Our children are not perfect. The bad news is that their parents aren’t perfect either. There are going to be days that will stretch us to the very limit of our abilities as parents.
I remember how shocked I was the first time I heard my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth. I heard myself yelling at my children, “Because I said so!” That universal phrase that signifies the start of a parental nuclear meltdown.
I wish I could say that was the last time I yelled at my children, but then I would be lying. I can say it was the first time I looked for ways to be a better mother. I was not alone in my struggle as a mother.
Yelling occasionally isn’t verbal abuse. It may be that you are trying to warn a child to stay away from danger or stop them from doing something dangerous. It becomes verbally or emotionally abusive when it is frequent, consistent, demeaning and meant to hurt. Even though yelling isn’t abuse, is it the best way to parent?
There are many reasons not to yell at children. They include
1. Yelling doesn’t work forever
Yelling may work for a short time when children are small, but as they grow older they sometimes begin yelling back.
2. Yelling is infectious
When parents yell at children, children yell at each other, friends and maybe even the family dog. Our children learn best by watching us. If they see us yell, they learn to yell.
3. It is hard to teach children when we yell
If you have to yell to keep children safe, follow it up with teaching. For example, if you yell at a child to get out of the street, follow it with a lesson on how to cross the street safely.
4. A child that hears shouting and yelling all the time may tune out a yelling parent
Yelling loses power when we do it often. There is a lot of power behind something said loudly, try to save it for important words like, “Fire!”
So if you have learned that “Because I said so,” the magic term shouted by mothers and fathers everywhere doesn’t work and if you are ready to stop yelling and start parenting, here are a few things you can do:
1. Change the environment
If you are always yelling at your children to stay out of the cookie jar, maybe it is time to put the jar out of reach. Sometimes a simple change in the environment is better than having to say, “No!” or, “Don’t touch!” all the time. If you don’t want your child to touch something, move it.
2. Change your expectations
As children grow expect them to do things that are normal for their age. Just like us, our children can get frustrated and overwhelmed when learning new things. A new zipper on a coat, or tying shoes can be stressful for little fingers. When you plan your day, add in extra time so that you can wait patiently for little fingers to tie shoes and zip jackets.
3. Simplify schedules
I have heard about children who have ballet, piano, school, church and even more volunteer and other worthy obligations. Their lives can become as hectic as adults. They need quiet or down time, just like we do. If we plan events, activities and play dates for their every waking moment, the entire family will get tired and want to yell.
4. Know when you need a break
It is OK to ask for help. Know when you are close to the edge of your patience, or running out of gas. Ask a friend or your spouse for a break, take a nap or hire a baby sitter and go for a walk.
5. Remember your priorities
Keep in mind that your child is more important than the crystal vase he just broke, even if your grandmother gave it to you.
6. Make a plan to speak softly
Ask children to use “their inside voices.” Then set the example. Reward yourself for days that end happily and without yelling.
7. Be a better listener
Practice doing more listening. When your child is having a good day, fill them up with positive attention and your children will want to listen, even when you speak softly.
The words we say to our children and spouse matter and will be remembered. They tell our children who they are and how we feel about them. Choose your words carefully and speak them with love.