Every mama has that moment. You know the one where you have asked no less than a dozen times for your children to do something, and it simply falls on deaf ears.
You ask. You plead. And nothing changes.
“Can you please pick your things up in the hallway? It’s become a dreadful mess.”
Sometimes they don’t ignore the request but offer a placating assurance it will get done.
Hours later, when you check, nothing has changed.
And then, your eye twitches, and you try to squelch it, but KABOOM! You blow your top and begin to yell.
Oh, honey, you’re not a bad mama. You’re just shoved to the brink.
Yelling isn’t good, though, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve done it myself.
But it still doesn’t get them to clean up the hallway. Or do anything else you’ve requested before the yelling.
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Can yelling at a child be harmful?
Let me counter this question with another…how do YOU feel when someone yells at you?
When my husband yells at me, I think about how I will look awful in an orange jumpsuit, so I resist the urge to lunge, and basically, whatever he says sounds like the adults talking in those old Peanuts cartoons.
And so, when I thought of it that way, I realized that none of us should ever yell unless we’re screaming a desperate plea to “LOOKOUT!” or “DANGER!”
Yelling is bad for kids because it can make them more physically and verbally aggressive. The littler they are, the scarier it is, and it only makes them feel unsafe.
I know it is hard, but we must embody calmness even when we are like, “Holy BLEEP. I can’t believe these BLEEPING kids didn’t pick up their BLEEPING things again!”
But there’s more. Stop yelling if you don’t want your kids to be pushed around at school. It only sends them the message that this is how they should be treated and can cause them incredible anxiety.
How can you be a good parent without yelling?
You’re still a good parent! But you can be the best version of yourself if you ditch the screaming tactics.
Here’s what you can do to stop the shouting…
Take your own timeout
I do this one ALL the time. I walk away when I feel like I’m about to explode into a ball of fire. I don’t do it indefinitely, and I do not leave my kids somewhere unsafe (this is always at home). I simply excuse myself to another room.
Usually, it’s my bedroom where I have a bunch of those throw pillows that my husband despises. But they serve a greater purpose besides decoration. They are my punching bags. I squeeze, punch, and scream right into them until I feel my emotions calming down.
Talk about it when you’re calm
You know how you can’t talk to a toddler throwing a tantrum because they just don’t get it? They’re in the thick of their emotions. Well, we’re the same, except we KNOW our feelings. But the principle is the same.
Calm down first, then talk about your feelings. Tell them why you are feeling the way you feel so they can see it from your side. Ask them what they are feeling and learn to open these lines of communication.
Believe me; it’s easier the early you start doing this.
How do you discipline without yelling or hitting?
Ah, and now, how do you dole out discipline without yelling or worse?
Once you have calmed yourself down, you have to start by addressing that bad behavior. You can’t scream, but you are allowed to let them know you’re angry. You also need to be firm.
The fact is:
Even the best kids will misbehave here and there. You’ve got to get down on their level and look in their eyes for little ones. The goal here is to connect with them, let them know what behavior was wrong, and try to give them the tools to problem solve so they won’t repeat this behavior.
You also need to use consequences, which are not the same as threats. When you threaten your child with something, it only makes them resent you and deepens the conflict.
And the worst part?
It prevents your child from developing inner discipline, the tool they’ll use as full-fledged adults when deciding right and wrong.
That’s not to say they’ll never make a mistake again, but by instilling this code within them, they’ll be more likely to assert themselves in a group of peers that want to do something wrong and go against the grain to do the right thing.
Threats are humiliating too. But consequences are different because they’re fair game.
Consequences are important to teach our children because they address the behavior but come with a warning.
For a toddler, this might look like telling them not to hit their sister or friend with a toy because toys are for playing, then letting them know that if they repeat the behavior, you will take the toy away. If they use the toy to hit again, you take it away, following through on that consequence.
They will likely cry, but they will learn an important lesson here. They will also know that you don’t make idle threats.
As a child, I behaved well in restaurants, even fancy ones. I learned early on that if I behaved, I’d get dessert. If I was bratty, I got taken outside for a spanking. I only got spanked once for that.
And while I do not advise spanking your kids, I can say that I was warned I’d get one, and I was given the consequence for not doing as I was supposed to do.
So, I sat and behaved at a young age even when the adults were boring me. They didn’t mind if I colored or played in my seat as long as I was quiet and respectful.
Looking back, I was seldom, if ever, yelled at. Though my parents taught me that when I was warned about my behavior, that was the only warning I’d get before the consequence they mentioned would be doled out.
It helps to sit with your kids while everyone is calm and go over what is and isn’t acceptable in your home. You need to do this in different stages, too, since what makes sense for them as toddlers do not make sense for a 5th grader or a middle school or high school child.
When everyone knows the rules and agrees to the consequences that come from breaking those rules, you don’t have to raise your voice. All you have to do is point to your rules and give them the punishment they agreed upon when you all sat down as a family.
And the best part is that you’ll save your throat from feeling raw while becoming closer to your kids, and that’s truly priceless.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.