Here are some more powerful, effective tips from my book 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child to help you avoid the yelling trap with your child or teen.
1. Recognize that your fear is likely driving your anger. It's okay to feel anger—what matters is that you understand where it is coming from. Often our anger comes from underlying fear. Just knowing this can help you reframe your anger and better handle it.
As parents, we mainly fear our kids won’t learn to be responsible and self-reliant. So we are vulnerable to blowing up when they don’t do what we ask, when they lie, when they test our rules, when we don’t approve of their friends, when they get into trouble in the community, and when they do poorly in school. Don’t get me wrong, as a “yeller in recovery”, I know firsthand that we are not perfect as parents. But when we do get angry it usually just makes a perfect mess when we try to help our children. The more you acknowledge that your fear is really the issue, the less likely you will be swept away by anger and scream those dreadful, stinging sound bites that can negatively rattle around in your child’s mind for a long time. For example, instead of speaking the voice of your anger as, “You seem to really want to screw up your life, don’t you?” it would be more connecting and supportive to say, “It is hard to watch you struggle, what can I do to help you?” As you can see from this example, the latter response is much more likely to stop the escalation than the former response.
2. Don’t deliver well-intended advice in a negative manner. Parents tend to yell when their children don’t listen to their advice. Somehow we as parents fall prey to thinking that if we raise our voice or speak in a less sensitive manner, that our kids will listen better. But if you slow down and stay mindful of how you speak, you will realize that how you deliver advice will influence how well your child will listen. If you find yourself vociferously harping at your child in a manner similar to the examples below, chances are you will end up yelling when they don’t give you’re the response you want. Below are some non-reactive examples for giving advice:
● Instead of saying, “You should. . . .”
Consider saying this to help keep you cool: “I have some suggestions if you are willing to please hear me out?”
● Instead of saying, “If you would stop procrastinating and just do what you need to then you wouldn’t be so behind in your schoolwork.”
Consider saying this to help deliver your suggestions in a more palatable manner: “I get scared for you knowing you are under so much stress with school. Can we please talk with your teachers and figure out how to get you more support with your schoolwork?”
● Instead of saying, “Why aren’t you doing your school work, don’t you want to pass this year?”
Consider saying something like this to convey your concern: “I know school has been no picnic for you. When I nag you it just seems to make us both feel bad. I want to see you succeed so can you tell me the best way to try to give your encouragement and support?”
3. Focus on the “good stuff”. Try to remember that looking at what you have to be grateful for with your kids can be very calming and centering. We are in a very competitive culture. OVERLY wanting the best for our kids can ironically lead us to anger and misery, if we let it. Remember, that life is not easy. We all make mistakes and so do our children. Try to focus on the joyful times, their strengths, and positive memories as this will help you yell less and be a more positive role model for your children.
Dr Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist, and personal and executive coach in the greater Philadelphia area. He has been on the Today Show, Radio, and has written four popular books, including 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child and 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child. You can also follow Dr. Jeff on Twitter