Kindness begins in our homes and in our own hearts. Yelling sometimes happens, but yet there is nearly always another way to handle situations rather than yelling at our children. Yelling often reflects our own inability to control our own frustration, or fears, or the helplessness and frustration we can feel if the child is repeating the same behaviors over and over despite every boundary.
This is the time of year when there are many “stop yelling” challenges or promises of so-many-days-to-stop-yelling. I guess there can be merit in kick -starting something and bringing it to the forefront, but just like “diets” and “working out”, one has to choose to make this a lifestyle, a consistent habit, a way to approach things for all time, not just for a designated period. This is because how we respond to our children matters. It really does. We will not be perfect, but we can make not yelling the absolute standard we are trying for, and replace that with connection to our children.
To stop yelling, there has to be a commitment that yelling is just NOT the way to handle things. There typically is not much productive communication with yelling. Usually that is just the end stage when everything has “gone beyond” where the parent wanted it to be. It is the last resort, the last car of the train. The other piece needed in this quest is the forgiveness of oneself and the grace to keep to that ideal when things don’t go as we want and we make a mistake. Parenting involves grace. And trying again. And trying harder.
With small children ages 9 and under, you can replace yelling with these things:
Rhythm. There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog. Rhythm is discipline. Rhythm helps you set boundaries, make decisions, lets children know what is to come so they can relax and be secure in that. Rhythm is your friend, yet few parents in this day and age seem to view it that way. I promise that rhythm will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting. It will help you not yell out of frustration or feeling overwhelmed!
Talk in pictures to your child, and use physical movement with your pictures and rhymes embedded in your rhythm of the day.
Inner work for yourself. Getting up before the others in your house, or catching quiet time after lunch, so you can recharge mentally and emotionally is really important. Having small children can be a great time for hands-on growing in patience.
Commitment to your own health (and not perfection in outside things). I find many times mothers are yelling, because quite honestly, they are not getting any help from their spouse or partner. They are not sleeping enough, they are trying to do way too much with tiny children about. This is not a race, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In the world of Waldorf, there are jokes about how everything has to be organically grown and processed by hand and all this. Yes, in a classroom, with a team, with beautiful things that have been made over a span of twenty years, this is possible. It may not be possible at home with four tiny children under the age of six. Be easy with yourself. Listen to your own voice. What is most important for you? What is MOST important for your child? You are not a bad mother!
Calm. Can you keep things calm, especially for the 7-9 year old? They don’t need a million classes or a million places to be. That is just stressful for everyone! They need time in nature, time to freely and deeply play, and time to just be. Can you give them that?
Have a plan for the bad moments. When everyone is yelling and screaming, what is your plan? When you are trying to get dinner on the table, what is your plan? What triggers you the most and what can your response be instead of yelling?
If you cannot find a compassionate response to your child, what does it take for you to get to that compassionate response? Can you delay talking about things? A boundary can be the most compassionate thing that needs to happen, but can you be calm in setting the boundary? That is the key.
For children ages 9 to teens:
Space. Children this age can still be on top of you and chattering. Sometimes we just need space. A walk. A bath alone. Ask for help. Ask for space. Check your own health. I still find many mothers with children of this age (who may also have little ones still) can be very depleted health-wise, which impacts how they feel toward chattering and mess and everything else! What are your thyroid and hormone levels? Your Vitamin D levels? Are you sleeping? What are doing for yourself? It becomes vitally important to re-discover pieces of yourself if you lost this along the way with younger children.
A rhythm of how to do things, including cleaning up. Yes, it takes work to get to that point, but I find one reason mothers of children this age yell is that the children create a trail of mess from building forts or legos or skateboard ramps …and leave a trail of half finished projects every which way that somehow ends up the sole responsibility of the mother to clean up . Everyone can clean up, everyone can pitch in, and it is okay to set boundaries on where mess will take place. In the family, we all work together.
Opening the outside world. Some yelling for parents for this age group seems to happen in regards to pushing boundaries about the “outside world” over and over and over…especially for those ages ten to twelve (and I think girls more than boys? Boy moms, please comment!). Decide ahead of time — Yes or no? Decide how important it is for you to keep things low-key in this age -range, and why and how you will do that. What are the boundaries? What is the balance between child activities and family activities or adult-alone activities? If you open things more widely now, what will the “openings” be in the teen years? Decide things now. Older children of 11-12 and through the teenaged years may not feel like they fit in anywhere, and it is your job to hold steady.
Inner work for you. What are the values of your family? What does your child really need at this age? What is most essential? How are you walking the walk for what you most want to see in your children? Rhythm is an essential key to reflecting what is most important in your family – if it is important, but no time goes to it in the rhythm of the day or week, then it is a great sign for re-alignment.
Younger Teens (ages 13-15):
Communication in conflict. The number one reason parents write to me about yelling at their children in this age range is how teens immaturely try to communicate when they are in conflict (ie, talking back, trying to use “logic” but they don’t really have stellar logic yet, etc). Teens need help knowing how to resolve conflict, how to apologize – the parts of an apology, how to be an effective communicator. It takes time to develop these skills, and the neurobiology of the brain needs to catch up.
Anger. Teens often get angry with their parents and feel misunderstood. How will you handle the anger of your teen? Does this call forth triggers for you that cause you to yell? How can you turn anger on both the sides of you and your child into communication?
Responsibility and Accountability. Teen are often headed into a phase where things “count”. Grades may count for college, projects count towards grades, etc. Time management skills are still being learned, and parents often are yelling when everything is down to the wire for projects or things. Pressure can make everyone feel snappy. How can you diffuse this?
Rhythm and physical movement are still really important for the teenaged years. This can really decrease stress, decrease anger on all sides, and lead to reduced frustration.
I would love to hear your best tips for not yelling. Please share and help all the other mothers out there.