Breaking A Pattern Of Yelling


<!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} p {mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} span.articlebody {mso-style-name:articlebody;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} -->

I can't stop yelling at my daughter. She's driving me crazy!

My son isn’t listening. I repeat myself over and over, and then I wind up screaming at him.

Nothing else works. Yelling does.

Sometimes, parents and children get engaged in negative cycles. Perhaps the child is repeating misbehaviors. Maybe you feel out of patience and think the only solution lies in yelling, because that’s the only thing to which your child seems to respond. There’s no question that sometimes parents choose yelling because it seems to work. But what do we mean when we say something works? Do we mean that it stops the misbehavior right now or that it stops misbehavior altogether? Most of the time, when parents say that a particular solution works, they’re referring to the short term. It’s important to look at a broader perspective: to evaluate whether or not a particular strategy is working, we must ask ourselves two questions:

1) Does what I’m doing stop the misbehavior?

2) What am I teaching my child?

When we include “teaching” in our evaluation of whether something is working or not, we adopt a more long term strategy. This allows us to be more effective as parents.

Yelling may work in the short term. It may stop misbehavior, or cause the child to listen better in the moment. Let’s think for a moment, however, about what it does to a child in the long term. Ask yourself:

* What does yelling teach my child about relationships with other people?

* What does yelling teach my child about power?

* How does yelling empower my child outside the home?

* What kind of future adult am I trying to shape when I yell at my child?

In his book, “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum says “Yelling at living things” tend(s) to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.

Talking about the negative effects of yelling is not intended to make you feel guilty. And the truth is that EVERY parent loses it from time to time and yells. The intention, however is to increase your awareness of why this particular strategy in parenting should never be used intentionally with our children.

So, what can we do to break out of a cycle of yelling? The truth is, there is no one way to do this. It requires a variety of strategies and alternate techniques. Let’s look at a few possibilities:

* Write your child a note. One mom decided to write her son a note requesting a change in behavior, then dropped it in front of him without saying a word and walked away. Several minutes later, her son came to her and said, “Ok, let’s work this out.” The key to this strategy lies in making the note respectful, and allowing your child time to process what it says before expecting a response.

* Hold a family meeting or parent / child conference. One mother and father had been continually exasperated by their daughter’s refusal to wash her hair. Finally, they held a family conference and asked for their daughter’s help in reaching a solution. They said, “Hair has to be washed. It’s not healthy to let it stay dirty. Three times a week is the minimum. How would you like to handle this?” To their surprise, their daughter said, “But the bathroom is SO cold, I just can’t take it,” As a family, they worked out a solution to put a safe, portable heater in the bathroom, and the battles over hair washing stopped. Family meetings or parent / child conferences work best when held at a neutral time when everyone is relaxed. This allows for discussion out of the “heat of the battle.” Again, a respectful attitude and willingness to listen are keys to success.

* Ask your child to help. Tell your child that you know he must be aware of how unpleasant things have been recently. Acknowledge that you feel sad about that and that you love him. Ask him if he has any solutions to “breaking the negative cycle” that’s been going on. One dad told me that homework was the battlefield in their family, and that every day he would wind up screaming at his daughter because it took her 2 hours to do 30 minutes worth of work. Finally, he sat her down (at a parent / child conference!) and asked for her help. He told her he loved her and that he was out of ideas, and he needed her to come up with a solution. She thought for a minute and then said, “Well, I think I’d do my work faster if I could listen to music.” Although this contradicted Dad’s idea of how work should get done, he agreed to try it for a week. Sure enough, not only did his daughter get her work done more quickly when she listened to music, but she also achieved a degree of accuracy that she hadn’t achieved before.

* Look inward. Sometimes the solution doesn’t lie within the child, but within ourselves. Maybe we’re impatient and yelling because we’re stressed at work. Maybe watching the news has left us on edge. Maybe we’re overly tired. Are you taking care of yourself? What do you need to do for you? Remember that when you’re on an airplane the announcement that comes on says that in case of emergency, place the oxygen mask over your face first, then help the person next to you. Sometimes breaking the cycle of yelling has to do with taking care of yourself better.

Finally, keep in mind that the most important thing you can do is to recognize that yelling does not have to be part of your relationship with your child. A willingness to change is the first step to success.