Do you think yelling and being firm are the same thing? Many parents do. They believe in order to be firm, you have to yell. I believe yelling is yelling and that firmness is authority in action and requires no yelling.
Ask yourself this: do you think there's a connection between the intensity of a parent's voice and how much learning a child is able to accomplish? I think there is. I believe less learning occurs when parents yell at their children.
There are others who agree with me. Nikki S remembers her childhood, "I was yelled at constantly as a kid and to this day I hate yelling, if someone yells at me it makes me want to hide."
Why Kids Misbehave
Why do parents think yelling changes behavior?
I think it all boils down to the expectations parents have for how children should behave. Most parents don't realize that their anger and yelling may be motivated by a deep-seated belief that kids should be well behaved at all times. That concept was held by previous generations, most likely upheld by your parents during your childhood, and is unconsciously being replayed in your mind now that you're a parent. Because most of us were yelled at as children we've come to assume that yelling is what we're supposed to do when correcting our child's behavior.
Let me ask you this: if you believe that yelling works, then why do you need to yell more than once in order to gain the cooperation you seek?
Research has shown us that yelling at a child produces fear and resentment, not cooperation. Research also shows us that children shouldn't be forced to behave perfectly all the time; they need to misbehave or disobey so they can learn.
Young children act out. It's not bad, it's not wrong, it's not something they should be made to feel guilty for, and it's rarely something that requires automatic punishments. Children do need limits, boundaries, rules, and teaching. They also need understanding, empathy, and love.
A Babble article on whether children should be "seen and not heard" includes this scenario: "If my kid starts wailing and throwing boxes of cereal in Aisle 7, I can't just apologize and turn the volume off the way I can if my cell phone goes off . . . I can do my best to help her behave well . . . if she's losing it, she's just like any other person with a problem. What she needs is help . . . " And let me add: she doesn't need yelling.
What a Parent's Yelling Really Teaches
We need to change the way we look at our children and their behavior. Kids don't wake up each morning with a diabolical plan to create bad behavior, even if it feels that way. They're not nuisances or irritants and shouldn't be treated that way. We need to see our children as whole human beings who need help understanding themselves and their behavior, not badly behaved tyrants who need to be controlled and punished.
Parents are supposed to hold their children accountable for their actions and choices. But yelling only teaches a child one thing: how to tune out your yelling. When children emotionally protect themselves by tuning out parental yelling, parents react and feel forced to reach for even more yelling and controlling.
Read some of the parenting concepts and skills I've shared so you're more able to replace your angry reactions with empathetic teaching. This will allow your child to truly hear you and listen to you — even when he's emotional.
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and the Skills e-class. Visit proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs.