Get kids to listen without yelling

I’m sure we’ve all been there, where we feel that yelling has been our ‘go-to’ reaction. We might start out with the right intentions, we listen and we stay calm. But in the end we grab the last resource we have – suddenly we are YELLING – and only then do they finally listen and take us seriously. It works in the here and now but not long term! And I get it; it takes lots of practice and patience to get what we are asking for without yelling or losing our temper.

Why should we NOT be yelling!

  • When we yell we have lost all control of ourselves and any chance we had of staying in charge of the situation. Actually, we have given away all the power we might have had.
  • When we start yelling we have stopped all forms of healthy communication since we are not listening any more. Our negative emotions have taken over and are controlling us. There is no way forward to solve the issues that respects our kids and sits well with us.
  • It sends a signal to our kid’s brains that they are in danger and they will most likely go into fight or flight mode and will automatically fight back or move away (run away from us, in fact they are just running away from danger).
  • Yelling can have a long term effect on our kids if it happens too often and we become out of control. Nobody likes to be yelled at and it is a humiliating experience they will carry with them.
  • We are our kids’ biggest role model and from an early age they copy everything we say and do and how we say it! I think you know what I am about to say now…Yes, if we want our kids to stop yelling and start listening we need to show them how to do it!

So how can get our yelling under control?

Everything start with an emotions (anger, frustration, lost, sadness, disappointment etc), that lead to our actions (yelling, hitting, shaming etc). So if we want to manage our loud voice and word overflow we need to first check in with our emotions – what we feel in the here and now:

  1. Notice the feeling when it comes and STOP what you are about to say and take a deep BREATH. Nothing else for now, just STOP and BREATH.
  2. THINK: what am I feeling right now and why –  verbalise it: ‘I feel really upset / angry / frustrated right now . At this point don’t fight it, just step into the feeling and accept it as it is. ‘This is my feeling and I cannot get rid of it, but I don’t want it to control how I parent next!’
  3. Notice any self-thoughts or doubts and then challenge them: I am a good parent, I can do this,  I want to be a positive role model for my child to follow, they are good kids most of them time, I love my child and my family.
  4. Then allow a pause before you do or say anything (just a second or two). This will ground you to the moment and help you to calm down.
  5. MAKE A DECISION: now that you have checked in with yourself you are in a better position to choose what you will do and say, or NOT do and say. And it’s OK to take a time out or ignore a child’s behaviour – as long as you re-engage later and restore the balance and connection with the child and your family.
  6. Make it a family agreement to work on the yelling. Sit with your family and agree to a ‘you use your calm voice’ rule. You can agree to a signal that you can give each other when anybody is about to yell. You can also agree to the consequences of yelling i.e. if anyone yell we say it nicely ‘please use your calm voice’ or other actions that work for you or your family. CLICK here for a downloadable ‘family agreement chart’.
  7. Admit to mistakes: we are human, you will get it wrong, but awareness is the first step to change. You might at times fall back into the trap of yelling. Go back and say, ‘that was not my finest hour and I will work on it changing that’. You can also say what you are going to do about it: ‘And I am getting some support to work on my anger’ or ‘I am will take a time out when I feel I am about to yell’, or ‘can we work on this issue as a family’. It is not enough to keep apologising, we also have to show out children that we ARE doing something about it.

And be kind to yourself: just by reading this article you are already changing things for the better, since you care and are willing to work on things. No one said that parenting was going to be easy and most of us are trying our best and sometimes that is good enough!

CLICK here to read more about ‘managing your parenting anger’

Best wishes,
Mette Theilmann – part of the Parenting Community team