As parents, it can be way too easy to slip into a pattern of yelling way more than we like.
Not only does this create a scary, toxic environment for everybody, but it’s not even effective.
Here are 10 things to try instead. They might not always work, but neither does yelling, and you just might find that you need to use them less after a while.
- Take a deep breath. If you’re going to react, breathe first and think of what you’re going to do or say. Nine times out of ten, just that breath will help you react in a better way.
- Put on your granny glasses. Pretend you’re many years older, looking back at the scene from years in the future. Will any part of you miss the mayhem? Will this scene not seem so catastrophic? Would you regret yelling or acting ugly in this moment later?
- Play grandma for real. Take it a step further and think of how you’d react if these were your grandchildren instead of your children. What would a good grandma do? Chances are, you’d use a mix of wisdom, understanding, love and humor (and let a little more slide).
- Walk away. If it’s something that really doesn’t matter (the couch cushions are all on the floor after you’ve just straightened them the 5th time today), let it go. Fix it later, and let a little low level trouble go for now.
- Laugh or smile (even inside). Kids are really good at making us crazy, and they’re often really creative too. We can get so caught up in how much work they make for us that we can lose sight of the fact that sometimes their actions are really pretty funny when we stop to think about them. If you’re likely to look back and laugh at this years later, why not start now?
- Tell them what to do instead. You don’t need to yell to get good behavior. Kids often listen better when they’re spoken to purposefully, slowly, respectfully and with eye contact (sometimes with physical contact too, such as a hand on the shoulder). Instead of yelling for five minutes, try simply stating what is going on and what you want done about it.
- Be silly. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try a little goofiness. Cluck like a chicken, threaten to carry the kids upside down if they don’t stop what they’re doing, or suddenly grab your throat and cough, gasping out “I can’t breathe from all the bickering! Save me! Save me! Please be nice to each other before I’m a goner! Gasp, cough, sputter…”.
- Hand them a note. Write down what you’d like them to do, walk in wordlessly, and hand it to them. Walk out again, and see what happens.
- Think back to your childhood. Before you holler, take a minute to remember yourself at that age. Think about what troublesome things you did and how your parents acted. Also think back to times you were troublesome and were treated kindly anyway (by parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters, anybody) and how that felt.
- Give them a hug. Yes, they may be acting rotten right now. They may be making you crazy. Yes, they should know better. Yes, they should act better. Yes to all of it. But at the end of the day, these are the small things in life. They are healthy and in your life. They are good little people at the heart of things. Besides, hugs make everything seem better (for the donor and the recipient!).
Remember the old adage: The days are long but the years are short. Parenting is hard, but so is being a child. Try responding in some new ways and see if the days get a little easier for everybody.
Be sure to be gentle and loving to yourself too!
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