Getting Better Behavior Without Threats and Yelling

All parents have days when threats and yelling has them fantasizing about running away. Before you pack your bags, let me share what your child gets from yelling and suggest a way to change things.

When you hear a parent say, "If you don't do … then you won't get to do …” don’t you think to yourself, “Doesn’t this parent know that sounds like a threat? Doesn’t she know threatening will only cause her child to react or refuse to cooperate???

A lot of parents use threats. I believe they’d like to use something else, but haven’t found anything else to replace threats with — yet.

All parents have days when the yelling and threatening wears them down to the point of fantasizing about running away. Before you pack your bags, let me share one possible reason why you’re being forced to threaten and yell, and suggest a way to change things. 

Young children tend to gravitate to where they experience the most energy. When a parent yells, he or she exudes a great deal of energy and wait for it…attention. 

Think about it from a child’s point of view. What do you do when you yell? You stop what you’re doing—you turn around—you lock eyes with your child—and you direct all of your words to him. Children unconsciously perceive that as attention and gobble it up!

How’s that possible you wonder?
A child’s thinking process is still very immature. They understand misbehavior like this: “Hmmm, even though I’m being yelled at, misbehavior must be a good way to get my parent’s attention because they stop what they’re doing and only pay attention to me when I misbehave!”

Refocus on Getting a Better Result

The best way to shift where your child gets his or her attention is to shift where you put the majority of your attention. If you shift your focus, attention and comments to the end result, what you’d rather have your child be doing, versus focusing on what he or she has done, you’ll see a huge increase in listening and cooperation as well as a reduction in your yelling. 

Here’s an example:
Old way: As he’s getting ready to go you say, “We’re always late, why can’t you be on time! Get ready NOW or no video today. Why do you make me yell at you?”

New way: As you’re both walking out the door you say, “Thanks for being ready to go to practice.”

The “new way” has a parent say nothing about being late. She simply thanks him for being ready to go to practice, no matter how long it took.
Your child is smart. Her tardiness is just her unconscious habit of getting attention the only way she knows how, by being yelled at. The “new way” shows her she gets more attention when she does something right, than when she does something wrong.

Before You Do This

  • Eat well, drink plenty of fluids and get a good nights sleep. You’ll need energy to do this. 
  • Make sure you have no time constraints. You don’t want to bail half-way through because you’re late.
  • Get a book to read. That way you’re not tempted to yell while she gets ready. 
  • Remember that your child will unconsciously try to draw you back into yelling.  Make sure you’re in a good mood so you don’t react.
  • Be supportive, don’t ignore her attempts to get you to yell at her. Say things like, “One sock down, one to go.”

Provide Another Way To Get Attention

  • Set up “special time” with your child each day. Carve out 10 minutes of one-on-one time each day so she gets her daily requirement of attention from a positive source, not yelling.
  • This 10 minute “special time” is designed to fill her attention tank by doing whatever she wants to do.
  • It happens around the same time each day so she can count on it.
  • You never take it away, no matter how much misbehavior she’s gotten into.
  • Don’t talk about her behavior, unless she brings it up.

Soon your child will understand this is a better way to get your attention and produce better behavior more consistently.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the anywhere, anytime Online Skills Class. A webinar that addresses reacting, new ways to use teaching discipline, being proactive with outbursts and mistakes that you can listen to from anywhere in the world, and anytime it’s convenient for you. Receive 2 FREE tips from the book. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.



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