As I round the corner of the grocery aisle, I hear the shrill words, “Get over here. Stop touching everything you see.” A frazzled mother is glaring at her three-year-old daughter.
Her young shoulders droop and her head turns down. The girl slowly and hesitantly walks toward her mother, but then something catches her attention. She stops.
“I said get over here; what is wrong with you?” yells the mother. She reaches out and grabs her daughter by the arm.
“I want a fruit snack. I want a fruit snack,” the little girl whines.
“Be quiet,” retorts the mom as she glares at her daughter.
Silently my heart aches for this dear mother and daughter. I understand. I too have struggled with yelling at my precious children. If only I could tell her she is not alone in the struggle.
Recently I asked mothers why they yell at their kids. Here are some of their responses:
I yell at my kids when they aren’t being responsible — after I’ve asked them a few times to clean up something or get their homework done. Or if they are fighting or being mean with each other. They know that is not OK.
I always end up yelling when my kids are supposed to be cleaning up or doing something I have asked them to do and they continue to ignore me and run around chasing each other. Then one of my kids ends up getting hurt and then I yell more.
My yelling almost always occurs at night … end of the day and I’m worn out and the kid gets her second wind and I’m ready to be done parenting for the day. And it’s always because I’ve asked her for something numerous times and it’s not happening so I raise my voice to get her attention. But it’s always tied to my tiredness. The more tired I am, the less patient I am.
I asked my kids and they said it happens when I don’t know what to do about something. So I guess I’m frustrated with myself and taking it out on them.
I appreciate the honesty and self-reflection of these mothers.
We might resort to yelling when we no longer know how to motivate our kids or we are tired or need them to be responsible; but does it help? Are we causing other issues by yelling?
According to a study done in the fall of 2013 and published online in the journal “Child Development,” yelling – defined as shouting, cursing or insult-hurling – may be “just as detrimental” as physical punishment to the long-term well-being of teenagers. Yelling can trigger feelings of low self-worth in teens and even depression.
So what can we do instead?
As I sat thinking about this question, this mantra came to mind: Close, Quiet, Connect.
It means we need to get close to our children and even gently touch them on the arm to bring their full attention to us. Then speak in a quiet voice and tell them what we expect them to do. We can finish with a quick pat, hug or encouraging words such as, “I know you can do this.” This keeps our relationship connected and intact.
When I asked some mothers to give this mantra a try, I was excited to hear back about what happened. Here are what two moms shared:
“I feel like it’s helped remind me that they’re kids, and they just want to be happy and have fun. When I was close and calm, they responded more happily and quickly. Honestly, I was quite doubtful it would change things, but I have been VERY pleasantly surprised it has improved things on both ends!” – Leah, mother of 2 young daughters
“The close, quiet, connect method worked to defuse the situation more quickly (every time I remembered to use it) than the times that I resorted to the frustrated “Stop doing that!” that so often comes out of my mouth. It helped me to remain more in control of my emotions and he responded to my calmness.” – Kari, mother of 3 young sons
When I get close to my sons, speak quieter and stay connected with them, I feel more calm and capable as a mother and my children (usually) respond positively.
To all the mothers who yell at their kids in the grocery store or at home, chin up. Take a deep breath, apologize for your behavior toward your children and start over – this time try close, quiet, connect and see what happens.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published on ParentingBrilliantly.com. It has been republished here with permission.