My husband, Scott, is taking a parenting class from a friend and parenting mentor, Geri Clouse. She offers free parenting workshops that you can learn more about here.
When we had four under three, we both took her class on Nurturing Parenting. Here’s the main lesson of the class: YOU CAN’T CONTROL the child BUT you can control the environment. And, that some of what we (or others that would interact with us) would consider “unacceptable” behavior is actually part of whatever development milestone they are at and is perfectly “normal” for that age. As a mother of twins, that was music to my ears. I had two different sets of children going through the same developmental phase at any given time.
When I took Geri’s class I was feeling “out-of-control” as a parent. No amount of yelling or time-outing was effective in changing my children’s behavior. Of course, the children weren’t responding and I was becoming more and more of an “injured” parent (not to mention what I was doing to my kids). Like animals who are hurt in the wild, an injured parent or child is not a healthy one.
Last night was Scott’s first class in Geri’s series. This class is focusing on grade school age children.
Previously, I wrote here how I was going to take the “no-yelling challenge”. If failure is a mark of learning. . .then I’m an A+ student.
Scott said that last night he learned that yelling is a form of bullying.
I bristled at that. WHAT?! I’m hardly a bully. I’m a stressed mom who is trying to balance work, five different classrooms, Girl Scouts, two different soccer team schedules, meals. . .I won’t bore you with this ridiculous list because yours is probably as bad if not worse.
Scott said that the one tip that Geri provided is this: when you feel like yelling stop and express your feeling to your child and then tell him or her what you want to happen.
Huh? Yes, I also rolled my eyes at this one like you might be doing right now. Until I tried it with my three year old who didn’t want to take a nap and was saying, “Naps are stupid.” (The word “stupid” is verboten here so in his mind that word was the harshest attack he could verbally extend.)
I was getting so frustrated. JUST GO TO SLEEP SO I CAN GET SOMETHING DONE! I wanted to scream. And then I tried Geri’s tip. I said to him in a calm voice, “Mommy is getting angry at you because I want you to take a nap. I want you to lay down in your bed and take your nap.”
Did he do it? No. Well, not exactly. But, you may be missing the point, I DIDN’T YELL and I FELT SO MUCH BETTER. I verbalized how I was feeling and what I wanted to happen. AND I DIDN’T YELL. He asked for a drink of water and I got that and then he sort of laid down and talked to himself and then. . .he was asleep.
Yes, my goal was to get him to sleep. . .but really, my goal was not to yell.
Feelings, when not expressed, will build up and get out somehow. Whether it is a yelling tirade or a smack on a child’s bottom, feelings need to be expressed. As adults we have the ability to self-control. By stating our feelings and telling the child(ren) what we want, we are teaching some valuable lessons: say what you feel and say what you want.
And that by verbalizing what we want rather than yelling, our actions are teaching our children: the beginning of goal setting. . .of discovering what we want to do with our lives. . .of choosing a major. . .a career that we love. . .the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. Children can’t make decisions when they are being yelled at. At that point their flight or fight response kicks in. Or worse yet, they hunker down and believe what we are yelling because let me tell you we are not just yelling, STOP RUNNING. When our emotions are engaged we are also screaming a lot of other things at our children. When we’ve lost control, we have no filters.
Yelling or spanking doesn’t teach our children anything at all.