My Resolution: Getting Better Behavior Without Yelling

Posted by SharonSilver in Articles on Wed, Jan 4, 2012

Have you ever said this to a friend or felt this way about your spouse? “Every time he (dad) or she (mom) has to deal with the kids he/she ends up getting into a power struggle or argument with the kids. There’s always a threat involved, “if you don’t…then you won’t. The kids react badly to the veiled threat and refuse to do whatever is being asked of them. Why can’t she just say, “After you do this…then you can…?”

Every parent has days when they’ve yelled so much they’re at the end of their rope. Those are the days when you want to run away, and we’ve all been there. Before you pack your bags, let me share one possible reason why you’re being forced to yell, and suggest a way to change things. 

Young children tend to gravitate to where they experience the most energy. When a parent yells, he or she exudes a great deal of energy and wait for it…attention. 

Think about it from a child’s point of view. What do you do when you yell? You stop what you’re doing, you turn around, you lock eyes with your child and you focus all of your words on him. That’s a bunch of attention! Children gobble that up and then use child-like reasoning and decide that misbehavior is a good way to get my parent’s focused attention—even though they’re yelling. No, I’m not going to suggest that you ignore a child’s bid for attention; I think that’s mean.

I know it’s hard to believe that children think they’re getting attention when a parent yells, but that’s immature reasoning in action. Children don’t see the whole picture yet, so they don’t really know that behaving well is a better option, unless you show them, repeatedly.

Refocus on Getting a Better Result

The best way to change your child’s mind about where to get fully focused attention from you is to shift where you put the majority of your attention. Try shifting your focus, attention and words to the end result, what you would rather your child be doing—rather than focusing on what he’s done. That simple switch will cause a huge increase in listening and cooperation and reduce your yelling tremendously. 

Here’s an example:

Old way: “Why can’t you get dressed on time so I don’t have to yell at you?”
New way: “Thanks for getting dressed before we left.”

Notice that the parent used a subtle form of applauding. Try to refrain from negative comments or yelling even if it takes your child an hour to get dressed. If it does take that long, skip over it for the moment. Applaud the end result only. And don’t use any “hurry up” comments.

For each step of the getting dressed process make one positive comment versus making any negative ones. 
An example would be:

Old way: “Are you kidding me, you only have one sock on!” 
New way: “One sock down, one to go!”

Make It Easy on Yourself

Make sure you do this on a day when you’re prepared. Make sure you have no plans to be anywhere. Get a good magazine or book to read while you wait. Make sure you’re in the mood to withstand any whining or crying your child may do to draw you back to yelling.

Remember he’s used to being fed attention through your yelling. That’s normal for him. In order for him to change, he needs to experience a new normal. A normal where most comments are about things you want him to be doing.

In order for him to make the switch from being fed by yelling, to being fed by cooperating and applause, you need to hang in there. One time won’t do it. He needs to really experience this, repeatedly. Also, make sure you sound like yourself when you do this. Don’t go overboard with the feedback or you’ll sound inauthentic.

Soon he’ll understand the new way to get your attention and begin to produce better behavior more consistently. This really does work.


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About Sharon Silver

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting for ages 1-10. Receive 2 FREE tips from the book. Proactive Parenting is proud to announce the Online Skills Class. A class that any parent can attend, even if you live outside the US. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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