How I’ve Learned To Communicate With My Kids Without Yelling

Several years ago when I was a SAHM with one child, yelling wasn’t really an issue. I read tons of parenting books, used positive reinforcement, I made DIY-calm-down-sensory-glitter water bottles, and I watched Super Nanny re-runs during my son’s naptime. But a couple years later, we added another baby to our family. Things became wild and crazy with a preschooler and a toddler who constantly pushed my buttons. I found myself yelling more often in an attempt to make the outbursts and arguing stop. I decided to go back to work and people told me I would be a happier mom when I got home after not being around my kids as much during the day. This was not the case for me. I would struggle to make dinner as my kids ran around like wild animals. Within a few minutes, the yelling would start as I hollered at them to pick up the Legos, put the play-dough back, just hang up your coat, stop using that laundry pile for climbing on, etc. I felt like I was l failing by yelling instead of actively parenting and it showed in my boys’ behavior.

I made a decision to stop relying on yelling; I knew I had to make some changes in myself before I could expect any changes in the boy’s behavior. There are absolutely times when I fall back into yelling. But the difference is that I try to be more aware of it now and use other strategies where I am more likely to stay calm. Here are some strategies that have worked for our family:

Set Expectations Beforehand I discuss expectations with my boys in the car on the way to our destination. My husband works late fairly often and my boys are used to going to Junior League meetings and church committees with me. On the drive, we talk about the need to play quietly so everyone can hear and what activities I have brought for them. I do this at home also. For example, “In 5 minutes, it will be time to get out of the bathtub and get pajamas on. Then we will pick two books to read before bed”. 

Make Connections I try to make one-on-one connections with both of my kids every day, even just for a few minutes. As I was learning how to make connections with my boys, Dr. Laura Markham’s book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting was a helpful read. “A close bond gives us access to our natural parenting know-how and lets us see things from our child’s point of view, which makes us better parents,” Markham says. Whether it means sitting on the floor playing cars, reading a book together or talking about our day at bedtime, these connections build trust.

Listen To Their Messages If I hear myself falling back into the cycle of yelling about punishments, consequences and time-out, I remind myself to stop and listen to the messages in my kids’ behavior. Have I taken enough time to connect with them that day? Is my 3-year-old feeling insecure because of the transition back to daycare after Christmas break? Three-nagers are notorious instigators, but sometimes there is a bigger explanation. 

Make It A Game With two small boys in my house, Lego-strewn living areas are a way of life. Furniture is colored on that is not meant to be colored on. Filthy floors are the norm. All of these things make me want to yell. Despite the chaos, I ask my boys to clean up every night before bed. Make clean up into a game by setting a timer to see who can pick up the most toys in 5 minutes 

Use Charts Charts are one of my go-t0 strategies for communicating without yelling. My 6-year-old has a magnetic chore chart that lists each of his daily responsibilities. You might consider something like a reward system, allowance or incentive if the chores are completed. Using the chart also creates the opportunity to talk about why it’s important for these tasks to be completed.

Start Over Even with my efforts to reduce the amount of yelling in our household, there are multiple times every week when I ask my kids for a “do-over”.  One of my yelling triggers is getting out the door in the morning. It never fails that when we are running behind, my kindergartner cannot find a matching set of shoes or suddenly remembers that he is bringing his lunch that day. I apologize and ask my boys if we can start the day over in a happier frame of mind if I lose my cool. 

What strategies keep you from melting down around your kids? 

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