As parents, many times our frustrations with our children can bubble over. Maybe your son refuses to do something that you asked him, or your son and daughter continue to argue with one another. Once you hit that boiling point, you might yell as a way to restore order and communicate to your children. While this will certainly get their attention, and could get them to do what you ask, those effects won't be long term. In fact, it could be potentially damaging if that yelling is a constant form of communication. When you are approaching that point of frustration, instead of raising your voice, try these techniques:
Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can have an amazing effect; doing so before you respond to your child can help to center you, calm your nervous system and reduce the fight or flight response, thus reducing the chance that you'll yell. Initially it might be hard to stop and take a breath, but the more you practice, the more routine it becomes.
Use an assertive, firm and neutral tone. Parents often use a questioning tone with their children when not actually asking a question. So, instead of saying, "It's time to go to school, want to put on your coat?" instead, say, "We are leaving for school in 5 minutes, put on your coat and I will help you zipper it." It can be beneficial to offer your child options, but be sure to provide at least two that lead to the same outcome, such as, "Do you want to put on your coat or shoes first?" If your teenager is yelling at you, use the "equal and opposite" tone and volume: the louder he or she gets, the lower your voice gets, while still maintaining a firm and assertive tone.
Give Clear, Precise Directives. Sometimes, parents will resort to yelling after telling their child several times not to do something. But it can be much more effective to tell a child what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. For example, instead of saying, "Don't run in the street," say, "Play on the sidewalk." Use as few words as possible when giving directives to your child, to clearly state what you want him or her to do. When your child is playing on the sidewalk appropriately, be mindful to acknowledge and point out that behavior.
Use First/Then Language. First/then statements are a great way to show natural consequences and increase the odds your child will comply, while reducing the chances of a power struggle. For example state "first put on your coat, then we can go outside." When a child invariably asks "why" he or she should do something, point to a natural consequence such as "when it is cold outside we need to wear a coat." First/then statements are also effective when a child needs to complete a non-preferred task, such as "first do your homework, then we can watch television."
Don't take it personally, and forgive yourself. It's easy to become frustrated when children are behaving inappropriately or not listening to directives, but taking it personally only increases that frustration. Remember: your child is not intentionally trying to anger you. Take this opportunity to teach your child appropriate ways to behave, rather than viewing it as a war on you. If you do find yourself yelling (it happens), afterwards talk to your child about your frustration, and explain how you are working to reduce your yelling and use a more helpful tone. Most importantly, forgive yourself; it is the best way to model and foster empathy and understanding within your child.