How to Stop Yelling
People don't tend to
yell when they're not upset (unless they're at a sports
event). So the ideal situation is to prevent or cure any
feeling of distress. Until that is accomplished, upset
feelings must be managed. Just in case you haven't
prevented or cured all of your upset, we'll start by looking
at a few techniques that can help manage angry feelings when
- Sit down.
- Say out loud,
"I'm going to calm down and think about what I need to do
- Close your eyes
and breathe slowly for a few moments until you can start
thinking of what positive action you can take.
appropriate action (such as speaking or disciplining).
Since the ideal
situation is to feel calm in the throes of daily parenting
challenges, we'll now look at how we can achieve this state.
If we're calm to begin with -- no matter what is going on
with the kids -- then there's no anger to manage. Believe it
or not, intensive psychotherapy is not a prerequisite
for achieving this state! But you must be prepared to
follow these steps:
- Create and
maintain a positive atmosphere in your home at all times
by following the 80-20 Rule. This rule states that you
must offer four pleasant-feeling words or actions for
every one unpleasant word or action. For teenagers and
spouses, raise that ratio to 5:1.
Examples of pleasant-feeling interventions are: compliments,
treats, affectionate touch, joking, attentive listening,
words of love, gifts and so on. Examples of
unpleasant-feeling interventions are: criticisms,
instructions, threats or actual punishments, saying "no,"
corrections, looking or sounding moody, demonstrating
irritation or displeasure and so on.
Notice that "instructions" is part of this second list so
that every request a parent makes to a child ("time to brush
your teeth," "time for homework," "please take your plate
off the table," etc. etc. etc. must be counted as an
- Whenever your
child is demonstrating any sort of feeling (i.e. every
moment of the day), name the feeling before saying
anything else. For example, if your child is complaining
that she doesn't like dinner, your first statement might
be "Oh, that's frustrating -- you want something else to
eat and this is what we're having." Then you can decide
your next step -- whether it's offering substitutes,
insisting that this is the menu or whatever. This
technique of naming feelings leads to children becoming
much more cooperative (and mentally healthier) over the
course of time, even if a child does not cheer up
immediately when you name his or her feelings.
pleasant-feeling interventions to change your child's
behavior instead of unpleasant or angry ones. For example,
if you're trying to teach a child to refrain from
interrupting your phone calls, use the totally
good-feeling CLeaR Method: C= Comment, L=Label and
works like this: Make a very short phone call when the child
is nearby. Quickly hang up and Comment: "You waited
so quietly while Mommy was on the phone." Now, Label: "That
was very patient of you." Now, Reward: "I
think that deserves a story (hug & kiss, treat, privilege)."
The Reward step is used only when you want to teach a
specific behavior. Use the Comment and Label steps to
maintain desirable behaviors. Always use the CleaR Method
before using any unpleasant-feeling discipline
- Keep calm with
the 2X-Rule. Never make a request more than two times. In
fact, only say something a second time if you are prepared
to carry through with negative consequences should the
Here's how to do it: Ask once and, if the child doesn't
respond, decide how important the matter is at this time.
For instance, ask the child to hang up his jacket. If he
doesn't do it, decide whether this is a good time for you to
pursue the matter based on your location in the 80-20 Rule
(if you've given too many unpleasant-feeling communications,
maybe you need to wait until your ratio has improved before
tackling the coat issue). Or, perhaps you're not feeling
well enough right now to carry through. Or, perhaps you want
to save your unpleasant-feeling intervention for a more
pressing matter with this child. Or, maybe you're just
tired. Whatever the reason, after asking only once, you can
just drop the request and pretend it never happened.
you decide to ask again, give the child a choice of
complying or facing a (named) negative consequence. For
example, if you ask the child a second time to hang up his
coat, your instruction might sound like this, "Sweetie I
asked you to hang up your coat and if you don't do it in the
next couple of minutes, I'll hang it up and you'll lose
computer tonight." If the child then fails to comply,
briefly and quietly give the consequence. "I'm sorry. Your
time is up. You've lost computer."
process is a powerful alternative to the "10X-Rule" that
permits a parent to ask and ask and ask -- 10 times -- until
red in the face and screaming! The 2X-Rule keeps parents
calm and helps kids to develop the habit of responding to a
normal tone of voice. The loss of privileges or other mildly
annoying consequences never harms a child's development when
used in moderation, unlike the show of parental anger which
invariably leaves its mark -- sometimes for decades forward.
Using the Skills
frequently learn skills but then fail to use them in the
heat of the moment. It is crucial for peace in the home and
parental peace of mind that parents stop raising their
voices. You can help yourself succeed by using a reward or
punishment system. This may seem a bit childish at first,
but it works!
You can start
with rewards. For every day that you refrain from raising
your voice (or every hour, if you use a raised voice
frequently throughout the parenting day), give yourself a
point. Work toward the number of points that you can
reasonably earn in about a week. Once you achieve those
points -- off you go to Hawaii for a well-earned vacation!
Okay, not quite, but you get the idea.
prefer to use "negative consequences" to change their brain
habits. If you are in this group, or if a reward system has
not yielded fast enough results, give yourself some sort of
"punishment" every single time you raise your voice. Choose
from any of the following sorts of activities: doing
push-ups (enjoy the weight-loss benefits of this one),
cleaning drawers (enjoy the organizational bonus!), giving
money to charity or any other slightly difficult task. If no
progress is being made, increase the difficulty of the task
(i.e. do more push-ups!). Eventually, the yelling won't be
worth it. Your brain will find a different way to handle
Happy Peaceful Parenting
We can all enjoy
peaceful home lives built around respectful, caring
relationships. We just need the tools and the will to use
them. Children grow strong and healthy when nursed by the
energy of love -- an energy too sensitive to co-exist with
the harsh vibrations of anger. Fortunately, parents have so
much love to give; when they stop yelling, that love pours
out and fills the hearts of their kids.
American Journal of Epidemiology August 1, 2001;154:230-235
Article used by permission.
Article is based upon material from the book, Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice, © Copyright
By Sarah Chana Radcliffe, Harper Collins Canada –
E N Q U E S T I O N S F O R
P A R E N T S
What do you do when...
- Your youngster refuses to go to bed? Or when
your teenager won't get out of bed?
- Your five-year-old boy is dawdling instead of
getting dressed? Or your twelve-old-daughter is
- Your kids won't stop playing videogames or
instant messaging? Or you don't like the games
- One kid won't eat at all, one won't stop
eating and the third eats only junk food?
- Your two-year-old is bothering your
four-year-old? Or the other way around?
- Your child doesn't want to go to his swimming
- You're trying to get out of the door on time
in the morning but your kids aren't cooperating?
- Your kid doesn't do his homework. Or he tells
you at the last-minute that the science fair is
- Your kids won't do their chores unless you
continually nag them?
- Your kid ignores what you tell her and does
what she wants to do. Or she always argues with
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