In the heat of the moment, it may seem easier to let instincts take control and yell and scream at your kids to try to get your way. But as discussed last month, the negative effects stack way higher than any momentary satisfaction. Isaac Setton, a licensed mental health counselor, acknowledges parents’ frustration but urges that it’s not too late and as hopeless as you may think. You can take control and do something about it. You wouldn’t shout at your child in front of a public figure such as a rabbi, would you? So you do have control – it just needs to be practiced at home as well as in public.
Below are some helpful tips that you should try instead:
- Make a Simple Request – Talking kindly like you would a friend (as opposed to barking a command) can help build respect. Talking to a child with respect helps build mutual respect. A perfect example of mutual respect between child and adult is a teacher and student. A teacher who is strict and yells a lot may get a quiet classroom but behind the scenes gets mocked and often has to deal with misbehavior. A teacher who is calm and talks nicely and listens will get students who will give the same respect back to them. It’s less cool to mess with someone who’s so nice to you.
- Listen to What They Have to Say – When a child does poorly on an exam, and you know a conversation needs to take place, you have two options that result in two highly different outcomes. You can yell: “What’s going on here? You had plenty of time to study, your friends are doing better than you, why can’t you get it together? Do you want to fail?” OR you can open the lines of communication: “Hey, I noticed you didn’t do so well on your test. What’s going on?” Pause, and you will get the honest answer you actually need in order to help them succeed next time. With the first option, you put them down, and will either get shouted back at or will get a handful of excuses.
- Make Eye Contact – When you make a request do not shout from the other room. Make sure they see you and hear you if you expect results.
- Acknowledge When They Do the Right Thing – Positive attention must be infused into your relationship with a child. Pointing out when they do something right (either with a tangible reward or kind words) will motivate them to continue listening. *BONUS TIP* if they do something right without being asked and you acknowledge it, they will be eager to please and you will not always have to make the request, because they will want to do it on their own.
- Replace Yelling with Humor – Oh you left your shoes in the middle of the room? I’m not sure if they can walk themselves to your closet! Smile and say in a joking manner as to not give off a sarcastic vibe. This way you get your point across without actually having to make a request.
- Pause and Take a Breath – When a situation arises and your natural instinct is telling you to yell – stop and take a breath. This sounds simple and it is. It is also super effective. Breathing before reacting slows down your thinking and helps you react more rationally. Think about: what did I learn, what is the right way to react to this situation? When you think instead of reacting from emotion, the message is usually much more effective.
Consistency Is Key
Some parents think that if I do the right thing sometimes, and yell at other times, this can create some sort of successful balance. Nothing is farther from the truth – mixed messages cause confusion in a child’s mind. Consistency is key – if you are fluid in your parenting style it creates an environment for building positive habits.
The kid does something good = gets validated = feels good = repeats the good act, and it cycles into positive habits and behavior.
Isaac Setton LMHC, CASAC is a licensed mental health counselor who has worked in various community organizations throughout his career. He currently works in Magen David Yeshivah High School as a guidance counselor and Project SAFE teacher. He also focuses on his private practice Flow Therapy NYC counseling children, adolescents, and young adults struggling with various mental health issues. For help or more information, Isaac can be reached via phone: 917-676-6110 or email: Flowtherapynyc@gmail.com.