Okay, I admit it. I’m not Caillou’s parents. (Actually I think those parents are completely unreal…do they ever get frustrated?!) I have been known, as a parent, to yell.
It’s hard — I grew up in a household with yelling and as a person, sometimes resorting to the top-of-the-lungs talk is a tough habit to break. At the same time, I’ve realized what many parents already know about yelling as a parenting tool — it’s ineffective and can be hurtful.
Why couldn’t I be more like my daughter’s teachers, I often wondered? Whenever I’d help out in her classroom, I marvelled at how calm her teachers were. If they became frustrated, they raised their voice slightly, or clapped hands to get attention…but that was it. How come I couldn’t do that? If they could maintain that level of patience and calm with 20+ children in the room, how come I blow my top with just two?
Top blowing also left me wracked with guilt into the evening — there has been more than one night in my house where I’ve been sleepless and teary because of a yelling episode with one of my children. While I’ve always been conscious of it and I do my motherly best to try and curb the yelling habit, lately it’s really been getting to me.
With the help of some anecdotal research (a.k.a. talking to other moms) and scouring parenting websites, here’s what I’ve been trying:
1. Giving myself a time out: This is a classic suggestion and one I’ve been doing for awhile. When I can sense things are getting heated with the kids — no, as I told you already four times we cannot stop for ice cream on the way home and stop hitting each other in the backseat! — we get home and I send the kids upstairs while I stay in the living room, cooling down. Sure, they’ll cry and beg to come down, but I know that if they do, I’m too frustrated to deal with them and the situation — we’re all better off if we go to our separate corners for about 20 minutes.
2. Using humour: This was my light-bulb parenting moment. It doesn’t always work, but when there’s a tense situation brewing — such as a standoff over a stuffed animal that no one’s looked at in months but suddenly everyone needs to have in their bed that night — a little humour goes a long way. From a nose tweak (my personal favourite move) to imitating the kids (almost always makes my three-year-old giggle), to a belly tickle, it breaks the tension and we all end up laughing.
3. Going against my knee-jerk reaction: I’m not sure how effective a parenting strategy this is in terms of getting my children to do something, but I know it helps me diffuse my urge to yell. And when the impulse rises, sometimes I just grab them in a bear hug. Or I kneel down and go in the total opposite direction of yelling, namely whispering into their ears what I’d like them to do, or why I’m upset.
I can’t say every technique works every time or that these strategies have completely stopped me from yelling. I find that all of this comes down to conscious parenting — my yelling, sadly, comes almost instinctively and I often do it when I’m reacting to a frustrating situation. Stopping for a second to figure out my next move is what’s working for me right now and it not only makes me a happier parent, but it also makes for a happier household.
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