At least one reader felt that my solution to yelling in my post "You can stop yelling at your children" was trite. For parents who are just trying to get through the day any advice can sound unrealistic. The feeling of "that's easy for you to say...." bubbles quickly to the surface. My closing, "You can stop yelling at your children. Start by focusing on your relationships, letting go of your expectations and meeting the needs of each family member" would have pushed my buttons when I was struggling through each day with three children ages 4 and under. I would have told you that all I did was meet my family's needs: laundry, dishes, cooking, nursing, and changing diapers. If you felt that way about the post, I hope you will go back to it and click on some of the links to past blogs. The past blogs go into more detail and explain what I meant by focusing on relationships, and to which expectations and needs I was referring.
I would like to offer another key to ending the yelling and conflict in your home: Identify and neutralize the Triggers. What are topics that cause conflict? What behaviors seem to trigger yelling? Try paying attention to what causes you to yell, or starts you down the path towards conflict. If you tend to get busy and forget what you are trying to paying attention to, write a note that says, "What are the triggers?" and put it on your refrigerator, mirror, back door, or where ever you will see it as you go about your daily activities.
Typical triggers are: bedtime, homework, chores, money, playing/hanging out with friends, clothes, shoes, hair, makeup, required family activities, food, sibling conflict, video games, television, computers and cell phones.
Once you have identified the triggers, neutralize them. Neutralize them? What does that mean? A trigger is something that initiates or causes a reaction. In this case we are talking about something that causes us to react by yelling. To neutralize them we have to take away their power. We must find a way to stop letting them cause conflict in our relationships. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to let go. When you stop trying to have control over the trigger there will no longer be a reason to yell. Make it your goal to parent through connection. When you focus on connecting with your children instead of controlling them or their behaviors it allows you to focus on relationships. You can step back and ask yourself, "What does my child need?" "How can I meet my child's needs?" "How is my behavior affecting my relationship with my child?" When you live a life of mutual respect it makes time spent together as a family more peaceful. When you have a relationship based on trust each family member can relax. Each person isn't fighting to get their needs met, to get attention, to win approval, to feel loved. Each person knows that they are loved and cherished unconditionally, they don't have to earn their place in the family. Unconditional parenting involves love, respect, trust and communication. It does not involve bribes, threats, punishments, discipline, time out, logical consequences, praise or shaming . When you parent unconditionally the triggers are neutralized. You are no longer telling your child that they must meet your expectations in order to earn your approval, appreciation or love. When you let go of trying to control your child's behavior you can focus on loving your child and enjoying your life together.
If your parenting at this time involves bribes, threats, punishments, discipline, time out, logical consequences, praise or shaming, you need to understand that when you let go, when you embrace unconditional parenting, when you remove the expectations that your child previously was forced to meet, your child will most likely revel in this new freedom. You must truly let go for the process of becoming a family of connection, respect and partnership to unfold. Your child has to know the freedom is consistent, that you are not going to jerk back on the reins and punish them for their enthusiasm for this new way of life. They must be free to say, "No" when you ask them to assist you with setting the table. They must be free to make their own choices. And the more you have been controlling the more dramatic the child's response to their new freedom may be, and the harder you are going to have to work at letting go and building the trust that has not been present in your relationship. If you have been parenting through extreme control or manipulation, and depending on the age and personalities of your kids, it may be best if you let go of one area at a time. At our house our children were older when we changed to unconditional parenting and it worked well for us to explain to our children how we were going to be parenting. This freed them up from feeling confused when we completely changed our attitudes about things like candy and bedtimes. It also allowed them to support us in our changes. They could point out to us when we were slipping into old patterns. When we were less than the parents we wanted to be they would tell us, "Your being conditional." This was extremely helpful since we could change course right in that moment.
What are your triggers?
Do you yell at your children because they won't clean up their rooms? Accept that the rooms are their space and it is their choice if they clean. Ask them if they would like help cleaning, but the minute you start feeling tension creeping into the situation take a break, get a snack, go outside
Is your child refusing to go to bed at night? Remove your expectations about bedtime and start looking at night time as a time to connect and enjoy quiet time together. Read books, snuggle, watch a movie until they fall asleep.
Do you yell about homework? Homework is not more important than your relationship with your child. Visit Alfie Kohn's site to learn more about the realities of homework, or read his article on "Changing the Homework Default."
Do you yell about food? Do you argue about how much your child should eat? Shame them for eating too much? Bribe them into eating more? Fight about candy? Read about my journey of letting go of candy in my post "I Love Candy."
Read more about letting go of control (and a whole lot more) at Joyce Fetteroll's site: Joyfullyrejoicing
And visit Sandra Dodd's page on Parenting Peacefully.