Parenting children at any stage can be a real challenge. From the toddler who throws a lay-flat-on-the-floor-and-cry tantrum to the school-age brother and sister who won't stop fighting, parents regularly navigate a wide array of situations that require dealing with unacceptable behavior.
The Today Show recently ran an interesting post exploring a growing trend among parents to manage these discipline issues through screaming rather than spanking. Maybe this tendency is due to a growing reluctance among some moms and dads to use spanking as a tool of discipline. Maybe it's because our lives are becoming more hectic and fast-paced, so we have less patience with our kids.
Whatever the reason, most moms and dads will agree that constant yelling is no fun – it's not what parents prefer to do, and it's not what kids need. It's not even an effective parenting strategy.
That begs the question: how can parents curtail the yelling habit? Here's some advice from Focus' parenting experts.
1. Mom and Dad… look inward.
Sometimes we yell at our kids because there are other dynamics at play in our lives. Yellers might have strong or very rigid personalities. They may have difficulty handling stress, or be facing a season of increased financial, marital or work pressures. Other times screaming can be traced back to a lack of sleep, rest or neglected relationships with others or with God.
As one of our counselors observed, "The yelling comes when we have lost control of the situation and we do not know what else to do." If you can take care of yourself and reflect a bit on what may be the underlying cause of the yelling, you've taken an important first step in taking care of the situation.
2. Set clear and consistent boundaries for your kids.
As parents, it's important we communicate clearly with our children what we expect of them. A mom about to head into the grocery store with her three-year-old might want to remind her daughter that she expects her to sit quietly in the cart and not touch the items on the shelf. Parents of teenagers would do well to go over curfew times before their teenager goes out with friends.
Beyond this, we would be wise to consistently talk about – and model in our own lives – the values, manners and positive character traits we want our kids to live out.
3. Have a variety of discipline tools available in your "parenting toolkit."
There are many ways to deal with poor behavior. As parents, let's ask God for discernment to make wise decisions. The same God who created your child and knows him or her even better than you do, can give you insight into what approach will work best. Go to Him often in prayer for wisdom and clarity – especially since what worked with your first child might not work with your second.
While it's currently en vogue in some circles to avoid spanking, Focus on the Family believes it's a tactic that can be used effectively as part of a comprehensive discipline plan with younger children. Administered judiciously and within careful boundaries, and always with love, there are some children who respond well to spanking. This is something parents should pray through and both agree on.
Other disciplinary techniques include time-outs and taking privileges away. A good preemptive measure is to let kids get adequate play and "free" time so they have an outlet for their energy.
4. Factor in the importance of good timing when disciplining.
Generally speaking, toddlers and younger children need consistent, immediate discipline so they can connect the wrongful behavior with the consequence.
Older children might benefit from a "cooling down" period before entering into a conversation on why their action was wrong, and what they should do differently next time. To be honest, moms and dads often benefit from this too! It gives us as parents a chance to pray, think through what we want to say and what consequence we want our children to face.
5. Give yourself grace.
It's not easy to change habits. Allow yourself some time to break the habit, and understand that you will fail at times. Trust God to help you accomplish the goal of screaming less; after all, He wants to help us become better parents. Don't get discouraged and keep at it!