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Yelling is the new spanking in the world of parenting. While many parents today appear to be listening when it comes to understanding the harmful effects of spanking and other forms of physical discipline, it seems as though yelling is on the rise. Frustrated parents raise voices incrementally in proportion to the trigger until they find themselves yelling at their children in an attempt to correct negative behaviors. While parental frustration isn't something new and is to be expected at times, it's important that parents evaluate how to process and channel their frustration. Yelling hurts.
Raising your voice isn't always a bad thing. In some cases, it draws attention to something important. When a child runs into a street, for example, a loud voice can cause them to stop and step back from pending danger (in that case, an oncoming car). It's when loud voices are combined with anger and personal attacks that yelling becomes dangerous. Belittling, blaming and shaming children can result in behavioral issues, symptoms of anxiety and/or symptoms of depression, even in very young children.
Many parents yell and lose control because they take the negative interaction with the child personally. They might feel like poor listening skills reflects poorly on their parenting skills, for example. When the parents become emotional about the child's behavior, they struggle to remain calm and focused in the moment. While children tend to fall into certain patterns of behavior, parents are just as likely to do the same. Negatively charged interactions can occur even when the reaction seems disproportionate to the event when parents get stuck in a loop. Breaking the pattern takes time and patience, but will improve overall interactions in the home and help kids learn to work through their own feelings of anger and frustration.
Know your hotspots
The first step toward decreasing yelling in the home is knowing your triggers and how you feel when under stress. Physical symptoms of a pending blowup might include clenched jaw, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, chest constriction and feeling overwhelmed. You might even clench your muscles or grind your teeth. Recognizing your stress symptoms will help you make better choices in the face of frustration when things go awry in the home.
When you feel symptoms of stress emerging, try checking out with a three-minute visualization exercise. Take a seat, begin relaxation breathing and visualize a calm and relaxing environment (as in an empty beach or a hike near a waterfall). Give yourself permission to take a mental vacation for a few minutes while you calm your senses. When you're feeling calm and your stress symptoms begin to dissipate, you can return to the moment and react accordingly.
It's also useful to keep a trigger list. If shoes thrown all over the house increases your stress level, for example, you can work with the kids to devise a system that works. Knowing your specific triggers will help you problem-solve and avoid unnecessary frustration.
Have you ever noticed that your mind wanders to the land of negativity the moment your anger button is pushed? Engaging in negative self-statements in the face of frustration is a very normal experience. Parents can get stuck on a certain frequency when frustrated, and this can magnify the effects of the negatively-charged interaction.
Try positive self-talk instead. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones to avoid becoming overwhelmed with anger and frustration. Instead of muttering, “This happens every single time,” under your breath, for example, try flipping the script and taking control of the situation by saying something more positive like, “I can handle this. They just need a little extra help right now.”
Many parents lose control because their expectations are simply too high. I once had a mother call me in a state of frustration because her 3-year-old acted up in the car every time she ran errands. Errands aren't a ton of fun for little kids, and sitting in the car for long stretches is fairly boring. Singing together, looking for the colors of the rainbow and making silly faces at stoplights changed the vibe of the car rides once that mom realized that her child was, in fact, acting her age.
Parents place high expectations on their children for a variety of reasons, and this can lead to disappointment and frustration for both the parents and the child. Adjust your expectations and be forgiving when your kids fall short of them. They are just kids, after all.