Q: I don't believe in spanking my children, but I do find that I yell at them a lot when I get frustrated. The result is that now my children yell, too - at me, at each other, at the dog. I don't like this pattern, but I don't know how to stop it. Any suggestions?
Yelling is a bad habit, and like any habit, it's not going to disappear overnight. With diligent effort, however, your household can be calmer and quieter.
To put an end to this loud cycle, you'll also need to come up with a new discipline plan and resolve to follow it.
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A special education teacher said her experiences with students with emotional and behavioral problems have taught her not to yell.
"The children just shut off, and then they begin to yell," she says. "Instead of yelling, I whisper. It commands much more attention, because they really have to listen."
One mother tries to instill the idea that everyone is working together on the problem by using a family signal.
"I have the children remind me when I am yelling, and I remind them," she says. "Just cover your mouth and say, 'Shhh,' when anyone is yelling."
Another mom said that when she feels like losing her temper, she pretends that another adult is in the room observing.
"I try to behave as I would if one of my neighbors was watching," she said. "It tends to keep the lid on my response."
Lots of parents found a simple joke can do wonders.
"When my daughter gets me going, I stop, take a deep breath and use a little humor," said one mom. "It takes the edge off. I find my daughter uses the humor back with me, and it defuses the situation."
Another approach: Parents acknowledge that when they yell, it's actually their problem.
"I find when I lose my temper, it's after a long day," said one single mom. "I first recognize that my resources are low, and the boys aren't being any worse than usual. As soon as I calm down, I say I'm sorry and let them know it's not their fault."
Another strategy that may help is a new way of looking at your relationship with your children.
"Parents need to realize they have a choice in how they behave," said E. Perry Good, author of "Helping Kids Help Themselves." (Originally, when interviewed in 1995, Good was training teachers, social workers and parents in then-new techniques called Reality Therapy.)
"If your long-term goal is to have self-disciplined kids, yelling is not going to get you there," said Good.