- Set clear boundaries. When rules are not clear in the house, children have a really hard time following them. If you have said in passing several times, “Take off your shoes when they are wet,” you may assume that your child has heard you and will remember that. So when it rains and he walks on your clean floor with wet muddy shoes you get upset because you “told” him not to a dozen times. However, to a child this is a vague and ambiguous rule. By setting more concrete rules, you help your child understand what is expected of him. Then he will be more likely to remember the rule.
- Set simple consequences. Sometimes parents threaten consequences that they themselves do not want to follow through on. If you tell your child if he does not clean up his room by 5PM he will not get to go to get to go to his friend’s house, then you better be okay with him not going to his friend’s house. If you are threatening that consequence because you know going to his friend’s house important to him, but had made your own plans, you are more likely to yell at him when he is being slow to clean his room. However, if you set a consequence that you can live with and is not complicated, you will have a much easier time enforcing that consequence without yelling and getting upset at your child.
- Speak to your child on his level. If your child is young, it can be intimidating to hear you standing above him giving commands. There is a good chance that a child of just about any age will not even fully hear you if you are not face to face with him. Getting down on his level might even mean that you make sure that you use words that you know he understands. If a child is given instructions and he does not fully understand, remember or comprehend them, how can he follow them? When this happens it is not the fault of the child for not hearing, but the fault of the parent for not speaking in a way he can understand.
- Be sure your child understands what you are asking of him. After you clearly tell a child what you expect of him, you need to confirm with him that he fully understands what you just said. You can do so by asking a simple question of, “I want to make sure we understand each other. What am I asking of you?”
- Respond every time a rule is broken. It can be very difficult to stop what you are doing to deal with your child every time a rule is broken. However, the longer you let a set rule be broken, the more your child will continue to do the offense. You will then have a breaking point where you will come running to the situation. At this point, you will be frustrated and less likely to be able to contain that anger.
- Remind your child only ONE time of the rule. Often, parents think they are doing their child a favor by giving two, three or more chances to make a broken rule right. This does nothing but lead to confusion from the child and frustration from the parents. Each time you return to the child to remind him of the broken rule and let it slide, you get more and more frustrated, which leads to you finding yourself at the end of your patience. Your child sees these repeated empty warnings and it confuses him. He has no way of knowing when you are serious about the rule and when you will let it go. By holding yourself to the ONE reminder only, you avoid building your frustration and you help your child understand that you mean what you say.
- Immediately deliver the consequence. Once that rule has been clearly set, he knows the consequence for his choice and has been given one warning. If he breaks the rule again, the consequence must be enforced. When you are able to consistently follow through on what you said you would do, it makes the situation less emotional and therefore helps you to keep your cool.
- Ask him to remind you when you yell at him. Some parents do not fully understand the way their voice sounds to their child. If yelling is a habit that you are serious about breaking, you can give your child permission to inform you when he feels you are yelling at him. This can seem unwise, because no parent wants their child to “talk back” to them. However, it can work if some ground rules are put in place. The child must use a phrase agreed upon like, “Mom, it makes me sad when you yell at me.” You will also have to discuss the difference between raising your voice and yelling. There are times that it can be appropriate to raise your voice at a child. However, parents also need to realize that what may seem like a slightly raised voice to you can sound incredibly scary to your child.
- Respond kindly when he yells at you. It can be very difficult to hear your child scream at you and not respond in a similar manner. However, responding with equal or greater volume does not help the child learn not to yell and it does not help you avoid yelling either. Instead, when your child yells at you, say to him, “When you talk to me like that it seems as if you do not care about me. Please talk to me like I am someone you love.”
- Take a “parent” time out. It’s not unusual to send a child out of the room when he yells in order to give the child space to calm down and regroup. Parents often need this as well. Leaving the room and separating yourself from the situation for a short time can help you gain clarity to deal with the issue in a more calm way. This also provides an excellent example for your child when he gets angry.
It may be impossible for the average parent to never yell at their child. However, it is possible to make the event infrequent. These steps will not only help you avoid yelling at your child, but they will also help your child follow the rules more consistently.