Many parents shout at their children. It seems to be part of normal life at home. And yet, it feels wrong. It’s one of the habits that, as parents, we most want to change. Also it doesn’t seem to have any long term effect – we still end up shouting regularly! And the last thing we really want to be doing is shouting at our children. We love them dearly – but don’t they just know how to push our buttons? However, when our children shout, we know that they are only copying us. And we know that our home would be a much nicer place to be if we didn’t shout. However it is so hard to stop. Here are some handy hints to help you change

1.     Resolve to stay calm – have a chart

  • Firstly, you need to decide that you really want to stop. It is a hard habit to break, and you have to need to be determined.
  • Make a weekly chart for yourself – divided into morning, afternoon and evening. And put a tick for each block of time you don’t raise your voice. (If the habit has got really bad, you may need to start marking off each hour you manage not to shout.) At the end of each day you managed not to yell, give yourself a little treat.
  • Tell your children that you are trying to stop shouting. It is good for them to see that you can change your behaviour when you want to. And it makes you more likely to stick to it if you’ve shared it with your child and you’ve committed to it.

2.     Don’t take it personally

What does your child do to annoy you? If you were to make a list, you would find that your child’s behaviour is probably pretty normal for their age. That is, lots of other parents would be complaining about the same problem!  It’s just that it pushes your buttons. So what can you do to stop yourself getting angry? Change the way you think!

When children misbehave, we often find ourselves ‘awfulising’ about what that behaviour means. We think our child is rude, lazy, won’t have any friends, selfish or deliberately winding us up. And we see ourselves as hopeless, not coping or incompetent. No wonder we end up shouting when we have thoughts like that!

What we need to do is to work out what is really happening. Are they tired, hungry, distracted or absorbed?  Have they had a bad day? Are they trying to unwind?

Ask yourself are you expecting a lot from your child? Are your thoughts and feelings making you feel angry? And –the important bit –Can you think differently about what they’re doing that may be more accurate or a more helpful way to look at the same situation?  Learn to change the way you think to be more helpful or realistic – work out what’s really going on – and it’s much easier to respond calmly.

3.     Walk away when you feel angry

It’s important to take responsibility for your own anger and behaviour. Although it may sometimes feel that your child has a remote control that forces you to react in a certain way… that they can push the button that makes you lose your temper. No one has the power to make you shout. Only you can manage your own emotions. And your responses.

So when you feel yourself getting angry – walk away. As you leave the room you can say out loud – ‘I’m feeling angry – I’m going to go and calm down, and come back when I’m calmer so we can deal with this.’ It is a really powerful thing to do. It shows your child what they should do when they feel angry – go somewhere to calm down, without shouting or losing their temper.

4.     Learn to deal with problem behaviour differently

Often, as parents, we end up shouting because we just don’t know what else to do about our child’s behaviour. We know that shouting isn’t working, but we don’t have an alternative.

Preventing misbehaviour is much better than dealing with it. And there are a few things that will help.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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