When my 11-year-old son recently got into an argumentative shouting match with my 6-year-old boy in the back yard, I pushed the gas pedal to the floor, launching into a loud lecture that the whole neighborhood could hear. The hurt look on my elder son’s downcast face let me know I had taken the verbal lashing too far. Yelling at kids had become a habit for me. My son’s misty eyes made the lightbulb switch on in my brain, humbling me as I realized my boys were only modeling my corrective methods with each other.
My wife has gently reminded me to calm down when I’ve amped up the discipline energy level too high. Yes, my personal growth readings from self-help books, devotional articles, and the Bible regularly remind me to focus on gentle correction rather than screaming direction and punishment at the top of my lungs. Yet sometimes, I still struggle with yelling. But there is hope for those of us who find ourselves unnecessarily loud. Here are 3 quick tips that work when you want to cut back on yelling at kids.
1. Sit down.
When I spot an offense, I’m often out of my seat in a flash, yelling. Yet, when I choose to sit down or even kneel at eye level with my kids while correcting, I find that my volume and tone lower with my posture. Train yourself to immediately sit when correcting. Even better, give your spouse permission to remind you to sit with a simple hand gesture next time you start yelling at your kids.
2. Leave the lesson for later.
Memorize this little alliteration and pull it out of your back pocket when you start to go loud and long. Once you’ve stopped the bad behavior in its tracks, remember that the corrective lesson can be saved for a better time when you are calmer, cooler, and collected in your thoughts (e.g., before you start the bedtime routine). You will save yourself a lot of time and energy from wasted, lengthy loud lectures if you’ll remember this: Leave the lesson for later.
3. Know your triggers.
Make a list and check it twice to know when you are likely to be naughty or nice. For me, I know that the worst time I can handle correction is coming home from a stressful workday or after an important phone call. Bad timing accounts for much of my temptation to yell at my kids, so I avoid those trigger moments by making sure I have time to destress with my wife for five minutes after calls and work. Knowing our triggers shifts us into discipline dad mode with a calmer mindset.
Dads, it takes time to change our loud lifestyle habits, but with grace, we can do it. Apologize to your kids for your failings and if you’re married, have a chat with your wife about your new strategies to tame the yeller in you. Sit down, leave the lessons for later, and know your triggers as you achieve a more respectful relationship with your kids.
Sound off: What else works for parents who’d like to cut back on yelling at kids?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When I yell at you, how does it make you feel?”