om and Son forehead to foreheadYelling: A Tank full of Attention

Every parent wants to head to the hills after a full day of yelling. Parents doubt themselves, their skills, and begin to wonder if their child can cooperate?  Before you pack your bags, let me share one possible reason why you’re being forced to yell, and suggest a way to change things.

How a child sees it

Young children lean towards situations where they experience the most energy. When a parent yells, he or she exudes a great deal of energy and wait for it…attention. I know it’s hard to believe that children actually think they’re getting attention when a parent yells, but that’s immature thinking in action.

Think about it from a child’s point of view. What do you do when you yell? You stop what you’re doing, you turn around, you lock eyes with your child and you focus all of your words on him. No matter how you look at it, that’s a bunch of attention.

No, I’m not going to suggest that you ignore a child’s bid for attention; I think that’s mean.

When children suck up the attention that comes from yelling, they make a leap in thinking based on immature reasoning. They decide, hey, misbehavior is a good way to get my parent’s focused attention, even though she’s yelling. Children don’t see the whole picture yet, so they don’t really know that behaving is a better option, unless you show them, repeatedly.

Make a Change

The best way to change where your child gets your fully focused attention is to shift where you put the majority of your attention. Try shifting your focus, attention and words to the end result, what you would rather your child be doing—rather than focusing on what he’s done. That simple change will cause a huge increase in listening and cooperation and reduce your need to yell.

Here’s an example.

            • Old way “Why can’t you get dressed before I yell at you?”

            • New way: “Thanks for getting dressed before we left.”

The new example uses a subtle shift in words and shows you what to focus on, even if your child takes an hour to get dressed. If it took your child an hour to get dressed, skip over how long it took, for the time being. Applaud the end result only. Don’t use any “hurry up” comments. For each step of the getting dressed process make one positive comment versus making any negative comments.

An example would be.

            • Old way: “Are you kidding me, you only have one sock on!”

            • New way: “One sock down, one to go!”

How to Help Yourself

Make sure you do this on a day when you’re prepared. Make sure you have no plans to be anywhere on time. Get a good magazine or book to read while you wait. Make sure you’re in the mood to withstand any whining or crying your child may do to make you yell again. Remember he’s used to being fed attention through your yelling, that’s what he knows as normal. In order for him to change, he needs to experience a new normal. A normal where most comments are about things you want him to be doing.

Two more points to include.

• You need to hang in there. Doing this once won’t do it. He needs to really experience getting his attention needs fed from his cooperation as often as possible.

• Make sure you sound like yourself, don’t go over board with the applause, or you’ll sound inauthentic.

Sooner, rather than later, he’ll understand the new way to get your attention and begin to produce better behavior more consistently. This really does work.

There are also 4 Ways to Get Your Child to Listen to You that illustrate subtle things parents can to do, too.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.

Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Please leave your valid email address below.