By: Cristina Trette
Some of us never yell. Others are habitual yellers. Most of us are somewhere in between. Yelling makes me feel bad. It might get temporary compliance but it does not produce good behavior or instill long term learning. But I will be honest with you, I want to yell at my kids I am triggered. I have to work hard to keep myself together. I have learned a lot of ways to keep my cool and I want to share them with you.
I love this quote by Haim G. Ginott:
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
1. Measure yourself
What is the quality of your yelling? Sometimes yelling serves as a protective response such as when a toddler runs into a busy street.There are times when yelling is reasonable and may prevent a child from harm. But the yelling I am referring to in this article is the I have had enough… quit your whining… knock it off… if you don’t stop crying I will give you something to cry about... kind of yelling. Even if you do not use this language, yelling is hurtful, unnecessary, and teaches children that yelling is acceptable behavior. It may be helpful to ask your spouse or partner to give you honest feedback on your yelling and what impact he thinks yelling is having on close relationships. If you bring in someone to help you assess yourself, assure them that their honesty is a gift that will assist you in your parenting.
2. What are your triggers?
Being in the car with my kids is a trigger for me. There is something about us all being crammed into a small space, and the noise level that tends to come with the small space, that is terribly stressful for me. I have to work very hard on to remain calm during long drives. What are your triggers? Siblings fighting, defiance, and hectic mornings can all set the stage for yelling. A fantastic tool for tracking your triggers can be found at The Orange Rhino. This website is filled with loads and loads of support to assist you in your journey towards becoming a scream-free household.
3. Create a code word
My daughter and I came up with a code word to remind each other of our goals to remain calm and respectful. The word my daughter chose is cuddle. This means that if either she or I say cuddle, the other agrees to pause and hug or at least pause and stop fighting. The word my youngest son chose is "hand". He likes to hold my hand when he gets upset. Either one of us can say the word any time it appears that the other is heading down the wrong path. Sometimes the announcement of the words means we break and stop the power struggle. Other times we a have a chat. Let your child pick the word that he likes and try it out frequently when you first begin the process of un-yelling. Upon choosing the word, you will both make an agreement that when either one of you says the code word you will take a break and calm down together or and agree to take a break and not re-engage until you are both calm.
4. Make a contract with older children
You may want to work with your child to write up a contract in which you both agree to respectful behavior, which includes not yelling. You can sit down together and list the actions that will lead to a mutually kind and cooperative household. Make certain to sign the paper and display it somewhere where you can both see it. If one of you veers off course, simply agree to have a discussion or make adjustments to the contract if necessary. I do not suggest using the contract as a tool for enforcing consequences. It is simply a reminder of positive actions that you are both striving towards. This is a tool that is helpful for children ages 8 and up.
5. Pay attention to your physical signals in your body
It is likely that stress is slowly building in your body but you are unaware. Start turning in to the early warning signs that you are getting ready to blow. Common symptoms include increased heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing, tightness in your chest, clenched jaw, etc. When you notice your body reacting, this is a sign to you to let you know that you are heading into the red zone. Tune in to yourself when you start to notice your tension building. Sometimes just taking some deep breathes or rubbing your shoulders is enough to bring you back to a state of calm.
6. Acknowledge that you feel powerless in the moment
Many people yell because it gives them a false sense of power right at the exact moment they feel powerless. When things become intense, go within and pay attention to what is going on for you. It is likely that some negative thoughts or beliefs come up for you right before you yell. Try to catch these thoughts as they happen. Then replace the thoughts with more positive thinking. If you are thinking, “I need to be in control or I must make them do as I say” change this to something such as, “I am a leader. I want to empower my children. Respecting my children will teach them to respect me. I am able to teach them without force".
7. Focus on yourself first
Ask yourself, what is the most loving thing I can do for myself right now? My guess is that your inner voice will not tell you to scream at the kids. Sometimes all that is needed to shift the dynamic is to take care of yourself so that you are able to be present with your child. Walk out of the room, go outside and breathe in fresh air, splash water on your face, or turn on music and start dancing. Last night, I started to get into a power struggle with my daughter. I was digging in my heels, insisting on my way as she was escalating her attempt to get what she wanted. I stopped, mid-sentence, told her I needed a break, and walked outside. I went and checked the mailbox and focused on re-gaining my center. By the time I came back, we were both ready to have a discussion. Then we came up with a solution that worked for both of us. If I had not taken care of myself, I would have forced her to back down. Yet it would have come at a cost to her dignity and respect. Taking care of myself allowed me to think more clearly and make a decisions that worked for both me and my child.
8. Take care of your child
Once you are calm, do what you need to do to take care of your child. Is he hungry, does he need a hug, is he tired, hungry or thirsty? Did he have a rough day at school and in need of support? Rather than just looking at behaviors, which tends to lead to yelling, get into your child's inner world. Children act out when their inner world is out of sorts. Look for what is going on inside your child's heart and mind and remember to see your child and not his behavior.
What other tools to you use to prevent yelling? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
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