How to Stop Yelling

If you yell so much you lose your voice…boom, problem solved! Perhaps that is not the best way to stop yelling…and I will never confess on whether I have tried that strategy. Welcome to ParentalGrit after a glorious holiday weekend! If you’re new here, we post articles Monday, Wednesday, and Friday discussing a wide range of parenting topics while I embarrass myself with my own family’s stories. Anyway, the long weekend has me dwelling on yelling, since every parent knows more time off with children just means more opportunities for patience to be tested, nerves to be stressed, and vocal chords to ache after repetitive commands fall on deaf, tiny ears. I never believed I had much rage inside my being until I started procreating pint-sized versions of myself. All bets are off…

I started focusing on yelling because of my tender little toddler; Eliza is just as mischievous and frustrating as all other kids her age, but she does seem a bit more sensitive to condemning screams. If my wife and I catch her off guard doing something naughty (like stuffing her eggs into the A/C vent yesterday) and we abruptly yell, she melts into an offended puddle of tears immediately. Basically: I yell, she falls into a flustered state of panic, and I often end up consoling her after she’s done something wrong. It’s not altogether constructive and, while I realize many parents will say she’s manipulating me with her tears of hurt, she absolutely falls apart under strict verbal shouts. She forgets about what she was doing wrong and it makes comprehension of discipline difficult. My wife and I have been forced to tone down the shrill shrieks of infuriation and attempt to focus on other measures. We want her focused on her behavior rather than shutting down the moment we shout.

If you have kids, there’s roughly a 99.99999% chance you’ve yelled at them in the past week. No judgment here. It is critical to note, however, that the yelling is only as effective as the discipline behind it. If I scream out “If you don’t stop licking your sister (my daughter is weird), you’re going straight to timeout!” but then fail to put her in timeout when she continues, no amount of yelling is going to correct her behavior moving forward. We tend to be overly cautious with our threats because we have to be willing to commit to the decision should the poor behavior continue. And, as all parents certainly know, there will be many moments of continued bad behavior. Only use threats you are prepared to enforce; I caught myself last week saying “IF YOU DO THAT ONE MORE TIME, YOU’RE GOING STRAIGHT TO BED!” It was, however, only 9:00 am and there was no possible way I was going to manage putting her down. Excellent threat, daddy! The point remains: yelling is only a vehicle for the weight of the real discipline.

Once my wife and I committed to do our best to align our threats with our actions, the next step was simply to create a game plan for situations. If you can map out how you’re going to treat a public tantrum, talking back to momma, or a random kick to a sibling, then you’ll be prepared to act swiftly in each situation. We may not have a detailed plan for everything, but my wife and I have a general idea for how we treat not listening, punching daddy, or stealing misplaced cell phones and keys. There’s a scale that needs to be loosely defined: in our house, that scale ranges from “Not finishing dinner (a 1 of 10) to throwing dinner at mommy in a crying fit of rage (a 10 of 10). If you know where you’re headed with your discipline, it then just becomes an engrained method applicable to each situation. Once the game plan is defined, the yelling (which absolutely still may occur) becomes secondary to the action. If I know random outburst X translates to a 10-minute timeout, oftentimes I’m content to skip the yelling and move directly to the discipline.

Do I still yell at my daughters? Absolutely! If you’re a parent, however, you eventually understand that it is one of the least effective tactics in maintaining some semblance of order with your children. I can scream until my face turns red and my hair catches fire, but that is rarely going to correct Eliza’s behavior on its own. Now, when I can muster up the self-control, I simply take a deep breath and move straight from verbal warning to discipline without the yelling in between. I know that if my commands match my actions and I have a consistent plan of attack, I should be able to maintain a small shred of sanity when dealing with an outburst. Now that I have my system in place, I wonder if it will work on my wife…(ducks and runs)…

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