Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Stop Yelling Challenge

Children are wonderful.
They can also be intensely frustrating and annoying.
Especially when they are tired, or worried about something, and especially when you are tired or worried about something.
These are the times when we leave sanity behind and start yelling at our children.

I've been a bit of a yeller.
I wouldn't dream of yelling at other people's children when I was teaching, but somehow you forget that when they are your children.  You yell up the stairs to tell them what you want them to do (but we get cross if they yell to us to tell us what they want to do!).  You shout when they fight with each other.  You shout when they won't do as they are told.  You yell when you're late and they think it's a good time to have a lie down on the floor and make funny noises.

Here are a few ways that I'm trying to cut down the yelling in my house.

  1. Go to them.  If it's dinner time in ten minutes, and I want them to put away what they are playing with and get ready for dinner, rather than shout up the stairs, I take the trouble to walk up.  This way I get to see what they are doing (and how much clearing up there is to do), so I can tell them how nicely they are playing, or how amazing their Lego building is... before asking them to stop.  Because I'm right there, they know that they can't get away with not doing it, so compliance comes a lot quicker, and I can give more specific instructions to help with the clearing up too.  It might be easier to shout up the stairs, but I would just end up marching up there shouting ten minutes later when I find that they've completely ignored them, so it's a lot better all round to just go up.
  2. Get Closer.  If they are playing in the garden and start fighting (over the scooter or the swing or what day it is or...) I could just shout at them from where I am.  "Come here!"  "Will you two stop fighting!".  The result: I'm cross because they are fighting.  They are upset with each other.  They are upset with me because I'm shouting at them.  Instead I try going out there.  Maybe I ask one of them to come and help me with a job.  Maybe I join in the game and redirect it slightly or get something else out of the shed so they don't both need the same thing.  Maybe I have a quiet word with the one who's being unreasonable, and help them to calm down.  Whatever I do once I'm out there is likely to calm things down, while shouting from inside would have escalated the situation.
  3. Take deep breaths.  When I gave them half an hour's notice that we'd be leaving the house at 9.30am, then I told them at 9.15 that it was time to tidy up and get their shoes on.  Then I asked them again at 9.20am to get their shoes on.  Then I helped them tidy up and told them to put their shoes on.  It's now 9.35 and one is dressing teddy (with no shoes on) and the other is lying on the floor and squeaking (with no shoes on).  This is the time when mummies explode.  What are my options?  I could put their shoes on for them... no, because I refuse to do things they can do for themselves and encourage laziness and helplessness.  I could walk down the path and get into the car, fuming... no, because there would be panic and tears, and then they'd realise that I won't actually go without them so it's just an empty threat.  I could carry them down to the car without their shoes on... not ideal, because either they would be angry at my heavy-handedness, or they would think it's hilarious and ask to be carried that way every time.  I could shout and yell and they would cry and I'd be angry and we'd all leave the house in a tearful wobbly mess (the usual outcome).  Or... I could count to ten.  Accept that I'm going to be late for wherever we were going.  Take deep breaths.  Get down to their level.  Explain again where we are going, that I understand that they were having a nice time and don't feel like going right now, but point out that I need them to put on their shoes now.  Can you tell that this is the one I find trickiest?  Because after I've counted to ten and calmly explained things to them, if they still don't seem to be getting ready, then the volcanic eruption is even worse, because I've been trying to suppress it.
  4. Give them a hug.  If they are doing something wrong, and they know it, they probably feel pretty bad already.  Sometimes the best response is a hug and a "lets see what we can do about this", this makes them feel as though you and they are working together, not that they have to hide their mistakes because mummy will go mad.
Let's just say... I'm a work in progress.

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