How often have you thought to yourself: “I’m sure I listened when my parents shouted at me, why is my child not listening when I shout”?
Often, shouting at our children when they have done something wrong does not prevent that behaviour in the future. In most cases, the yelling is a last resort, for you as the parent, to try gain some control over the situation. But has your child learned what they did wrong? About whythey are being yelled at?
Or have they learned that adults are to be feared when they are angry, that bad situations end in shouting. Yelling does not build respect between children and parents, it creates a relationship based on fear and avoidance, with a limited understanding of what makes mommy or daddy so upset.
What are children learning from yelling?
Ever heard the adage, “do what I say, not what I do”? Children learn more about the world through observation, than what they are told not to do. They learn what behaviour is considered appropriate based on the behaviour around them. How often have you shouted at your children not to shout at you?
Yelling at children teaches them:
• That there is no resolution to conflict
• The person who shouts loudest is the one who is heard
• Shouting is the only way to bring attention to a problem
• If someone is in the wrong, your child has the right to shout at them
Many of the parents who come for counselling tell me that the louder they shout, the less likely their children are to listen to them, but they feel like there is no other way to get their children to
listen. Instead of the respectful child these parents had hoped for, who does what he or she is told and is kind to siblings, these parents seem to have children who are strong willed and not susceptible to the types of discipline these parents grew up with.
How to start stopping
A disciplined child does not necessarily mean one who is punished enough, but often is the result of mindful parenting techniques.
Start by becoming more aware of how often you lose your temper with your children.
• What is your mental state at that point? Are you stressed out, tired, hungry?
• Can you start to notice a pattern for when you shout more, compared with times you shout less?
• Is there specific bad behaviour that you shout at your children for, or is it more generalised?
Focus on you
Between work stress, running a home and raising children, many parents feel burnt out.
Find some way for you to de-stress, be it yoga, walking, meditating, gym or reading. The calmer you are, the less likely it is that the situation will explode. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all these responsibilities, consider going for a few counselling sessions to reduce the feeling of overwhelm.
Have some calm conversations about their behaviour
Have calm conversations about good and bad behaviour with your children. If they are old enough for you to shout at them for bad behaviour, they are old enough to have level-headed conversations about why you think that behaviour is bad. When we talk to our children as if they are people, and give them an opportunity to participate in the discussion, we validate
their existence as people.
Not only are they getting a better understanding of what makes you upset, they get a chance to justify their actions. This does not mean that they are now off the hook, but it does give you a chance to hear their side of the story. You may find that they have reasons for their actions, and now that you have spoken about the situation, together you can find other ways to meet your child’s needs, so that they don’t have to resort to bad behaviour.
Once you have had this conversation, use it as a reference point in the future, when similar bad behaviour is becoming apparent. The trick is to not only have one discussion, and then think everything is fixed. The hard part about effective communication is that it requires repetition. If you have a calm, open conversation this morning, chances are that more thoughts are going to occur to both you and your child during the day, requiring another calm, open conversation
Being more aware of your stress levels, in addition to having all these wonderful, enlightening conversations with your child, does not mean that you won’t shout at them in the future. It does mean that they have a better understanding of why you are getting upset with them. This understanding is likely to improve their behaviour, reducing the current parenting struggles you are going through.
*This article was originally written for Today’s Child.
The electronic copy of this edition can be found here