If you’re a parent, I won’t even ask you how many times a day you wish your kids would just listen. And every parent has moments when they give into frustration and end up yelling (and often regretting it later). If your kids are still babies, I’ll warn you now—the time will come.
But what are you supposed to do in those broken-record scenarios when you feel like you’ve been there 10 times before and are just repeating yourself over and over… and over, yet making zero progress? Don’t get disheartened. Instead, try these alternatives to yelling that really work.
1. Clear Boundaries, Clear Consequences
Don’t wait until your child has already done something wrong to talk to them about it. Make sure that the rules of the house are well known and that the consequences of breaking those rules are also clear. You shouldn’t hold a child responsible for something they didn’t know was wrong.
2. Remember They Are Children And Still Learning
No matter how clear the boundaries are, your children are still finding their way in this world and there will be times when they decide to test their limits. In many cases, this is their way of communicating a need. Identify that and you’ll be well on your way to addressing the limit-testing behavior. Take the time to enforce the rules and you can turn each limit-testing moment into a learning opportunity. Tell the child the rule they have broken and make sure they receive the appropriate consequences—then be consistent every time it happens.
3. Don’t Break Your Rules
I can’t say it enough. Consistency is critical here. If you establish that there will be no eating in the living room, then you can’t allow your kids to eat in the living room! Let it slide even once and they are guaranteed to try it again. And why wouldn’t they?
Instead of increasing your volume to top theirs, simply begin to whisper. Your children will have to get quieter in order to hear you. Even if they don’t go quiet right away, continue to whisper until they settle down and listen. They will.
5. Don’t Interfere With Natural Consequences
You must be willing to allow your child to suffer the consequences of their actions. Too often as parents we are worried about our children getting upset. If a child leaves a toy on the floor and it is stepped on and broken, it should not be replaced. They knew they were supposed to pick up after themselves and now they have to learn that not doing so has consequences. When your kids make mistakes, let them deal with the outcome.
6. Say “I’m Sorry”
Yes, there are going to be times when you lose your self-restraint—times when you may give in and yell or punish too severely out of frustration. It’s a good thing that one of the most important lessons you can teach your child is how to say “I’m sorry.” When whatever storm that has come blows over, say to your child, “I overreacted and I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?” The benefits of these words will last a lifetime.
7. Communication Is Key
When your child misbehaves, sit down with them, look them in the eyes and ask, “Do you know what you did wrong? Do you remember the consequences we have for doing that?” Try to be encouraging by letting them know that you believe that they can do better and that you expect them to not do this again. Always reassure them that you do not like to punish them and see them upset and so you hope that next time they make better decisions.
[h/t: Your Modern Family]