When it comes to parenting, life can feel like a never-ending uphill battle. We are all King Sisyphus, the mythological king of Corinth who was punished for his arrogance by being forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again every time for all eternity. Sounds like every parent I’ve ever met. We continue to try the same techniques over and over again, only to watch our hard work fall apart when we eventually lose patience and let out a mighty roar.
There have been numerous studies about the long-term effects of yelling at children. Experts agree that parents yell because they have trouble controlling their own emotions. Given that children act out for the same reasons, it’s pretty crucial to remember that you are the only one that can teach your children how to behave appropriately. If you can control your own reactions, you’ll have a much easier time of demonstrating to your kids acceptable behavior. Trying to get your kids to behave without yelling can be frustrating, and it’s important to realize that you are not alone. Thankfully, there are some absolutely genius parenting hacks that you can exhaust before you reach your tipping point.
Put Yourself in Time Out
Believe it or not, it’s a lot more effective to put yourself in time out than to stick your kids there. Children will often wail and scream, counting down the seconds until it’s time to come out. The noise and hullabaloo will aggravate even the most patient of parents, and it will likely exacerbate the problem. Instead, put yourself in time out. Ensure your children are safe, and then walk away. Go somewhere quiet and allow yourself to calm down enough that you can re-enter the situation calmly. Take as much time as you need. Once you are sufficiently calm, you can manage the situation and get your kids to behave in a more effective way.
Tip: Keep a stash of favorite snacks, drinks, books or music in your time-out spot so you can escape more easily. This means you’ll have everything you need to stay in time out as long as you need to.
Be Responsive Instead of Reactive
There are many situations you may find yourself in that inspire you to react. Driving in a car with squabbling kids may make you feel powerless, and it is easy to think that yelling is your only option. Instead, it is important to respond calmly. Pull over to a safe place, and give your full attention to the children. Calmly remind them of the need for safety in the car. Speak directly to each of them to find out exactly what has inspired their behavior and then work together to solve it. Refuse to continue your journey until everyone is calm and ready. This works for any situation – not just driving. The best way to get your kids to behave is to respond to them as individuals with real emotions. Work with them to come up with solutions to individual problems.
Tip: If either you or your child is having trouble calming down, keep a glitter jar on hand. These are easy to make yourself and help you to focus so it is easier to respond rationally.
Mean It Without Being Mean
Yelling at children immediately puts them on edge. Instead, work on creating your “serious voice.” This is the solemn voice you will put on to remind your children that you mean business. When you yell or get loud in any way, it gives the child permission to yell, as well. By quieting yourself, you remind them to calm down. A serious face with a serious voice will get your kids to behave much more effectively, as it stops them getting defensive. When they have no reason to be afraid or worried about punishment, they will be more open to discussing the issue as calmly and rationally as their age allows.
Tip: Consider creating a Reward Chart to help them visualize their good behavior.
Feel the Feelings
One of the most important ways to get your kids to behave is to help them to understand their emotions. From an early age, work with them on feelings like anger, sadness, happiness and fear. Much of the time, a child acts out based on the immediacy of the emotion they are feeling. When a child steals their toy, the first reaction they have is anger, which may manifest in them hitting and screaming. Instead of shouting, “No! We don’t hit!” which is many parents’ instinct, it is important to remain calm and help them understand why they did that. Discussing with your children the different emotions they can have and appropriate responses to them will allow them to learn to think critically. It is also important to validate their feelings by showing that you understand their upset. Kids need to feel heard and understood – only then can they learn how to respond instead of react.
Rules and Follow-Through
Probably the most important thing to remember with children is that they absolutely need clear rules. It is incumbent on the parent to ensure that they have a good understanding of each rule and the consequence of not following it. Many parents rely on nagging their children, reminding them over and over again that if they do not listen, they will be punished. The result is that the child learns that they can push boundaries many times before mom or dad goes atomic. It is a big reason why we are driven to yell. The much more simple solution to get your kid to behave is to respond every single time they misbehave. When you’ve given your child a command, you expect compliance. When it doesn’t come, you must immediately and firmly follow through on the consequence. Even children who have gotten away with much in the past will learn quickly once you start following through on your promises. Eventually they will fall in line, and both of you will be a lot less stressed out.
Tip: Create a House Rules Chart that everyone can see and review it often.
At the end of the day, it’s important to realize that none of us is a perfect parent. There will be times when we are pushed to our limits, and we will yell. But raising your voice doesn’t have to be the norm. Following these simple suggestions will help you to get your kids to behave so that yelling becomes a thing of the past. Remember to have patience with your children and with yourself. Both sides are doing their best.
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