Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Finding Your Voice, Losing Your Holler

When all else fails: Holler.  Who can blame you?  It’s exasperating being ignored after repeating a request umpteen times without response.  Frustration mounts when your child dilly dallies before school, making you late for work, AGAIN.  It’s terribly trying managing yourself and your child when you are being treated with disrespect and brashness. You’ve tried bargaining, threatening, negotiating, begging, cajoling, nagging. None of them work.  Only screaming does the trick.  When you yell, your child complies.  So who’s to say that yelling isn’t the solution?

Well, for starters, most of us would like our children to behave without resorting to yelling.  No parent enjoys the feelings that precede yelling. Helplessness, rage, and frustration are generally not the trifecta of feelings we, as parents, are shooting for in raising a family.  And, while it is true that yelling in the short term may result in behavioral change, it is useless in the long term.  As a matter of fact, the cycle of…

request…ignore…nag…ignore…beg…ignore…demand….ignore …. scream…movement

is not a feedback loop you want any part of.   After all, by ignoring all of your commands without any consequence from you, your child learns that you don’t really mean what you say until you finally start yelling. And, your child is training you too.  You learn from him/her that no other method besides screaming results in behavior change. In other words, you and your child are stuck in a holding pattern.  One of you has to break that mutually reinforcing scream/behavior change cycle.  And, because you are the parent, you get that job.

Here are some tips for finding your voice without finding your holler:

Step One:  Use Effective Commands

Make sure when you give your child a directive that you mean it.  Say the command clearly and firmly.  Your child knows when you are distracted.  If you tell him/her to do something, and you have no intention of making sure that the direction is followed, the direction will not be followed.

Step Two:  Tell your child what you want him/her TO DO, not just what you don’t want him/her to do

The clearer you can be up front with your behavioral expectations, the easier it is for your child to make appropriate choices.

Try Saying This:  “Tell me about the problem you are having using a calm voice.  I know you can do it.” Or “I treat you with respect.  I expect you to treat me with respect, too.”

Step Three:  Think about your requests from your child’s vantage point

You can be understanding and empathetic and at the same time expect your child to follow your directions.  These are not mutually exclusive concepts.  Some parents think if they understand how their child feels; they are “caving” to their child’s wishes.  Not so.  Expressing empathy will help you achieve cooperation without resulting in a power struggle.

Continue reading “Finding your Voice, Losing your Holler.”

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