5 Tips: How to Not Scream at Your Kids

Tween son and his mother shouting through the megaphones at each other

Parents can get stressed out at their kids for many reasons. It’s hard being a mom or dad. Sometimes, for some (or many) of us, we tend to raise our voices at our kids with the hopes that this will change our kids’ behaviors. This, unfortunately, is not really true. It rarely works the way we hope.

Screaming or yelling at our kids “might” make them do something we want them to do in the moment. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t even work out the way we would like.

The truth is…screaming at kids is not a long-term solution. Also, it’s not helpful for your child and it certainly doesn’t feel good and is not good for our own well-being as parents.

Following are some tips based upon scientific strategies for behavior change in children and wellness strategies for parents:

  • Breathe. As a parent, we need to practice our relaxation strategies. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to react with aggressive language or with our impulsive responses. We want our kids to be respectful and follow directions without talking back. Sometimes, we need to breathe to help our minds and bodies to calm down before we react with a response that isn’t going to be that effective anyway.
  • Focus on the behavior not the child. If our minds are focused on being frustrated with the behavior and not the child as a whole, it will be easier to control our reactions because we aren’t likely to get as overwhelmed at the child. Instead, we tell ourselves and our child “I don’t like the behavior of ___[insert problem behavior here, ex: complaining about the chore]__. This is the consequence for complaining.”
  • Have a game plan. It is inevitable that kids will do things you don’t like. Kids are kids and they will test limits and push your buttons. That’s part of childhood. Kids are LEARNING to follow rules, to see what boundaries can be pushed, to interact with others, and to become a respectful, kind and compliant individual. The key here is they are “learning.” They don’t know any of these things until they are taught and teaching them takes years (their entire childhood and they are still learning into adulthood). Therefore, think about the problem behaviors that your child may display. What are common things your child does that you don’t like? Come up with a plan for how you will respond to these behaviors and then it will be easier to react when the behavior happens because you have thought about it ahead of time.
  • Put more energy into positive behaviors. It’s a good tip to be more focused on your child’s appropriate behaviors (like following directions and being kind) rather than being so focused on just stopping the negative. The more you reinforce (give attention to, praise, and recognize) the things you want your child to learn, the more likely they are to learn those skills.
  • Give yourself a break. By giving yourself a break, I mean to forgive yourself when you do accidentally yell at your kids. I also mean to give yourself some alone time, some time away from your kids to relax and regain your motivation and energy to parent effectively. Parenting burn-out is a real thing. We can certainly feel exhausted and lose energy for trying the strategies that we know to be effective and helpful for our kids and ourselves when we are burned out. So, stay rested and refreshed and, if you slip up, try again later. Each moment is a new moment to start again.

 

Note: Yelling or screaming at your kids is something that well-meaning parents may do. Maybe there are parents out there who can keep their cool all the time, but I also know there are many more parents who get so overwhelmed that they raise their voice at their kids. However, this post is not suggesting that it is okay to yell at your kids, but at a minimal level, it happens. But, if you struggle with yelling at your kids TOO frequently, you may need to seek professional support to help you with this. Not to accuse anyone who yells of emotional abuse, but emotional abuse towards children can include yelling at kids (depending on the severity and language used). See this link for examples of what emotional abuse would include (such as name-calling, belittling, swearing, threatening, etc.)

Announcement: I will be launching an email course: Ultimate Parenting Success: Raising Toddlers very soon. To register to be notified of this course and also to get access to a free expert tip shift for raising toddlers, go to: www.parentingtoddlers.org and sign up to receive the FREE EXPERT TIP SHEET: 7 Expert Solutions to Your Toddler Parenting Concerns You Can Use Right Now

image credit: rodjulian via Fotalia

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About Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA. Heather has obtained a master's degree in clinical social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology with a youth services minor. Heather is also a Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Additionally, Heather is a dedicated and passionate freelance writer. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, mental health, happiness, and life coaching.
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