“I’m never going to yell at my kids.” It’s one of those vows all parents make, right up there with “I’ll never answer a question with ‘Because it just is!’.” And, of course, it’s a promise we break. How often do you end up shouting at your kids when you don’t mean to?
We know shouting doesn’t work. It might relieve our stress temporarily, but ultimately it leaves everyone feeling even more wound up. We feel like we’ve lost control, we know we shouldn’t have lost our temper, and then we feel guilty. Sound familiar?
Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re certainly not the only one. Instead, try to move to a quieter way of disciplining the kids. You won’t go from shouty parent to calm and serene overnight, but you’ll get there.
1Make your words count
How you say something has as much effect as the words you use, so choose your tone carefully. Instead of yelling, speaking slowly and with authority sends a strong message to your child that their behaviour is unacceptable. By setting this example, you’re also teaching your child to communicate their own needs better as they grow older.
2Try saying ‘stop it’
If your child is doing something they shouldn’t, ask them to stop. Repeat if necessary rather than start yelling. Hold them firmly to make them look at you while you explain their behaviour is wrong.
The late Murray A Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, US, found there was a 50% chance a toddler would misbehave in the same way within a few hours, no matter whether they were yelled at or spoken to quietly. You’ll do less harm in the long run by not shouting.
3Give yourself a time-out
It’s a strategy often used with small children – and we parents can benefit from it too. When you realise you’re about to blow your top, make sure your child is safe and then remove yourself from the situation. Whether it’s a walk around the garden or locking yourself in the bathroom, take a few minutes away. Breathe deeply and slowly until you feel calmer. When you go back to your child, use a confident tone of voice that shows you’re in control.
A small child can only walk around the shops for a short time before they get tired or bored. Strapping a baby or toddler into a car seat for hours on a long journey will eventually take its toll. It’s unrealistic to expect perfect behaviour in these circumstances. Break down errands into short sessions, try online grocery shopping, or shop in the evenings when it’s quieter. Plan regular breaks when travelling – stop at a playground, so they get a chance to move their bodies freely, for example.
5Be prepared to compromise
You don’t need to ‘win’ all the time to be a good parent. Psychologist Emma Citron says that while boundaries are important, it’s ok to be flexible. Say you tell your child it’s bedtime and they want to stay up for an extra ten minutes. “Agreeing to five more minutes helps your child feel they have some control and are being listened to,” says Citron. It also means they’re more likely to then go to bed quietly without having a tantrum.
6Try to SEED good behaviour
Parenting experts recommend the SEED technique to avoid shouting matches. It won’t show instant results, but once it takes hold it can make a big difference. This is how it works:
- S: Show sympathy and empathy when your child resists. Tell them you understand why they don’t – or do – want to do something.
- E: Explain why you are asking for a particular action or behaviour.
- E: Expectations should be communicated clearly. Let them know how quickly they need to respond – such as “I want you to turn the television off when this programme finishes.” Remind them again when the deadline is up.
- D: Divert their attention with a positive alternative. “Turn the television off, and then I’ll make some hot chocolate before bedtime.”