Your child is sitting at the table and starts making a huge mess (on purpose) with their food. You’re tired, and ask them to stop. But your child doesn’t stop, in fact, he’s probably giggling and makes an even bigger mess, so you yell… and then your child stops.
Your child stops but has a terrified look on their face and starts crying.
You feel bad for yelling but also know it’s wrong for your child to behave this way. So, you try to calm down your child and go on about your day.
But, you wonder, is there a better way to discipline?
Now, let’s picture this:
You’re doing stuff around the house and leave some items out of place. Your spouse comes to you yelling because once again “you left a mess”. You are pissed because he’s yelling at you and you may or may not comply with his request.
You are mad.
How can anyone get anything done when there’s yelling? How can you happily help your spouse when they yell?
Now, think about your child. How do you think a child feels when they’re forced into complying by hearing you yell?
Your child probably complies, but not because they want to, but they do so out of fear.
And let’s ask ourselves, is this the right way to parent? Is this how we want to shape our children, by raising them with fear?
Now, before we dig deeper it’s important to point out that we all yell, and it happens. No matter how much we try to avoid it. What’s important is what you do after you yell and that you try to minimize the yelling going forward.
If you yell at your child, it is good to apologize for yelling once they’ve calmed down and explain to them you were frustrated because (insert the reason you yelled) but that yelling is not a good solution and next time you will try to do things differently.
What you say should be according to your child’s age, you can ask an older child how can you work together when you need him to do something and he doesn’t want to but with a younger child you can only talk about what happened and explained why.
For more tips on what to do after you yell, click here.
So, let’s analyze how yelling makes us feel.
Close your eyes for a minute and think about the last time you were yelled at. How did it make you feel? Did you “learn your lesson”? Did you comply happily or did you feel like you just had no choice? Could the person yelling have said things in a different way, get the results that they wanted without upsetting you?
How you feel is probably how your child feels when you yell at them.
So it is no surprise that after a child gets yelled at, they cry, they get mad and if they comply, they do so apprehensively.
The reality is that NO ONE likes to be told what to do, and this goes for children too.
So, how can you discipline your child without yelling?
It’s simple although not always easy. The best way to discipline your child is by having patience and TALKING to your child, not yelling, but talking.
When you talk calmly to a child, they can understand. The problem is that most of us live so rushed, we want our children to do things whenever we need them to and children don’t live on the same time zone we do.
We need to understand where our children are developmentally, we need to understand they want to feel like they have control over their lives and we need to talk to them like we would talk to someone we respect, and not like we “own” them.
Let me give you an example, my three year old is very stubborn and the other day she was watching something on her tablet and we had decided she had been on it long enough. My husband told her to turn it off and when she didn’t, he proceeded to take the tablet away from her.
You can imagine how this ended, she had a full blown meltdown because she was watching something. And when she has a meltdown it’s about 20 minutes of non-stop crying – it’s rough.
So, next time we wanted her to stop using the tablet, I told her it was time to take a break, I emphasized that I didn’t want to take her tablet away and that I really wanted her to turn off the tablet so we could have dinner as a family.
She looked at me and asked if she could watch this episode until it ended. I checked and there was about 5 minutes left so I said yes. Once the episode ended, she turned off the tablet all by herself and gave it to me.
With both of these approaches we got what we wanted, which was for her to stop using the tablet, but one approach had her in tears and the other approach made her feel in control and happy.
The latter approach took about 10 minutes longer than first one. Had I been on a rush or not told myself to be patient, this would have not ended good but because I reminded myself that no one likes to be forced into anything, I was able to come up with a solution that worked for my child.
When we talk to our children, they listen and understand and when we do so on a regular basis, they are more likely to listen and learn from us.
Getting your kids to comply is about helping them to understand why they are being disciplined. When I say no, or correct my kids, I always explain why. The first time it might not make a difference but when you’re consistent with this approach, it works.
Just think about it, if someone tells you to do something, do you do it? Or is it easier for you to do it when you understand why you have to do it?
Children are just like adults in a sense that they like to understand, they like to feel in control and they don’t like to be told what to do. Instead of telling the what to do, we can give them to tools so they can recognize when something is bad, when they need to stop, when they need to apologize, etc.
We won’t always be there to protect our children and disciplining them by reasoning and talking helps them understand how this world works. Our goal should be to raise self-sufficient adults and we can do that by giving our children space and the right tools.
If your approach is to talk, your child’s approach will be to talk too when he’s having a problem. How you handle these situations will shape your child’s life so you should be aware of how you behave and model behavior that you want your child to immitate.
It is never too early or too late to start talking with your child.
And talking to your child requires for you to be patient. It requires for you to truly listen and understand how your child processes information, it requires you to understand what your child’s personality type.
This is why there isn’t one parenting advice that works for all children because all children are different. Our 2 daughters react very differently to things and need different parenting approaches when it comes to certain things. We have to remember each child is different, and so you have to find a way to parent them in a way that is best for them.
The easiest way to discover what works best is by listening to your child and listening to your instincts. If you start with patience and come from a place of love, it will be so much easier to parent your child and you will know how to parent your child.
And when you’re feeling drained, and like you don’t have anything left within you anymore, ask for help or tell your child you need a moment by yourself. Breathe and regain control before you try to discipline your child.
Demanding, forcing, yelling might get your child to do whatever it is you want them to do right now, but they will not learn why you’re making them do this, they will probably not understand, which means, next time this situation arises, they will do the same thing or have the same reaction.
Instead, we can talk to them and explain why we are doing things a certain way. You might have to repeat it a few times but eventually it will sink in and you will find yourself having less arguments about this. Your child is capable of understanding if you give them the opportunity.
Next time you need to discipline your child or get them to do something, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you don’t want to yell, and talk to your child like you would talk to another person, with an open heart, kindness and compassion.
Remind yourself that there’s no need to rush and that we can accomplish whatever we want if let our children be a part of the process. Let them be heard, listen to them, answer their questions, be firm but kind and your child will learn from you, not just comply because he’s being forced into it.
And above all, remember not to be too hard on yourself. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and do better next time. No one is perfect and you shouldn’t try to be a perfect parent. In fact, letting your children see how you handle and resolve mistakes is a great lesson for them.
So, parent from a place of love, put yourself in their shoes, listen to them and you will find the right way to discipline your child.