Parents need to practice staying calm, not yelling

CHILD LIFE

March 19, 1995|By BEVERLY MILLS

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?

A: Yelling is a habit, and like any habit, it's not going to disappear overnight. With diligent effort, however, your household can be calmer and quieter, say lots of parents who called Child Life.

Tips from parents include whispering, humor and relaxation techniques. 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.

Adopting a new discipline method is complicated, so we'll cover it in two parts. Today's column covers ideas from parents who are themselves working toward a yell-free family. Next week, we'll outline a relatively new approach for peaceful discipline, called restitution.

Sandy Boczar is a special education teacher in Buffalo, N.Y., and she says her experiences with students who have emotional and behavioral problems have taught her not to yell.

"The children just shut off, and then they begin to yell," Ms. Boczar says. "Instead of yelling, I whisper. It commands much more attention, because they really have to listen."

Bernice Lund, a mother from Puyallup, Wash., 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," Ms. Lund says. "Just cover your mouth and say, 'Shh,' when anyone is yelling."

When Mary Ann Panek of Marietta, Ga., 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," Ms. Panek says. "It tends to keep the lid on my response."

Lots of parents find a simple joke can do wonders. "When my daughter gets me going, I stop, take a deep breath and use a little humor," says Julia Duhaime of Warwick, R.I. "It takes the edge off. I find my daughter uses the humor back with me, and it defuses the situation."

Another approach that helps Josephina Farias of Miami, Fla., is to acknowledge that when she yells, it's actually her problem.

"I find when I lose my temper, it's after a long day," says Ms. Farias, a single mother of boys ages 6 and 7. "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."

In a similar vein, Sandy Price of Phoenix, Ariz., says it helps to know what triggers your frustration.

"I've learned to intercede earlier -- before my blow-up point," Ms. Price says. "Also, none of my yell-control techniques work when we're walking out the door late. So now I do more planning to make sure we're not late so it doesn't happen."

Next week: Getting a new approach to discipline.

CAN YOU HELP?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608.

* Prefers adults: Is it a problem when an 8-year-old prefers adult company to playing with kids her own age? "This is not my child, but a little girl I know who hangs around the adults at gatherings while the kids are playing," says Debbie Zalesky of Farmington, Minn. "How can we get her to go play?"

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