Q: I have twins that are both strong-willed and I end up yelling just to get their attention. Any advice on this? I hate it when I have to yell; but I’ve tried taking things away and doing time out.
A: Being the mother of strong-willed twins is a double whammy, when it comes to triggers for yelling. Most parents are like you, and don’t want to yell. Unfortunately there are many things that happen daily that can trigger a harsh response. If you’re tired, hungry, stressed, or frustrated, you may have trouble controlling your emotions, and yelling becomes an automatic quick response. Once you get a handle on the things that set you off, do some planning and remember to take three breaths as soon as the tension starts to rise in you.
Most parents yell some of the time, but if it’s something you do on a regular basis, then it’s great that you want to make a change. Kids learn from parents that yelling is the way to resolve conflicts and get people to follow their requests. Yelling frightens some children, especially ones with sensitive temperaments. Other children may become more aggressive with siblings and friends.
There are things you can do to reduce yelling.
Make the decision that you will yell less.
· Think about why this goal is important to you and your family? How was it when your parents yelled at you? Do you long for peace and harmony? Are you concerned about the consequences of yelling?
Work on an Anger Log:
· A key step is to observe what gets you upset. A log will help you see under what circumstances you’re more likely to yell. Is there a time of day you yell more? Are you usually at home or in the car? What kinds of behaviors trigger you, and how does it make you feel?
· Keep an anger log for at least a week so you’ll know more about your yelling patterns, and practice compassion towards yourself.
Come up with a plan.
· Start small. Tell your family that when you feel your stress rising you will “take five.” If your kids are young you may have to put them in their crib while you count to 10 and splash some cold water on your face. Work towards getting enough help from your spouse, partner, or family members.
· Take a few deep breaths before you respond to your child. There is a space between feeling angry and yelling…so find that moment to breathe and re-group.
See if you can discipline in a respectful way. Love with limits is the direction to go towards. Letting children know what you expect, giving them enough time, and following up, will often work towards reducing yelling.
Don’t discipline by calling from another room. Make eye contact. Be loving and firm, and don’t be intimidated by your child’s emotions and needs..
Reduce your stress:
Slow down and do less. If you’re doing too much, decide what’s most important to you and your family. Strive to get enough sleep and take care of yourself as best you can. The more depleted you are the more irritable you will be.
Discipline means to teach, so ask yourself what you want to your children to learn. Strong willed kids will wear you down. Give them hugs and positive feedback when they follow your requests.
Nurse Rona is the host of Childhood Matters radio show, a nurse for 45 years, a temperament specialist, a parent educator, and mother of four. To hear previous shows, go to www.childhoodmatters.org, and tune in Sundays 7-8AM on 98.1 KISSFM. She is also available to do Yelling Less and Temperament consultationsandworkshops at your home, school, or mother’s group.