Q: “ I am a single mom of two kids, ages 3 and 6. I realize that I work a hard schedule. I want the times that I am with my children to be fun and pleasant. I find myself being cranky and my patience is very thin. I will holler and yell at times and then I feel guilty. Plus it doesn’t help or stop the behavior. I am looking for ways to be more effective without yelling?”
A: We have all been there especially when you feel tired or exhausted. You are correct though—most of the time yelling is not going to correct any misdeeds. Yelling and hollering is a common behavior that you see among parents. I think sometimes it is our default setting that we go back to when nothing else seems to work. This is not an effective tool with children.
Yelling can actually intimidate kids and separate the bond that we are trying to create with our children. Research shows that whether you yell, spank or speak in a normal tone of voice, a toddler has about an 80 percent chance of repeating whatever it was you were yelling at them about within the very same day. And sadly a 50 percent chance of repeating it within a few hours to minutes. The odds are not in our favor. When I read that it makes me think there has to be better ways for me, as a parent, to respond and not create long term damage.
One of the most important factors is to control yourself. Easier said than done, right?! Before you get worked up, stop and take a deep breath. Sometimes everything can be handled so much better if we take one minute to calm ourselves before we respond. Instead of giving your child a “time out” give yourself one. If you are upset and worked up, your child is going to feed off of that same energy. There’s nothing wrong with taking one minute to take a deep breath and think about how you can respond in a calm manner.
Learning behavior is hard and kids are going to mess up often. When we think about teaching a child something new, we want that to be a positive experience. But when we think about behavior, we don’t use that same lense and we should. We should teach kids how to act accordingly in fun and positive ways. Behavior can be taught with positive encouragement, loving support and guidance from you. I have said this before, but when my child was little I can remember that she hit another child. My response at that time was to smack her hand and say, “We don’t hit.” It was as if I had an epiphany and thought what I am doing makes absolutely no sense. I learned that focusing on the specific behavior that needs to be corrected and teaching why it is wrong has a much greater impact than what I was doing. I think the same approach goes for yelling. When a parent yells, the child has a tendency to focus on the volume of their voice, the redness in their face and think to themselves…Wow, I did all of that, cool!
You will be so much more successful and happy if you take the time and effort to teach desired behaviors. This is not an overnight fix either but you will get more bang for your buck long term with teaching behaviors versus yelling. You got this!