I hear parents yelling at their kids everywhere I go. I’ll bet you do too. I also hear children yelling back at their parents. It’s a pretty common problem. I know that parents are embarrassed when they realize that someone has heard their child yelling at them. I also know that the parents feel helpless to do anything about it. It’s such a common problem that I wasn’t shocked when I heard NPR do an interview today titled, “Yelling, is it the new spanking?”
We all know that modeling is what children do; it’s how they learn about the adult world. Parents need to realize that when a child is yelling back at them, most of the time, and there are exceptions, the child is acting like she perceives her parent is acting toward her. The reasoning behind this behavior is very child like.
The following tips may help you change your yelling habits. The good thing about changing your yelling habits, other than the obvious, is when you stop yelling at your child you can say to them, “I stopped yelling at you, and I would like you to stop yelling at me.”
Yelling happens in most families at one time or another. Most parents rationalize the yelling by saying, “I’m simply expressing that I say what I mean, and mean what I say!”
I understand that’s the goal but there are two bigproblems with that theory.
The first is there’s a really good chance your child doesn’t hear a word you say when you’re yelling. Most parents’ think the louder they get, the firmer they appear to their child. Actually, the opposite is true. The more yelling you do, the less your child hears you. Why?
Children tend to withdraw just a little bit in order to withstand their parent’s yelling. Watch your child the next time you yell and you’ll see her shift her attention from your words to retreating inside herself for a minute or so to protect herself from the intensity of the yelling. What she does after you stop yelling, like crying, yelling at you or creating more misbehavior is another topic all together.
Your child can’t fully listen to your words and emotionally protect herself from your yelling at the same time. Something has to give. So she ignores what you’re saying in favor of her emotional safety.
The second problem is if the parent is screaming, being mean or attacking a child’s character. That type of yelling can cause lifelong emotional damage to a child’s self-esteem. Think about how you grew up. What emotional scares do you carry around? Our parents did the best they could. Very few had ever heard of parent education, so they yelled. The more they yelled, the more they reacted. The more they reacted the more their children reacted. The more their child reacted, the harsher the words became and so on and so on.
So the next time you yell at your child and say, “Listen to me right now, I’m talking to you,” notice whether or not you’re yelling. You’ll have a better chance of her really hearing you if you’re calmer.
There are also 4 Ways to Get Your Child To Listen to You to help support everything you read in this article.
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.