Four Proven Ways to Stop Yelling at Your Children

Getting heard without raising your voice.

Posted Nov 22, 2019

Many parents of defiant children truly believe it when they say, “The only way he listens to me is when I scream,” but nothing could be further from the truth. As an example, consider my coaching client, Jody, a single parent who felt this way. She had contacted me after reading my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, stating she wanted some additional guidance.

Sobbing during our initial phone session, she described to me the aftermath of her yelling just that morning. She relayed to me a scene in which her ten-year-old son lay on the floor, a whimpering mess, as her daughter sat comatose-like on the chair in front of her. The deafening sound of silence reminded Jody that an ugly moment had just occurred. The silence, however, soon ended when her defiant son threw his book bag against the wall and ran up to his room.

Like for many parents, Jody’s “hot button” was her son’s resistant attitude about completing homework. Her toxic thought was, "He just does not take anything on and puts it all on me!" Jody, further revealed that her son, Sean, a seventh-grader with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), often does not do his homework from the night before. Or, after they'd often go through agonizing drama to help him get it done, he'd often forget to turn it in!   

Jody told me, “I resent the demands of managing Sean. I just exploded and screamed, thinking that I’d finally make him change his behavior.” Like so many stressed out parents, Jody felt that yelling was her only option. Fortunately, Jody was able to learn alternatives to yelling.

My child “should” show me respect!

Parents understandably may react strongly and are quite negatively impacted when their children are disrespectful to them. Yet I have often found that defiant children often have parents who are hypervigilant about wanting that respect. Demanding respect from a defiant child usually fans the flames of his defiant behavior. As I wrote in my book, Liking the Child You Love, parents’ rigid thinking patterns lead to emotional overreactions and unrealistic expectations. The irony is that the less you demand respect from your child by yelling at him to give it to you, the more respect he will give you over time.

Getting Into a Calm, Firm, Non-Controlling Mindset

If you want to stop screaming, then get serious about sticking with changes you make regarding how you express yourself. Your child may initially roll her eyes or even scoff at you when you use the four numbered alternatives to yelling described below. But rest assured, your avoidance of yelling will pay off in the long run. It may not happen overnight, but less yelling from you over time means less defiance from your child. While it may not happen the first few times you avoid yelling, trust me when I tell you that most of my clients report seeing significant reductions in their child’s defiance within ten days.

Remember, your goal is to join with your child, not be her adversary. The more you realize and remember that you are working with—rather than against—your child to lower her defiance, the more you will make this happen.

Think of yourself as your child’s emotional and behavioral coach. Being your child’s coach in no way compromises your role as a parent. Quite the opposite is the case. Your parenting connection will be increased when you switch into coach mode. Coach mode helps to release you, and your ego, from feeling locked in the role of hurt, disappointed, or stuck parent. Taking on a coaching mentality means staying calm to rationally guide and encourage your child. Keeping your calm is crucial for parents when managing defiant children. 

Four Proven Ways to Stop Yelling at Your Children

1)   Realize that the best discipline you can give your child is to demonstrate self-discipline over your own emotions and behaviors! Become aware of your child’s emotions and your own. The more you model self-awareness of your own emotions, the more your child will do the same. 

2)  Don't waste your energies trying to win useless power-struggles. See your child’s negative emotions as opportunities for intimacy and teaching. They are not threats to your authority. Your goal is to have constructive conversations to solve problems.

3)  Lead with a learner's heart and mind to understand your child.  Remember that the best way to really know what is going on with your child is to lecture less and listen more!

4)  Use empathy to help your child find words to label the emotion he is having. Validate your child by reflecting back his words about his feelings. Saying “I can see you are really frustrated right now,” helps him label his intense emotion and talk about it rather than act it out with defiant behavior. Avoid saying things like, “You should not feel frustrated.”

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