mother yelling at childBy Denise Schipani
No parent plans to yell at her children. But then the milk gets spilled, the backpack gets forgotten or the dog remains un-walked. Before you raise your voice again, think: Why do we resort to yelling? "Because we don't feel heard," says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, coauthor of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids. The key to reducing the volume, she says, is realizing that the more we shout to be heard, the less kids actually listen. Here, 10 ways to short-circuit yelling in your house. Photo by Getty Images
1. Plan ahead. Can you set your clock by the yelling you do when no one's ready for school yet? It's worth strategizing for any trigger, from school mornings to sports practices to weekly trips to Grandma's. "Usually, the problem is that everyone needs more time," says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. Some tips: Get yourself ready before your kids, so you're not trying to put on mascara or find your car keys while also directing your children. And post lists of what each child needs and when near their bedroom doors for quick reference ("Tuesday: James needs gym clothes and flute").
2. Adjust expectations. You can tell a preschooler to clean up the playroom five days running, and on the sixth day he'll "forget." That's because he's three, not because he's defiant, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore, so yelling won't do any good. You're better aware than anyone of what your child can handle, so keep expectations at or just above his ability. For example, you know your five-year-old isn't yet capable of neatly stacking his books on the shelf, but he can at least get them off the floor. Baby steps!
3. Be a role model. The first time you hear your 10-year-old yell at his little sister (especially if he's using the same words and phrases you often employ), you'll have confirmation: Your kids learn how to communicate first and foremost from you, says Vicki Hoefle, parenting expert and author of Duct Tape Parenting. "One day, your children will talk to you the way you talk to them," so remind yourself to model a respectful tone and words. Try silently repeating what you say ("What is wrong with you?!") and then imagine how you'd feel if your child said the same to you. Ouch.
4. Give fair warning. Sometimes you can't suppress the urge to yell, but if you know you're about to let loose, "tell your kids, and give them permission to leave the room first," suggests Hoefle. (They'd have to be older than preschoolers). "This teaches personal responsibility for words and actions," she says, because it tells them that we all have strong emotions from time to time, but that we still have to respect others' feelings.
5. Refocus. Feeling yourself heating up, say, when you enter the kitchen and see sneakers strewn across the floor and an un-emptied dishwasher? Before you scream for your M.I.A. kids, distract yourself, says Hoefle. "Have some strategies and items on hand that calm you down, like squeezing a tension ball, popping a mint or looking at your favorite family photo." Doing so should quell the immediate urge to yell, helping you regain control.
6. Remember your role. When you resort to screaming, you're forfeiting a piece of your authority. "A yelling parent lowers herself to the level of a sibling or peer," says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. You can't demand respect from your children by shouting at them, but you can command respect by acting as a responsible figure in charge with a calm, in-control manner.
7. Keep the volume low at all times. Even when you're not angry, you may find yourself yelling ("dinner's ready!"). If you make a softer voice a habit (one that, with any luck, everyone picks up!), you'll be less prone to yell at other times too, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. One trick to try: Speak to your family members only when you're in the same room whenever possible.
8. Think like a teacher. "The best teachers don't take children's misbehavior personally, but instead look at it as a learning opportunity," says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. So if your kid leaves the empty ice cream container in the freezer or the load of laundry moldering in the washer, ask yourself: What does he need to learn and how can I teach him that? For instance, maybe he needs a note posted on the refrigerator door, or a consequence of un-done laundry, such as not having his soccer uniform ready for Saturday's game.
9. Get close. Find yourself shouting up the stairs and across the yard? That's too easy for your child to ignore, which sets up a cycle of you yelling, your kids dismissing and you yelling more loudly. "Parents often tell me, 'I say the same thing 14 times and he doesn't listen!'" says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. "That's because he's tuned out the yelling." If your kid doesn't comply the first time you make a request, she says, "walk over to him, get his attention, make eye contact and speak firmly but gently."
10. Imagine an audience. If you're shouting with the windows open, chances are people can hear you, but think about this: What if your boss, best friend or grandmother were in the room with you, says Hoefle. Would you yell then? Adds Dr. Kennedy-Moore, "We often treat loved ones worse than we do our acquaintances," so try to listen to how you sound to others, and project your best self instead.
You Might Also Like:
15 Clever Uses for Household Items
Best Work-at-Home Jobs
10 Secrets Men Keep From Women