Ever since I wrote the post on yelling some months ago, I’ve been doing my very best to follow the advice I gave in there.
Understanding that respect goes both ways is a good start on the road to a calmer home. But, only too often stress and exhaustion get the best of us, our lower brain takes over and we are ready to fight.
Unfortunately, this is what we model to our children. When we are level-headed and gentle, the kids learn that solving problems can be done peacefully and respectfully. When we lose our cool, we teach children that the way to act when something doesn’t turn out as we wanted is to get upset and make noise.
My children learned to yell, too. Obviously, it put me in double trouble: I had to figure out how to stay calm at all costs, and also how to communicate respect to my yelling (at times even roaring) kids.
Once, when I was really tired, when every brain cell in my body craved a break and I couldn’t think of any other way to handle my upset child, I asked her to help me out. I said I felt really badly when she yelled at me and asked if there was anything I could do to make her stop. She told me to cover my ears and that way she will know she crossed the line. So I did. The next time she yelled, I put my hands over my ears and looked down. When I looked up again after a few seconds, she was smiling. She even said she was sorry. We had a few more short episodes like that, but then, on a particularly challenging occasion, she continued looking angrily at me as I kept my hands over my ears. I told her I was frightened and asked her to give me a hug. She did, but it took her a minute or two to calm down first.
Children often don’t realize they are making us scared and sad with their outbursts, the same way we tend to forget, when we yell at them, what being yelled at actually feels like. We have to remind them we are also human beings who need to be treated respectfully, just like they do.
If your own child tends to yell at you, ask him to help you figure out how to stop the yelling. Maybe the suggested solution won’t really work out. Keep exploring, try something else. Look for whatever makes you both feel better when the emotions run high.
Respect indeed goes both ways and when we disconnect from out prefrontal cortex and our child, an effective trick to remind us to reconnect can make a world of difference. So, go ahead, find yours.