Inside you’ll learn one of the biggest reasons that the yelling problem doesn’t make your children more obedient. If you struggle with yelling at your kids, you won’t want to miss this.
“You are so mean!!!!” my 5 year old screamed running down the hall to the bedroom and slamming the door.
I stood there shocked for a few moments, then decided I needed to have a chat with this child. I walked to the bedroom and tried to open the door.
It was locked.
My own blood was boiling at this point because this whole incident got started when this child broke a rule. A rule they’d been reminded about multiple times only an hour before.
“Let me in, baby, we need to talk.” I said as calmly as I could.
“NO! I don’t want to talk!” this child screamed.
At this point all my alarm bells were ringing because physiologically mothers can’t stand screaming. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes, and with an even voice asked to come in. My child let me in and the power struggle began.
“It’s not fair! I want to go swimming with everyone else,” this child said.
I answered, “But you repeatedly did the exact thing I told you not to do so you lose your swimming privileges.”
My offspring responded in a voice that was half-cry and half-yell, “That is mean. You hate me. You don’t love me as much as you love everyone else. This isn’t fair.”
By this point I was annoyed. It was nearing dinner time and I needed to prepare dinner while supervising the other children who were in the pool and this attitude and defiance was getting on my last nerve.
I sort of flipped and said – in a voice that was more yelling than talking…
“You acted naughty and now you have to live with the consequences. You better stop yelling at me right now and start thinking about what you did since THAT’S the reason you are in your room, child.”
As I walked back down the hall I heard a door slam. Then some kicking. And some yelling. And a few “it’s not fairs” and one or two “nobody loves me’s.”
The Reason We Yell
This is a scenario that is often played out.
We know we shouldn’t yell.
We know it’s not a healthy reaction.
We know we don’t want to fracture the parent/child relationship.
Yet sometimes… we’re at the end of our rope. Our child can continue to display negative, dangerous, or outright rude behavior and it causes us stress. Our blood pressure and heart rate rise and it’s hard not to slip into angry mom mode.
We just want our children to do the things they are supposed to do and not do the things they aren’t supposed to do.
But Here’s What Yelling Really Does
The issue is not just that yelling isn’t nice. We know it isn’t. And it’s not that kids feel bad when we yell. We know they do.
The issue is this… yelling turns the focus on us instead of on our children’s choices.
When we yell at our children for their misbehavior, we’re putting the spotlight on us instead of on the behavior that made us yell in the first place. Then, because parental anger is threatening to children, they further act out in insecurity.
“When we feel threatened or in danger, our brains tell us, ‘This is unsafe! Get ready to fight, or get ready to run away!’ When we deliver consequences with anger, children’s brains go into ‘survival’ mode rather than ‘learning’ mode. They think more about escaping, or possibly getting revenge, than about how to make smarter choices in the future. In survival mode, we cannot learn.” Love and Logic®
When children act disobedient they usually feel kinda bad. Then if mom comes storming in and yells, guess what?
They mood altar by turning their frustration on us.
They don’t think about what got them in trouble in the first place, they think about how we are mean, uncaring, and insensitive. And, if we’re a big barrel of screams, they are right!
So What Causes Children To Think About Their Choices?
We know yelling won’t help children think about their choices. So what does?
Empathy with kind yet firm limits.
We can still be empathetic when our child breaks a family rule and must endure the consequence. In fact, this is pretty easy. We know what it’s like to live with our choices, even the bad ones. It’s okay to give your child a consequence while still saying, “I know this is hard, honey, it’s not fun to miss out on something.”
In fact, the best way to get your child to focus on their own choices is to express sincere empathy then let them feel their feelings. The reality is this: kids don’t always need us to make them feel better.
So how do we do this?
- If your child misbehaves, don’t immediately jump in to give a consequence. Take a minute to think before reacting. We are allowed to be angry, but we shouldn’t discipline in anger.
- Approach your child with empathy, knowing the consequence you are going to give. “I’m so sorry you chose to hit your brother with that truck, now you can’t play with it. That’s sad isn’t it, buddy?” then you remove the truck. (Or insert your consequence here, acknowledging their genuine emotions as you do so).
- Do not engage in a power battle. Maybe your child must stay in their room until they calm down or you stay in yours as well. If you were there arguing and yelling, they would not be thinking about their choice they would be thinking about you. If you are calm and collected they have nothing to think about except why they are in this situation and how to avoid it next time.
The next time this happened…
After learning this helpful tidbit about why yelling actually backfires on us, I felt a surge of empowerment. I felt equipped to hold my temper for two reasons. 1. I don’t want to scare the kids. 2. I want them to make good choices, not blame me for their bad ones.
Luckily, I was able to test this out nearly immediately. My child – the one who lost swimming privileges – did the exact same thing that was forbidden. Twice. This child did it two times even with reminders from yours truly. But on this occasion I decided to show empathy, not lose my temper.
“Oh honey, I am so sorry. This means you won’t get to swim this afternoon. I know you love swimming so this will be really hard for you.”
There was some crying, some begging, and then – surprisingly – it evaporated. Instead of yelling at me or calling me a bad mom… the child acknowledged the wrong behavior. The child approached me in tears for a hug. We cuddled and acknowledged it’s hard when things don’t go our way.
“I think I’ll make better choices tomorrow,” my baby said.
Our children don’t learn to make good decisions because we yell.
They’ll learn to make good decisions because they want to avoid negative consequences and experience positive ones.
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