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My Resolution: Getting Better Behavior Without Yelling

Have you ever said this to a friend or felt this way about your spouse? “Every time he (dad) or she (mom) has to deal with the kids he/she ends up getting into a power struggle or argument with the kids. There’s always a threat involved, “if you don’t…then you won’t. The kids react badly to the veiled threat and refuse to do whatever is being asked of them. Why can’t she just say, “After you do this…then you can…?”

Every parent has days when they’ve yelled so much they’re at the end of their rope. Those are the days when you want to run away, and we’ve all been there. Before you pack your bags, let me share one possible reason why you’re being forced to yell, and suggest a way to change things.

Young children tend to gravitate to where they experience the most energy. When a parent yells, he or she exudes a great deal of energy and wait for it…attention.

Think about it from a child’s point of view. What do you do when you yell? You stop what you’re doing, you turn around, you lock eyes with your child and you focus all of your words on him. That’s a bunch of attention! Children gobble that up and then use child-like reasoning and decide that misbehavior is a good way to get my parent’s focused attention—even though they’re yelling. No, I’m not going to suggest that you ignore a child’s bid for attention; I think that’s mean. I know it’s hard to believe that children think they’re getting attention when a parent yells, but that’s immature reasoning in action. Children don’t see the whole picture yet, so they don’t really know that behaving well is a better option, unless you show them, repeatedly.

Refocus on Getting a Better Result The best way to change your child’s mind about where to get fully focused attention from you is to shift where you put the majority of your attention. Try shifting your focus, attention and words to the end result, what you would rather your child be doing—rather than focusing on what he’s done. That simple switch will cause a huge increase in listening and cooperation and reduce your yelling tremendously.

Here’s an example:

Old way: “Why can’t you get dressed on time so I don’t have to yell at you?”
New way: “Thanks for getting dressed before we left.”

Notice that the parent used a subtle form of applauding. Try to refrain from negative comments or yelling even if it takes your child an hour to get dressed. If it does take that long, skip over it for the moment. Applaud the end result only. And don’t use any “hurry up” comments.

For each step of the getting dressed process make one positive comment versus making any negative ones. 
An example would be:

Old way: “Are you kidding me, you only have one sock on!” 
New way: “One sock down, one to go!”

Make It Easy on Yourself Make sure you do this on a day when you’re prepared. Make sure you have no plans to be anywhere. Get a good magazine or book to read while you wait. Make sure you’re in the mood to withstand any whining or crying your child may do to draw you back to yelling.

Remember he’s used to being fed attention through your yelling. That’s normal for him. In order for him to change, he needs to experience a new normal. A normal where most comments are about things you want him to be doing.

In order for him to make the switch from being fed by yelling, to being fed by cooperating and applause, you need to hang in there. One time won’t do it. He needs to really experience this, repeatedly. Also, make sure you sound like yourself when you do this. Don’t go overboard with the feedback or you’ll sound inauthentic.

Soon he’ll understand the new way to get your attention and begin to produce better behavior more consistently. This really does work.

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21 Responses to “My Resolution: Getting Better Behavior Without Yelling”

  1. guest

    Yes, yelling, as the only tool in the box, is for the unskilled, but….

    the problem with "thank you for getting dressed" is the fact that they probably are not dressed nor have any intention to do it. you can applaud them all you want and you may just be teaching them that they deserve praise for doing nothing. this method will no longer work when you have a child who will not get out of bed to to go school for early detention, if they are bigger than you and have nothing left to be taken from them as punishment for previous crimes and will also not respond to bribery of any sort. the teenager who "refuses" for the sake of refusing, has been brought up on verbal negotiating and has learned there is another way, leaving the parent with no skills.

    i think about our teachers telling kids to "walk!" in the hallway since "no running!" is negative. now we have children who cannot problem solve what they are doing wrong to make it right. "no running" gets to the point, doesn't make the child feel bullied, points to the rule being broken (keeping it not personal) and forces them to think about what they themselves need to do.

    my question would be, do verbal manipulations and semantics that might work on a 5 year old, not backfire once that child learns to use language well? after all, it used to be ok to take an hour to get dressed!

    and doesn't this only work on children who respond well to praise? not all children do. if you don't believe me, you haven't had enough children or have never been a teacher!

  2. Donna F.

    Yelling often results in getting everyone excited, which typically leads to moving further away from resolving whatever problem is at hand. There should be a level of respect between parents and children (in both directions), but the parents still need to have the final say.

  3. Scarlett Demarin

    Yelling when your mad at the moment might seem like a solution but its the first motion that get out. I know when my mom yells at me its a sign to back off. But later on there nothing that an apology can't fix right

  4. Rachel M

    Every child is unique and therefore you need to know what makes them tick. Positive reinforcement is great, but you need to be careful how you use it. I would hate to say that yelling is great, but it does serve a purpose. As a teacher, I have spent years working with 30+ children in one room. I am a very calm teacher who praises children's accomplishments all day long, but let me tell you, I have yelled, and it worked! Sometimes raising your voice serves a point and the behavior you wanted is exactly what you get. Will this work every time? No, of course not. They are children after all. What doesn't ever work, is constant yelling. Other teachers have been known "yellers" and their result is much less favorable. It is important to praise you children and some bad behavior can easily be fixed through it. But, sometimes raising your voice is all it takes.

  5. Judy Bradley

    I think it is important to talk things over with your kids too Admit mistakes, apologize, they need to know we all are growing and need to help each other. Parents still need to be in control, but with respect, love, and guidance, not put-downs, and criticism, or yelling.

  6. nickie

    I agree its inportant to talk things out with our children. Its a great habit to form while they are young and becomes a skill as an adult.

  7. Erin T

    I think that yelling isnt the answer but praising them for everything isnt either. teaching children the rules and consequences to not following the rules is important. Encouragement and praise are part of that.

  8. michelle

    I love this! This is something I want to work on. It can be so hard in the moment to really think about what I am going to say, but gotta remember that in the end, it's what is going to impact my kids in a positive way. I don't want my kids to fear me. Putting a positive spin on things is really the best way to handle life.

  9. Robyn

    My toddler totally thrives on the attention when we get angry and raise our voices with him. He behaves so much better when we just tell him what we expect and don't argue or negotiate. It does take a lot of patience and I still lose it on occasion, but it really works for us to just be straight forward and stick to our guns, no yelling or threatening involved. Plus we are learning that he is much smarter than we thought!

  10. Margie

    I found that children are really able to respond to logic at a pretty early age. Talk to your kids, don't yell. Yelling just makes the situation more explosive. And it really stresses you out. But easier said than done sometimes.

  11. kitty32504

    I really learned this the HARD way with my kids! I eventually figured out that if I spoke to them in a calm but FIRM tone of voice, I was more likely to get what I wanted from them. Yelling at them only seemed to aggravate BOTH of us and in the long run, accomplished NOTHING!

  12. Christine

    I have a hard time with this logic at first. I get the idea and the psychological aspects in time. However, it seems that in the long run, children then feel the need for praise in everything. As time goes on, they need praise for a C in school or they refuse to study, praise for quitting the team because it was too much work rather than the much needed knowledge that they are lazy. Yes, we are talking about young children, toddlers in fact; and such stern language and yelling may hurt their feelings. I'm not saying yelling is the answer. I'm saying that there has either got to be a happy medium of both discipline (which may include yelling) and subtle reverse psychology praise. I know my attention span runs short. Sometimes yelling is my outlet, other times I try to explain why I'm so frustrated, and yet other times I engage in this same praising process. However, the latter is my least likely choice. I feel I would be creating a, for lack of a better word, diva because now I'm praising the need for attention through constantly giving attention. Rather, if she has only on sock on and I want her to get dressed, I wouldn't say "oh great job, one more sock." I'd simply say "glad you got started, let's see how fast you can go!" That way praise comes with increased action, not the bare minimum

  13. Tiffany Salvia

    I really needed to read this! I do too much yelling. I am going to try to focus more on the end result than the problem. Thank you for this!

  14. Nikki L

    I need to make a resolution like this. I think my kids are so used to hearing me yell all the time they tune me out sometimes. I do praise them but I need to communicate my expectations with them better as well. All my kids are getting old enough to understand what my expectations are and what they need to do to avoid being yelled at, lol.

  15. Melanie

    I'm trying to use a lot more positive parenting this year, too, and a lot less yelling. Yelling worked the first few times when it was a shock factor, but now they listen better to whispering because it's something different.

  16. Marcia Goss

    My granddaughter lives with us. I have found that if I take a moment to think about what I need to say, and say it in a quiet but serious tone, she responds in a more positive way.

  17. Charity S

    I really need to try this resolution. I think yelling comes naturally if you grew-up around I did. However, I really want to change in 2012.

  18. cassandra rab pom

    I think this change seems very simple but is very hard to do. You would think it would be pretty easy to change your tone but even as a parents we have some bad habits we pick up. I think its a great change though and will definitely try to control my tone and temper. Positive reinforcement and not negative for 2012.

  19. Leah

    I always try to offer help for everything…it makes it easier for my daughter to do it because she sees me doing it…where when I ask here and there for her to pick something up on her own she does it no questions asked.


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