to model accountability and show kids that it’s okay to make mistakes and seek forgiveness.
- Offer positive reinforcement. When kids are behaving positively, make sure to let them know that you notice and appreciate their efforts. This can help to encourage positive behaviour and reduce the need for negative reinforcement (like yelling).
It's important to remember that making a resolution to yell less is a process and it's not going to happen overnight. There will be setbacks and challenges along the way, but it's worth the effort to create a more positive and harmonious home environment for kids.
Another strategy that can be helpful in reducing yelling is to have a set of "tools" or strategies in your parenting toolkit that can replace yelling. Here are a few ideas:
- Use “I” statements. Instead of saying “You’re being so annoying right now!“, try saying “I feel frustrated when you don’t listen to me the first time I ask you to do something.” This helps to communicate your feelings and needs without attacking or blaming your child.
- Use positive discipline techniques. Instead of punishing your child for misbehaving, try using positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour. For example, you could set up a rewards system or offer praise and encouragement when your child is behaving positively or following through with tasks you’ve set for them. With it's dopamine inducing fun visuals and sounds, the Thumsters app offers a great recognition and reward tool that parents and kids love.
Recognising negative behavior is still important in life and especially in parenting, even 'gentle parenting', but there’s much more respectful ways to do it instead of yelling, smacking, confiscating/taking something away, or isolating them (grounding or timeout). Thumsters app uses a simple thumbs down, which is a peaceful and clear way to say, that’s not ok or how we react in our family. It opens the door for communication around the ‘why’ by taking the aggression and anger out of the event in question.
- Set limits and boundaries. Make sure your kids know what is and is not acceptable behaviour, and be consistent in enforcing these boundaries. Often kids aren’t being ‘naughty’, they just weren’t clear on what was expected of them.
- Use humor. Sometimes a little bit of light heartedness can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation. If your child is being stubborn or difficult, try making a joke or using a silly voice to lighten the mood.
- Take a break. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or on the verge of losing your temper, it can be helpful to take a break and remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Go for a walk, take some deep breaths, or do something to calm yourself down before trying to address the issue again. Make sure you tell your child what you are doing so they don’t feel abandoned, a simple ’I’m feeling frustrated (or overwhelmed etc, try to avoid saying ‘angry’) right now and don’t want to raise my voice. I need a few minutes to calm down, I will be back in 2/5/10 minutes (whatever is appropriate for the child’s age in question).
Setting an intention to yell less is a worthy goal, and it's one that can have a positive impact not only on your relationship with your kids, but on their overall well-being and development. It's important to be patient with yourself and remember that it's a process, but with some effort and practice, you can learn to manage your temper and create a more positive and harmonious home environment for your family. There are three C’s in parenting: Connection, communication and control. Many parents try to parent from a place of control by yelling and screaming to be heard and get immediate results but this will only work for so long, and definitely not as much as your kids graduate into their teen years. By working on connection and communication first, you will create a calm and respectful atmosphere within your home where your kids will thrive, listen more, and act out of respect as this is modelled to them by you, their parent.
Yelling at our kids is a problem because it models unhealthy coping mechanisms and can damage their self-esteem and sense of worth. To reduce yelling, it's important for parents to identify the root causes of their anger, find healthy outlets for stress and frustration, and use positive discipline techniques. It's also helpful to set clear boundaries and expectations, apologise when necessary, and offer positive reinforcement. Making a resolution to yell less is a process and it may take time and effort, but it's worth it for the sake of creating a positive and harmonious home environment for our kids.