Question: “Thank-you for your response to my question about yelling. I’m working on noticing my triggers and calming myself down before I blow my top. One thing I should have said last time I wrote was that yelling is the only way to get my kids to listen to me! When I don’t yell, they just ignore me. I’d like them to be more respectful.”
Answer: Kids almost never want to do what we tell them, but they almost always copy our actions. Parents can and should be assertive, strong leaders in the family. Your kids will want to follow your lead when your authority comes from a place of authentic connection, rather than a place of dominance and control.
It’s true that yelling can be effective in the moment. Fear works like a stun gun to temporarily silence children. But yelling is just a quick fix. You’ll notice the bad behavior coming right back an hour later. To get your kids to listen to you and cooperate more, you’re going to have to stop making this about you. When your kids don’t listen, do you feel annoyed? Powerless? Incredulous? Are you thinking, “How dare they!” or “What is wrong with them?” I know. My thoughts and feelings go to the same places. If I don’t catch myself, the tension mounts and I can find my voice rising with my temper…
In such moments, I’m not really considering the thoughts and feelings of my child. I’m not considering her internal world or how she’s experiencing this moment. I’m not looking for solutions or lessons to teach. I am seeking to regain control of the situation and control of my child. The problem with this is that we both feel badly with the outcome.
When I think about power struggles, I realize there’s two ways I can handle them: I can use control or I can use connection. Control seeks to use my power, size, and assumed superiority over my child to force my will and gain my desired outcome. Connection seeks to relate to my child’s ‘in the moment’ experience and to find collaborative ways of moving forward toward a mutually amicable outcome. As parents, we can lead our families using the principles of connection, rather than tools of dominance and control.
To keep yourself on the path of connection, try following my 5 Cs when conflicts arise:
• Calm down: Slow down and get calm. Use deep breathing to relax or find a healthy strategy that works for you.
• Connect: Connect with your own feelings first and then with your child’s feelings using compassion and empathy. Validate the feelings you’re both having out loud.
• Clearing state expectations: Tell your child what you would like them to do. You can be assertive. You can empathize. Example: I know it’s hard to stop playing and get ready for bed. I understand you’re feeling insert emotion about that. Here’s what we need to do insert solution.
• Collaborate/Compromise: Ask for your child’s ideas and thoughts. Be open to their in-put. Is there a creative solution? Is there a compromise? Example: What can we do to help you get ready for bed? Would you like to bring your bear to watch you brush your teeth?
• Consequences: When your child still resists, you may need to correct. Discipline should only come from the calm, centered place of connection. Consequences work best when they’re meaningful to the child. Example: If you don’t brush your teeth now, we won’t have time to read as many stories as you like.
If you’re still encountering resistance, go back to step one. The really cool thing about these steps is they save so much time! They work to de-escalate tension and re-focus your attention on problem-solving.
It’s important to mention that even while following the path of connection, you will still encounter resistance and challenges from your children. After all, they are human-beings, not robots. Disagreement is a natural and healthy aspect of all relationships. What I like best about this approach is that over time, children come to see the parent as an ally in tough times, not the enemy that needs to be defeated.
As a PCI Certified Parent Coach, my task is to help parents look within for the answers they seek. I whole-heartedly believe there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to child-rearing. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.