Friday, February 5, 2016

Yelling at Children

(This post was originally written two years ago, but I think it is a good one to remind us of the power of our words on the ones we love so much.)

Most mornings I watch the morning news shows as I get around and start my day. Today they discussed a recent article from the Washington Post about yelling at children; I found some very interesting information in this report and in the article, so I thought I'd share them with you.

First of all, yelling harms children. There is no debate about this; yelling harms children. The Washington Post said:
  • "It’s hard to discipline children. You can’t hit them. Timeouts are not effective. Now, a study out of the University of Pittsburgh says yelling at teens and tweens — particularly when it involves cursing or insults — can be just as harmful as hitting. So what can you do? Remember the word discipline originally meant to teach, so look for opportunities to coach your child, not just punish him for a misstep."
  • If you yell at your child, you either create somebody who yells back at you or somebody who is shamed and retreats,” said Meghan Leahy, a mother of three and a parenting coach in Northwest Washington. “You’re either growing aggression or growing shame. Those are not characteristics any parent wants in their kids.”
  • "There is a difference, of course, between being verbally abusive and using a sharply raised voice. Yelling alone is not always damaging, although the surprise of a sudden change in volume can cause a child to be fearful or anxious. It’s often what is said which is harmful, according to Deborah Sendek, program director for the Center for Effective Discipline (CED). When people raise their voices, the message typically isn’t, ‘Wow, I love you, you’re a great child,’  Sendek said. You’re usually saying something negative, and ripping down their self-esteem.”
I believe this is true for young children, too; not just tweens and teens. So, what can we do to discipline our grandchildren/children and help them make better choices without resorting to yelling? Consider these ideas . . . 
  • Take a Break - Sometimes you are better off pushing the pause button and revisiting the problem in 20 minutes or the next morning.
  • Put a stop to recurring arguments  - If you can anticipate it’s going to happen, you can make a plan. If it goes this way all the time, what are you going to do differently as the adult?
  • Be clear and consistent with expectations - Kids want and crave limits and structure, so it’s important to set boundaries and stick to them, the CED’s Sendek said. Don’t get into the habit of asking your child to do something multiple times. Instead, ask her to do something (say, brush her teeth), and tell her what will happen if she doesn’t. Be specific and follow through, even if she tries to bargain her way out of the consequence.
  • Give your child a say - The best way to get your child to buy into consequences is to involve him in creating them.
  • Monitor your tone - When you yell, Sendek said, your child will not remember what you said. He will only remember you yelled, and how upsetting it was. It’s a physiological response. When someone yells, your system goes on hyper-alert. Instead of yelling, use a stern tone of voice to get your child’s attention and let him know what you are saying is important. Get face to face with him and make eye contact. Whispering can also be an excellent way for a child to pay attention as they have to listen to hear what you are saying!
(You can read the full article at this link to find additional ideas for ways to connect with your grandchildren/children without yelling.)

As adults, we would not think it is okay for anyone to yell at us; yet we may yell at children. This is not okay. It can be too easy to yell, but if we take the time to catch our breath, remember these are our grandchildren/children who we cherish and love and who we want to grow up to be people who make wise choices, we need to model making wise choices; and this begins in the way we discipline them.

Remember Colossians 4:6; Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (NIV)  Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person. (CEB)  Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. (The Message)

If we want our grandchildren/children to grow up to be people who are polite, who make wise choices, and who do not yell, we need to model this to them; especially in the way we discipline them. Do away with yelling. Be known by your grandchildren/children as people who sincerely love them and who want the very best for them; not as people who yelled at them.

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