If you are a parent, it is inevitable that you have–at some point in time–yelled at your child. It’s actually quite common for parents to respond to a child’s unwanted behavior negatively. If your parents were yellers–the likelihood of you inheriting the yelling trait is tripled.
Most of us are aware that screaming at kids is bad and most of us would love to stop–but kids can really push and push and PUSH until you find yourself hollering at the top of your lungs in frustration. You then feel guilty, drained and a bit frustrated once the moment has passed. Successful parenting does not involve yelling.
So how do we stop?
Successful parenting is mindful parenting
In order to change behavior and create new habits you must first raise your level of awareness–or more simply–become more mindful, observant and introspective.
The first thing you must understand and truly internalize is that yelling at kids is ineffective at best and abusive at worst. In fact, this topic has been researched exhaustively by child psychologists. A study published in 2003 in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that in families where there are over 25 yelling incidents in a 12 month period, children are more at risk of developing lowered self-esteem, an increase in aggression toward others and higher rates of depression.
Researchers did note that the kind of yelling categorized as verbal or emotional abuse is more than simply shouting at your kids. It’s a constant form of “psychological aggression,” and often escalates to insults or words of humiliation. Considering how often parents can lose their temper—for some of us, it’s way more than twice a month—these findings are a good reason to cut out the bad communication habits and begin to practice being actively mindful of your responses to inappropriate behavior.
It is important to understand that successful parenting focuses on providing long term solutions versuses short term fixes. Yelling only yields short term results. Here are a few additional reasons you may want to rethink yelling:
- Yelling teaches your child that you are only serious when you raise your voice.
- Yelling escalates the child and incites the fight (they begin yelling as well and a shouting match ensues) or flight (they withdraw) response in your child.
- Yelling at your child teaches them to yell when they are angry or frustrated
Results of practicing mindful parenting
1. You become more patient and gain self control
Unless your child is in immediate peril–he or she is attempting to stick scissors in a light socket–before you say a word, pause and breathe. Breathe in deeply through your nose and force the breath out through your mouth. This one simple act gives you a chance to regain control of yourself, it slows your breathing and heart rate down and it bathes your brain in oxygen allowing you to think more clearly. Become mindful–in that moment–of what you should say and how you should approach the situation. Remember–long term solutions not a short term fix.
2. You will learn how to address the inappropriate behavior and not your child
Attack the behavior, not the child. This is mindfulness at it’s finest. This step involves explaining to the child why the exhibited behavior is inappropriate and what they should do instead. Addressing the behavior can involve a punishment but it doesn’t always have to. Successful parenting takes into account the individual child’s needs, personality and temperament. This will help you be more in tune with who your child is on a deeper level and lead to a deeper connection.
3. You teach your child how they should act through your reaction
Before you respond (during your pausing and breathing phase) ask yourself, is this how I want my child to respond to others? Children do what you do more than they do what you say. They will emulate your actions–good and bad. Mindfulness reminds you that you are the ultimate model for appropriate behavior.
4. You will be able to establish clear rules and clear consequences for your child
This will go along way in curbing all of the screaming and frustration. By setting clear rules with consequences you help curb the “knee jerk” reaction of overreacting and over-punishing. When you and your child know the rules and the associated consequences the expectations are clear and your frustration level will be lowered. This is however, a very active process. Rules have to be set and reset periodically. Another way to greatly increase the effectiveness of rule and consequence enforcement is writing them down and posting them in your child’s space.
5. Mindfulness allows you to regroup and recommit when you do flip out
At the end of the day–when all is said and done–you will still lose your cool occasionally. It is going to happen. Mindfulness allows you to accept it, regroup and recommit to the process. If an apology is in order, apologize. Mindfulness allows you to take some time to reflect and figure out why it happened and what, if anything, you need to adjust to decrease the likelihood of it reoccurring.
In the end, successful parenting begins with being more mindful and aware as a parent. It teaches you to become more calm and helps you to behave better. And when you behave better, your kids will too.