Lately there has been a lot of yelling in our house. I’m yelling or my husband is yelling or my 3 year old is yelling. It has almost become a routine – ask my son to do something, he won’t, we yell, then he does it.

“We have to get ready to go into bed now.”

“Ok.” But then runs away, or comes up with any excuse from his foot is hurting to needing a bandaid to saying he has a question.

Parent (Me or my husband) lose patience, become frustrated, and yell, “I said it’s time to get into bed!”

It became the norm to yell. Each time someone yells, (including myself) I am cringing inside. I don’t like the feeling of yelling or being yelled at, so I can’t imagine that my son enjoys being yelled at. Yelling and making demands is not my parenting philosophy at all, but as I always say and I am the first to admit – parenting is HARD. As I often point out, almost everything I write about is easier said than done.

I haven’t posted in a while and honestly I have been very busy, but I am sure it is also subconsciously that I have been in a parenting funk. I realized I haven’t mentioned yet that my son declared he was ready to sleep in a bed and that cribs were for babies. I always said that as soon as he said that he wanted to sleep in his bed he would be allowed to, and the day came. He was definitely ready, and after 3 years and 4 months we definitely had a great run with the crib. I will post about the transition another time, but I brought it up here because this transition changed our routine and is probably a major contributor to the yelling.

If I don’t like something, I try and fix it. So I went to the parenting book that I have referenced before, “Raising Great Parents” by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross, Martin Nash, M.D., and Chapter 11 began like this, “I find it hard to stop yelling” and I knew that I was going to get the reminder I needed.

Page 202 brings examples of what is going through a parents head in situations where you want your child to do something and they aren’t cooperating:

Parent:

‘You aren’t going to get away with it this time!’
‘Oh yes you will, young man!’
‘Why can’t you just listen for a change?’
‘That’s it! I’ve had it!’

Child:

‘You can’t make me.’
‘Why do you always get to decide?’
‘It’s not fair.’
‘I can do what I want.’

Notice the disconnect between parent and child. The parent says, “He doesn’t listen to me,” but in fact, the child can hear perfectly well. He’s listening, but, like most of us, he doesn’t want to be told what to do.Pg, 202, Raising Great Parents 

I don’t know about any of you, but I totally related to this. He hears me, he just doesn’t want to be constantly told what to do. If I recorded myself throughout the day, I probably sound like a computer reading a series of commands:

“Eat your breakfast. Get dressed. Go to the bathroom. Put your coat on. Wash your hands. Walk to the car. Eat dinner. Come take a bath. Go to sleep.” And that’s just naming a few…

I know my intentions aren’t bad. We need to be out of the door in order not to be late, or we need to rush to make it to our after-school program, but the reality is regardless of my intentions, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of my instructions “commands.”

So what did I do? Firstly, I didn’t beat myself up. I know things haven’t been ideal, but that is normal and reality. I decided to go straight to my son and be honest and talk about it. I find that when I’m driving him somewhere he likes to chat, so I used the opportunity when I had him in the car yesterday.

I said, “I wanted to talk to you about something. Lately I feel like there has been a lot of yelling at our house and it really isn’t making me feel good. I’m definitely going to be conscious not to do it, but I would also really appreciate if you helped the situation get better. Let’s start with bedtime. We don’t want to yell at bedtime, so let’s discuss now because maybe we all need a reminder – what is our bedtime routine?”

We spent time going through the routine, I had him lead the conversation. When we got to the end of the routine I said, “We are going to try something new. After we do the whole routine, (dinner, bath, playtime, books) and I say goodnight, once I close the door to your room, I am not going to talk again until the morning. So if you come out of your room, which I think you can handle staying in, but let’s say you come out, I will just walk you back quietly.” He agreed to the new plan. This gave me the confidence to follow through because now I am sure that he knows the plan and he knows what to expect.

As I said, this was just yesterday, but even in 24 hours I can see a difference. Sometimes, we just need to break the cycle by having a conversation and being committed to the change. Today as he was finishing dinner, he said he wanted to go upstairs and something along the lines of, “Remember the schedule? I have playtime after my bath!” And I said yes!

This leads to a very important point – often children’s misbehaviors are a result of a power struggle between parent and child.

One of the best ways to improve your home environment is to give kids more leeway in making decisions about their lives. Children, like all of us, want to be respected. They want to have a say in what happens. If they don’t get it, they will find lots of creative ways to fight us for it. Remember, this is a good thing. They’re trying to tell us something: “I’m ready to have more independence and make more decisions in my life.”

Why not let them? We encourage our children to make as many decisions about their lives as possible – age appropriate decisions that is. A four-year-old, for example, can decide what to wear to school. A six-year-old can make his own sandwich. A twelve-year-old can figure out when she’s tired and needs to go to sleep. 

… When kids are able to make decisions about their lives, they get the chance to explore, be creative and develop confidence in their abilities. They also get closer to achieving the long-term goals of independence, accountability, and resilience, whether that was their plan or not. It’s a winning situation for all. 

Pg. 189-190 – Raising Great Parents

Of course there are things that are not options, like going to school or going to the doctor. But, wherever you CAN let them choose, do.

I know this, and I even often give advice about it, but I still needed the reminder and the parenting re-set button. After reflecting and re-reading, today went differently.

Instead of “Get dressed.” I said, “Do you want to get dressed in your room or in the den?”

Instead of “Wash your hands,” I tried, “Which sink do you want to wash your hands in? The purple bathroom or the kitchen?”

Instead of “Come let me read you a book,” It was “How many books do you want tonight? 2 or 3? Do you want to pick them or should I?”

Instead of “Clean up the toys,” I offered, “I have a few minutes can I help you clean up? Show me which ones to clean and which ones you will put away.”

The more they take ownership in their daily activities, the less they will challenge you on the few things you need to set or that are important to you. I know for me, a schedule is important. I don’t want the kids eating dinner at different times, I need them to eat at the same time so that I can bathe them together. If the rest of the day I am not hollering orders, I believe he will respect me when I say it is dinner time and it is important to me that he follows that.

There is obviously a lot more to say, but I’m going to end with this. Beyond sharing the “power” or eliminating the power struggle, another helpful thing is to reflect on the times of the day that are more likely to be filled with tension – for example, getting out the door in the morning. Have a family meeting and discuss together ways that you can avoid an argument or a stressful situation. Depending on the ages of your children, have them involved in the meeting – they can physically make the list of things that need to be done and who is responsible for what. Encourage them to come up with creative ideas to make the situation better. They can pick out their outfits the night before, make their lunches the night before, have their bags at the door before they go to sleep and so on. Bring your children into the problem-solving process, wether they are 3 or 13, and show them that their opinions and ideas hold weight.

Getting buy-in from your children is not a novel idea. Businesses do it all the time, they need their employees to buy-in because it has been proven time and again that if you buy-in to something and feel ownership of it, you will put your best foot forward.

It’s so easy to fall into “Do it because I said so, and I am the parent so this is what goes.” And yes, it may work for a time. But what is our end goal? Is it really so important that xyz happens or is it more important that we foster loving relationships with our children that allow them the confidence to become independent and team-playing individuals?  I vote the latter.

 

 

 

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