Turn Down The Volume
Do you yell too much? I think probably every parent I’ve worked with has admitted to yelling more than they like. You may have been raised in a family of yellers, so when things go off the rails with the kids, it’s your first response. Or you may find that the louder volume is the only ones your kids seem to hear. Regardless of how you get there, most parents I talk to really don’t like the yelling – theirs or their kids…because if you’re yelling at them, odds are, they’re yelling back at you. And probably at each other. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Why do we all seem to be turning to yelling when things don’t go the way we think they should? Frustration starts to build, and frustration can turn even the best of intentions into a distant memory – we start out strong, but as the situation escalates, our willpower gets chipped away at until we’ve had it up to here. And the problem with saying to ourselves, “I’m definitely not going to yell this time” is that we haven’t given ourselves a viable alternative. So in that moment when kids are dawdling when they should be getting ready for school, we may start out not planning to yell, but when the inevitable happens (meaning, the kids do what they always do when it comes time to get ready for school in the morning), our toolbox for handling the situation is empty. So let’s talk about some solutions.
What may very well be your best friend in squashing the yelling? Family meetings. That’s right! Sit down with everyone in the family and let them know that you’d like to cut out the yelling, but that you’re going to need their help. Trouble shoot typical yelling “hot spots”, such as getting out the door in the morning, by working together to establish routines and solutions. You might be surprised by the great suggestions they come up with. But at the very least you’ll be getting their buy-in, which helps them to feel like they are participating in the decision-making.
Be the change you’d like to see in your family (to paraphrase Ghandi). Keep in mind that kids learn best through watching. If you’re stressed out and losing your cool, that is going to have an effect on their stress levels, too. If you model for them how to take a time out when you’re angry, how to breathe and count to 10, how to work with the person you’re disagreeing with instead of using power to try to get your way, I promise you, they will absorb those lessons and start to use them everywhere in their lives. These are the kinds of communication skills we want our kids to learn!
Manage your own expectations. So often as parents, this is what trips us up. We have a situation at hand (say, leaving the house in the morning). We plan how much time we need, based on what we as adults consider to be reasonable, with maybe a few extra minutes thrown in as a buffer. But we’re not dealing with other adults, we’re dealing with children. And, heaven help us, sometimes they have their own agendas. Relax your expectations and you might find it easier to keep you cool. Instead of telling ourselves that things need to be done a certain way or in a certain time, accept that there is a very large margin of error and that sometimes our best is all we can do. It’s ok to let go of the rest. Aim low and you’ll find your stress level dropping and your voice level dropping.
Manage your own expectations, part 2. Kids will be kids; they’re going to act up sometimes and drive you crazy. No one is perfect; sometimes you’ll not be at your best either and you’ll end up yelling. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. So, look at the successes: maybe you went one whole day without yelling. Well done! That’s the first step. Eventually you’ll find that you go two days without yelling, then three… Notice the impact that has on your family life. You might be surprised by the change in your family atmosphere. But you’ll feel more energized to keep at it if you really make a point of noticing the positive changes, instead of beating yourself up over the setbacks. So pat yourself on the back for the effort – you’re on your way!