Learn how to talk to kids without yelling and why that’s really important.
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Discover how to talk to kids without yelling, why you need to stop in the first place and what you can do instead to foster positive behaviour. Jessica Speer gives you all the tools you need to make it happen.
You’ve had a stressful day and need some quiet. But your kids are constantly fighting and ignoring your requests to settle down. You try to stay calm, but end up losing your temper and yelling at your kids. Harsh words are spoken, doors slam, tears roll, and you end up feeling awful.
Does this sound familiar?
Luckily, the use of spanking is on the decline, but many parents still yell at their kids. After all, life and kids can be frustrating, right?
Yes, everyone gets angry at times, but many parents don’t realize that harsh words backfire in harmful ways. And that there are more effective ways to communicate and encourage positive behavior.
How Do I Practice Peaceful Parenting: 10 Things You Need To Know – Learn how to to practice peaceful parenting and raise self-disciplined children.
Why is yelling and speaking harshly to your kids harmful?
A 2014 study by the Society for Research in Child Development revealed that yelling produces negative results similar to physical punishment in children. These negative results include increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, along with an increase in behavioral problems.
Other studies confirm that verbal discipline, defined as shouting, cursing, or using insults, have the same harmful effect as physical discipline on kids.
Most parents wouldn’t dream of physically harming their children, but it turns out that harsh words can have the same detrimental impact on well-being. Besides, yelling trains kids not to listen to you until your voice is raised. Eventually, it trains your kids to learn to yell back.
According to Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, “Whether or not they show it, our anger pushes kids of all ages away from us. Yelling at them practically guarantees that they’ll have an “attitude” by the time they’re ten, and that yelling fights will be the norm during their teen years. And as kids harden their hearts to us, they look for more from their peer group. We lose our influence with them just when we need it most.”
But what if you are reading this because you just exploded and screamed at your kids?
What should you do after you yell at your kids?
Like all humans, parents sometimes say things or respond in ways that they wish they hadn’t. Creating new habits takes attention and practice. So if you just yelled to your kids, it’s time for some damage control.
When we yell or direct harsh words at our kids, it’s essential to repair the fissure. Ignoring when we mess-up with our loved ones only increases the divide. Reconnection is key.
1. First, RECOGNIZE your mistake. Take a moment to pause and reflect on how you reacted and what you said. Then, visualize how you would like to respond the next time you feel angry.
2. Next, APOLOGIZE to your child for what you said and how you reacted. Then be sure to share how you wish you had responded. Remember, the goal here is to reconnect, not to prove that you are right.
3. Finally, TRY AGAIN. After apologizing, respond calmly and kindly. Practicing with your child will help to develop a new habit and model this process for them as well.
According to Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting, “Even if we can’t parent in the most nurturing ways all the time, the more often we can, the more our children get what they need, the better they will be able to weather the times when we parent in less nurturing ways.”
What can you do instead of yelling or speaking harshly?
Often in relationships, people get into a habit of reacting a certain way.
For example, let’s say your child is misbehaving. You give them a stern warning and a moment to correct the behavior. Your child ignores you. You ask again, this time a little louder. Same response. So you raise your voice more, threaten to take away something, and send them to their room.
The response is habitual, even though it doesn’t work well.
Believe it or not, there are homes where parents respond to their kids and set limits clearly and calmly. These parents still experience anger, but they are in touch with their emotions enough to pause and manage themselves first.
Then they react in a way that does not take their anger out on their kids. Practicing the steps below will help to break old habits of yelling.
Tip #1: Take care of your own well-being & practice managing your own emotions in a healthy way.
Emotional Intelligence is a skill necessary for personal and family well-being, yet most parents are unfamiliar with it. Many adults today never learned how to manage their emotions in a healthy way.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle relationships empathetically. Instead of letting our emotions get out of control or control us, EI helps us be aware of and manage our emotions so we can thoughtfully respond. Like most things, EI takes practice.
To practice Emotional Intelligence, begin to notice when you are triggered by something and experiencing a big emotion like anger. Then get curious. Notice what is happening in your body. Maybe your jaw clenches, and your heart begins to race. Pause and take a break so you can take care of your well being. Breathe, splash water on your face, take a walk or do a calming activity until you feel centered again.
When you do this, you are modeling for your kids how to manage uncomfortable emotions.
Tip #2: Remember that your kids are still learning.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for focused attention, understanding the consequences of our actions, logic, and other vital functions, isn’t fully developed until after adolescence.
This doesn’t mean you should not set limits and encourage positive behaviors. It means your kid’s skills are still developing and that they are going to make mistakes. They are kids after all.
When your child is experiencing a big emotion, like anger, they can’t think straight. That is not the moment to try to teach them a lesson.
Once you have managed your own emotions, you can help your child calm down. Then, later, from a place of calm, you can address the issue together.
Tip #3: Speak to your child using a calm tone and body language
Once you and your child are feeling calm, you can best talk about the issue.
Your tone of voice and body language are just as important as the words you say. Your words will have little impact if you are using a threatening tone, your face is filled with anger and you are pointing a finger at your child’s chest.
Remember, the goal is to stay connected with your child. Through listening, you may learn the underlying reasons behind their behavior.
Final thoughts on how to talk to kids without yelling
Breaking a habit of yelling is hard. It takes a lot of self-control, and you will mess up. Just keep practicing and doing your best. You are re-wiring your brain, which takes time and effort.
At some point, you’ll notice that it’s been a while since you’ve yelled. You’ll see your child beginning to manage their emotions in a healthy way instead of lashing out. And the best part, your child will listen to you, even without you raising your voice.