How to talk to your child without yelling
Show me a parent who’s never yelled at their child and I’ll eat my hat. Unless you’re a robot, every single parent has lost their cool and yelled at their child at some point. Parenting can be overwhelming and exhausting at the best of times. Add in the stressors of work and a generous serving of sleep deprivation — who wouldn’t be yelling at their kids to put on their shoes? No judgement here! The good news is: you’re not alone! We have all been there.
The other positive? You can change the way you speak to your kids and engage in a respectful and calm dialogue with them. Keep reading as we explain all the ways you can talk to your child without yelling.
Can yelling at a child be harmful?
Recent research by the National Institute of Health has revealed the negative effects of yelling and that yelling at children makes them more aggressive both physically and verbally.
Yelling can also really scare your kids and take a major dent out of your child’s self-esteem. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute and think about a time you’ve been yelled at yourself. Whatever the person is telling you doesn’t sink in since you’re too shocked and scared because of how they’re speaking to you. Instead of listening, you’ll be upset and rattled. This is no different for our children!
Yelling can also make kids more prone to bullying because it blurs their understanding of healthy boundaries and self-respect.
Simply put, yelling instructs kids to fear you rather than learn the repercussions of their behaviour.
How can I be a better parent without yelling?
Just the fact that you’re asking this question already shows you’re a good parent! The first step is to make a conscious effort to embrace calm communication. This makes our children feel loved, safe, and secure. At the end of the day, we’re only humans. Of course, we’re going to yell from time to time, but it’s about making a conscious effort to not default to this style of aggressive communication.
How do I stop yelling at my kids?
There are lots of other ways to communicate with your child instead of raising your voice. While it’s hard to draw on these options in the heat of the moment, here are some other ways to chat with your child without yelling.
1. Use face-to-face communication
It’s so easy to yell at our children from the other room, especially if it’s dinner time and the food is sitting cold on the kitchen table! But never underestimate the power of speaking to your child face-to-face and engaging in eye contact.
When you speak to your child, make sure all electronic devices are switched off, too. Giving them your undivided attention will demonstrate just how much you value your relationship with them.
2. Have a friendly face
Embrace a positive expression on your face when you speak to your child, instead of looking angry or frustrated. When you think positively, it will filter down to your expressions and in turn, influence the tone in which you speak to your little one. Children are incredibly attuned to reading our facial expressions, so make sure you’re giving off a happy, loving vibe.
3. Remove yourself from the situation
As parents, it’s our job to know when things are getting too much and walk away. If you’re in a loud disagreement with your child, get out of the situation asap. Tell your child calmly and confidently, “Please don’t talk to me like that. I really don’t like it.” Then walk away from the situation.
When you leave the room, you take all the power with you. Even if your child ends up having a tantrum, do not return and give them the attention they are so desperately seeking. This sends a clear message that you will not communicate with them in that manner anymore.
4. Have an open and honest conversation about yelling
It’s so easy to fall into a trap of screaming matches. We’ve all been there! But if you’re finding that it’s becoming the default way you communicate with your kids, now is the time to red flag it and have a family meeting about making a conscious change. Make sure your partner is on board with the new approach, too.
Pick a calm moment for you and your partner to speak with your kids and explain that things need to change: “Hey, we’ve all been yelling at each other too much and it’s not good. I want to work on not doing that again. From now on, we aren’t going to yell when we speak to you and we want you to do the same. If you do start to yell, I’m going to walk away and take a 15-minute breather. Let’s all try and speak to each other with love and respect, even in the tough times.”
If they do slip back into yelling, leading child and family Clinical Psychologist and the Director of MindMovers Psychology Jaimie Bloch suggests addressing their NEED and behaviour. After space has been given and they are calm, Jaimie suggests asking them: “When you yell, it’s hard for mummy or daddy to know what you need. What are some other ways you could tell me what you want?”
5. Lead by example
Our kids are sponges, so model the kind of behaviour you want them to have. If all they know is a family who yells at each other, then you better believe that’s going to be the way they speak to you and others. Instead, normalise respectful, calm, and clear communication.
Once you make a conscious decision to not yell and really work on it, the heated yelling fights will eventually die out. Like anything, you just have to want it enough and make it a priority to work on it.
6. Be emotionally intelligent and encourage your kids to do the same
Being emotionally intelligent and getting your kids to pay attention to their own feelings will also positively affect communication. Clinical Psychologist Jaimie Bloch says, “Encourage them to be curious about their emotions. Ask them: What does the emotion look like? Where do you feel it?”
If your kids have the skills and know-how to articulate how they’re feeling, this means they’ll communicate with you in a calm manner instead of defaulting to yelling.
7. Whisper technique
Many parents swear by the whisper technique, which is exactly what the name suggests — whispering to your child instead of trying to yell over the top of them in the middle of an argument. Whispering will get your child to lower their voice in an attempt to try and hear what you’re saying. It forces them to lower their tone and results in a quiet and calm dialogue instead.
No matter how good you are at not yelling, you will occasionally shout — and that’s OK. Own your mistake, apologise, and then try again tomorrow. This shows your children that everyone makes mistakes and demonstrates the importance of apologising. Similarly, if your kids shout, explain to them that yelling is not how you communicate in your household. Instead, they need to use their listening skills and treat you with respect. At the root of it all, it comes down to modelling the behaviour you want your children to follow. If you talk to them with love, kindness, and respect — they’ll do the same.
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