Sunday, November 14, 2010


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.


  1. Hello. This is my first time visiting your blog. This post was linked on a friend's Facebook page.

    I was just wondering if you are willing to go a little further with this post in a bit of dialogue with me via the comments, or if you prefer, via email?

    I ask because I think it could be an opportunity here for us both to learn more about this concept of "triggers". I'd love to share my take on "triggers" from a Non-violent Communication perspective, if you're interested.

    I think we can go so much deeper than advising people to "accept" the dirty room (which I can see being very difficult for some to swallow). We can, instead, approach issues like this with empathy. Empathy for the parent's needs as well as the child's needs. When two parties approach each other with empathy there is a much better chance for connection. When there is connection, it is then that resolutions which can meet everyone's needs SO often show up with ease and in abundance!!

    Telling a parent they should "accept" or "let go of" something doesn't meet my need for empathy and I guess may leave me (and many others) feeling resentful, frustrated, unhappy.

    If you're willing and interested, I'd love to explore that further with you.

    I'm deeply appreciating your willingness to put your values of peaceful parenting out there for the world. It takes time and energy and is such a gift when people are willing to give themselves to this cause. Thank you!

  2. :) Krista,
    Thanks for sharing a bit about your perspective. One of the challenges I find with blogging is that each blog is just a snapshot. It is a short piece on one topic that relates to the larger topic. When a person comes to my blog and reads only one blog post they miss out on all the ideas that I have previously written about that add a larger context for my words.

    I appreciate your focus on empathy. For me the word that rings true is compassion. I think that different words hold meaning for different people. When I talk about letting go or acceptance I mean that as more of the Buddhist concept as I expressed in my post Nirvana and Fighting What Is

    Is there a website or book you would recommend to people interested in learning more about Non-Violent Communication?


  3. From what I've seen in NVC, it's a nicey way to shame kids into behaving. Again, this is what *I* have seen that people called NVC. "It makes me uncomfortable when you watch tv all day. Can you hear how I feel?" yadda yadda yadda. And always in a sing song sweet voice. ewwwww.

    To the original poster--WHY does a child's autonomy affect you? I think really deciding a child's room is his own and letting go of his mess, unless offering help if he wants, is so much more powerful than sweetly asking him to feel your pain about the state of his room. Why should he have to? Why can't he just be happy? I am not happy with the guilt trips I have seen in the name of nvc.