To yell or not to yell at your kids? That is the questions.
by Beth Anne Feldman, Ph.D., Georgetown Psychology Associates
Every parent has yelled at their kid. Most parents know they should stop yelling, but still believe yelling is the only way to get their kids to listen. But when we yell, it teaches our kids not to listen to us until we yell. It trains our kids to yell back at us. And for most parents, after the screaming match is finally over, you are left with a big pit of regret and guilt at the bottom of your stomach.
So what should you do when you find yourself in the middle of another screaming match with your kid over not cleaning a room or getting dressed? Take a break, as long as you need. Leaving the situation does not mean you’ve lost the battle; instead it models self-control to your child. How can we expect a child to learn to control their own emotions if we can’t control our own? Change your thoughts so you can change your feelings and actions. In the heat of the moment, thinking becomes distorted and anger becomes the lens through which you see the world.
Rather than allow yourself to be consumed with angry and resentful thoughts that don’t calm you down (e.g., She is a such a brat; I can’t let him think he can get away with that), change them to be more constructive and rational (e.g., My daughter is acting like a child because she is just a child; I bet I acted like that when I was her age; Most adults don’t like to stop what they’re doing immediately).
Don’t take whatever your child just did personally. The situation is not about you. Take deep breaths or count to fifty. Put water on your face or use another active strategy that works for you to help regain your composure. Say very little. If you don’t, inevitably you will find yourself launching empty threats and regrettable words. If you can do it calmly, tell your child you need to cool down and think about what happened before you are ready to talk again.
When you are ready to return to the crime scene, you will know because your body no longer feels like it is going to explode, your mind no longer is on a warpath, and your child no longer is enemy number one. Where to go from here depends on many factors such as the issue at hand and age of child. But the universal place to start is to apologize for letting your anger control you and agree to redo. Tell your child, “I’m sorry that my anger got the best of me. Let’s try this again.” Remember, you ultimately cannot control your child’s behavior but only your own.