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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Inside Voice: 7 Ways to Yell Less and Communicate More

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones (Flickr)

Sometimes the coveted "inside voice" seems like an elusive fairy that wisps away whenever kids are involved. Parenthood can create a concoction of wild emotions that induce shouting: sleep deprivation, financial worries, safety concerns, sudden schoolwork "surprises", lack of listening, and so much more. But we all know that yelling does so much more harm than good. It exhibits poor behavior that kids will imitate, and it's usually met with nothing more than backlash!

So how can we communicate more effectively? Parental life is a whirlwind, so we need to learn how to roll with the punches and diffuse anger before it explodes. Healthy communication is an essential life skill that should be fostered early on, so why not make a conscious effort as a family? Here are my 7 ideas for yelling less and communicating more.

  1. Stress Management for Everyone's Sake: Are you being kind to yourself? Burnout is a surefire way to bust open the dams of yelling. You don't need to do everything, all at once, all the time. I know it's natural instinct to suppress our needs in favor of our children, but we're in no condition to help them if WE feel helpless! There's so much joy and serenity to be discovered if we honor ourselves as a high priority. Plus, self-care is something we want to nurture in our children.
  2. What's the Problem? Sometimes we get so tangled up in frustration that we forget the root of the problem. Take a breath and examine the nature of the issue. Is your child refusing to do their homework? Is there an underlying issue that you haven't discovered? Since yelling accomplishes nothing, try a different approach. Ask them why they won't do it. Get down to eye level and truly engage with them.
  3. Read My Lips: Yelling doesn't even work. It only ramps up stress for all involved, and the collateral damage is striking. So why not flip the coin? Try lowering your voice close to a whisper. It's a common technique in conflict resolution. At the very least, it will intrigue your kids into listening! It may help to establish a family signal for when a heated conversation must drop to soft voices. Sure, it may seem silly, but laughter is wonderful medicine for stress and tension!
  4. Strategy is Key: Do you find yourself scrambling to get your kids ready to board the bus? That dreaded morning hurricane. Emotions run rampant when we're faced with deadlines. Planning ahead can do wonders for easing stress. Prepare lunches the night before, choose outfits, and rise just 5-10 minutes earlier. Is grocery shopping with the kids in tow your Achilles' heel? Find time to go without them, like after bedtime or while they're at school.
  5. Breathe! Ah, breathing. So simple, so sweet, but so neglected. Our fight-or-flight response (and subsequent yelling) during stressful situations can be diffused with some deep breathing. Encourage your kids to do the same! It can be a fun, healthy bonding activity to all tune into breathing exercises. Along those lines, exercise is a fantastic way to banish stress too. Even just jogging in place when tempers flare can work miracles! Find proactive ways to release all of that fiery energy.
  6. Grab Your Toys: Play it away! Sometimes all it takes to feel like ourselves again is some playtime. Do you love reading? How about video games? Perhaps a stroll through nature is your idea of bliss. This compliments #1 quite nicely; do things that make you feel good! Both you and your children deserve leisure time to play, explore, and grow, so don't overload schedules!
  7. Laugh It Off: As parents, every word we say and every action we take shapes our young children's perception of the world. So, if you strive to handle life with grace and levity, they will hopefully adopt this approach. If your child screams out impossible demands, ask them to deliver you a unicorn in return (or another lighthearted item of fancy). It won't always work, but a touch of humor can really put our frustrations into perspective.

Yelling won't really get anyone anywhere. Not only that, but the less yelling you do, the happier you'll be. As a parent, which tactics have you tried to ease your anger and help your kids cope with theirs? I'd love to hear your feedback!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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