By Dr. Gerald Deskin, Ph.D.
Children don't do what they are told, parents become frustrated and start yelling. It is what some of us do sometimes and others do routinely. Yet when I ask parents if it works, they usually admit that it usually does not. So why do we continue doing it?
We yell because we can't think of a better way of changing our child's behavior.
We yell because we are annoyed and it is an easy way to control behavior. As we become more frustrated, we become angrier. Yelling leads to increased tension in ourselves and our child. However, it prevents us from looking at other ways of solving the immediate problem.
It starts at the beginning of the day. Children need to get ready for school and we have to get ready for work, or to start our day at home. We need to stop for a moment and find new strategies for helping our child behave the way we want them to behave. Sometimes this involves thinking of how to help our child function better in the morning. Sometimes it means setting consequences, quietly and firmly. We may have to get our child up a little earlier if they are slow starters, or make it clear that the consequence is their having to go to bed earlier as a consequence for their behavior. Consequences sometimes can be avoided by discussing the evening before what is going to happen if they don't get up and get ready in time. Your child is smart enough to avoid unpleasant consequences if they are given time to think about it. Remember, a consequence is something that works. If it doesn't work it is not an appropriate consequence. Discuss this solution with your child. They may be able to set their own consequence. This model of discussing the situation with your child and setting consequences should be the model for every situation in which you find yourself yelling. The result is less tension for yourself and that your child goes to school in a better mood.
Stop using techniques that don't work. You have to adjust what you expect to the age of your child. Maybe your are expecting behavior from your two or three year old that is inappropriate. Some young children are always frustrating you because of poor impulse control. They may not be ready to learn the lesson you want to teach them. The problem then is within you not your child. You may need to rethink your household so that your child is not automatically touching or breaking something that he/she shouldn't be near. When you are tired from a full day of work either at the office, or at home, it is easy to become angry at a child acting in an appropriate way for that age. It may help to do what you need to relax yourself and be in better control. After work if you take just a few minutes to relax, you may feel better and be in better control.
Children often need to be told what to do more than once. Remember that children are in a continuous training program to become what you hope they will become, responsible adults. Don't expect perfection, but ask yourself if they are improving or not. If you control your yelling, you also teach your children not to yell.
Getting children to bed is another time when it is easy to yell. Parents want their child to get enough sleep and go to bed at a certain time. Children are enjoying their games or TV and don't want to stop. Instead of yelling have a short reading and talking time before the child goes to sleep. This way of calming down is both beneficial in calming your child down, it is a way of becoming closer and discussing anything important the child wants to share with you. You may think of other creative ways to set up a routine the child always follows before going to bed without having to yell. More importantly you will have ended the day pleasantly for your child and yourself that is important for both of you, without feelings of guilt over yelling.
Suggestions for parents:
Examine the times and situations in which you find yourself yelling and see if you can end the need to yell.
Yelling is not a consequence for a child. You may have to quietly set consequences for the child that is not cooperative.