There is really no definite moment in parenthood where the yelling and hollering starts. Somewhere between births and children learning to talk they learn quickly that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Suddenly, it is okay to yell, hoot and holler, squeal, whine and shout in the confines of the walls that you call your home. Even so, it is disturbing and extremely irritating to live in a home with children yelling. Being loud and rambunctious is one thing but yelling for a drink, at their baby sister for stealing their IPOD or worst of all’ at you is beyond comprehension. If you think back through your mental file, you will no doubt remember that YOU didn’t yell at your parents. So why then are your children yelling at you? Once it starts, yelling can be difficult to stop.
Obviously, children aren’t dumb. They yell for many reasons but mostly because it works. When they yell at a sibling, or for a drink or because they aren’t getting their exact way, they are able to get your momentary attention. This isn’t necessarily a good thing because you are probably pretty upset at the tone in their voice but you are paying them attention now whereas a few minutes ago you were answering emails. So, yelling is effective. This means that making yelling ineffective is a good way to learn how to stop children from yelling in the first place. Sounds simple, but it isn’t.
When your children are young, you have to remind them that they are yelling. They may realize that they are angry or perturbed but not that they are yelling. Plus, they have seen you; teachers and other adults raise their voice in order to grab someone’s attention. You can call it an inside voice or any other metaphor that works. The point to make is that when your child is yelling you WILL NOT pay attention. Gently grab hold of their face, have them look you in the eye and tell them that you want to hear what they are saying but that you won’t pay attention to them or respond when they use that voice. The next step is the hardest, because you have to follow through. This includes ignoring the boiling blood in your veins that immediately gets hot when you hear your child yelling again and ignore the child. Eventually, they will yell even louder, perhaps stomp their feet or roll on the floor in a tantrum. But this is okay. They are simply frustrated that they will now have to find another way to get your attention to a matter. Guess what? Then they do. When you can show a child that yelling will do nothing but get them in some hot water of their own they will quickly be prompted to learn another tactic.
The next step is helping your child learn how to replace their yelling and hollering with words that are effective at problem solving. Children aren’t born knowing how to handle conflict and the immediate raw human response is to get angry. As a parent, you should step in and give them the tools they need to handle the situation. If they are hollering at a younger sibling who is bothering them tell them step by step how you want them to handle things. Also, it is important for you to allow your child to feel angry, but to instruct them how not to act out verbally with this feeling. Yelling, at any age, leads to defensive, counter productive behavior in the other people around them, and actually adds fuel to the fire. Children must be taught that there is another, better way. Of course you also have to show them there is another way and realize that you cannot resort to yelling just because you are angry either. Since children learn by example you may be the key to learning how to stop children from yelling in your home.
If the yelling doesn’t stop, you have to assume that some underlying need of your child is not being met. For toddlers, the easiest way to decipher what is really going on is to gather some dolls and do a little role-playing. If your 5 year old is constantly yelling at your 3 year old then you pretend to be the three year old with a doll. This way, your child will be able to describe what they feel and show you how they feel. Additionally, while you role-play show them that if they calmly come to you and tell you their problem, that the problem with be solved. Children learn quickly when role-playing because they feel safe from criticism or discipline.
Older children, just seem to yell. Chances are your 12 year old doesn’t want to role-play with Barbie’s. Nonetheless, they are more than capable of understanding that yelling is not acceptable. In this case discipline is the answer. Remind your older children that yelling, raising their voice, and hollering are deliberate choices that they make. No matter how much they are preempted by a sibling or you they are the ones that choose to yell and they will be disciplined for it. Then discipline! Consistently. Eventually even the most stubborn child will realize that yelling, even if they are in the right for being angry, isn’t acceptable in your home.
There are other sorts of yelling that bothers parents as well. When a child is in another room and yells, ‘Mom,’ 200 times it is maddening. Does the yelling work? Do you eventually get up in a huff and go see what all the fuss is about? Sure you do! Teach children at a young age that yelling won’t be tolerated and that if they need you, want you or have something to tell you they need to come to you. This can stop children from yelling unnecessarily, which often results in the boy who cried wolf syndrome for parents. Yelling is frustrating for you. The sooner you learn to curb the behavior, the easier your life will be.