Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Not to Yell: Breaking the Trend

I think as a teacher and a parent we all loose our cool at some time or another, but how effective is it when we do?  If your children or students are anything like mine, not at all!   My children seem to almost get and irritating joy from making mom break.  And why wouldn't they?  As a recent article I read (here) pointed out, when you yell at the child you invite, or even trigger, the human nature to "save face".  Think of how you react when someone yells at you.  The hairs on your neck are up, as are your defenses, especially if others are near.  How dare they treat you such a way?  Yet we do so to our children because as a society we have been taught that children are some how different or lesser people.  Just because the child is less educated does not make them a lesser person.  Nor does it mean that they do not have similar reactions to confrontations.

At each  stage of childhood, the child is learning to be an adult and to develop as an independent, free thinking person.  However we all to often forget this and instead try to form brain washed clones.  I admit (not so proudly) that there are times that I fall back to these traps of conventional parenting.  We say "old habits die hard" or "well that is the way my parents did it"  to justify our actions, but we know in our hearts that is no excuse or we wouldn't feel the need to justify.  However the results speak the truth.  We are either left with aggressive rebellious children or the fore mentioned clones.  The clones do well in our society because they do not think on their own and most of the rest of society is comprised of clones.  If you need evidence of this just drive through the suburbs where every house looks the same.  The rebellious can be okay but normally have a hard time in life because few like someone that is not co-operative at all.

If we can't yell,  how do we correct?

Our children are bound to see what they are allowed and not allowed to do.  First, you must teach the child what no means.  How many times have  you heard a parent say "What part of no don't you understand?" or even felt the desire to say this.  We fault the child for not listening, but perhaps the question being asked is the key to the problem.  What is the part of no that the child does not understand?  Is the child aware that no means "you can not do that"  or have you like many parents taught them that it means something else.  In my household growing up "no" meant, you can't do that until you annoy me enough and I either threaten to beat your butt or give in and say "do what you want to do you're going to anyway". Who the child is interacting with can even change their understanding.  How many times have you heard a stressed out mother exclaim "I just don't get it!  I yell until I am blue in the face, then their father comes home, says "No!" in a clear calm tone and they listen." In this case, it is often because Dad has set a clearer no nonsense demonstration of the word no and the consequences of not listening or pestering.  Yet again we see that the yelling is not the effective mode, but giving the child a clear understanding.

I myself reached a point where I felt I was constantly yelling at a child to stop and....(fill in the blank). I found myself very stressed and with nothing accomplished for it.  I decided enough was enough.  I do not wish to live in a combatant home, but I do not wish for unruly children either.  I had to find something so that I could have the home I wanted.  I decided to try emulating a sect of characters from a book series I love called the Aes Sedei.   They maintain outward calmness no matter how they are feeling at the time and never shout. Instead when others begin to shout they whisper so that the shouting person must strain to hear them.  Low and behold, my children began to simmer.  I was feeling more piece than I had in a while and my children seemed less agitated as well.  We are still in the beginning stages of this return to a calm effort, but I already see a shift for the better in both my children.  When they do something rude or unacceptable I simply tell them that it is so and how they should behave.  I give them the choice of stopping the action and making the correct one or sitting in the corner until they are ready to act in a civilized manner.  There is not altercation, there is no room for argument, the child has two choices and I give them time to consider it.  They are normally frozen in place after given the choice.  Sometimes they elect to sit in the corner, but more times they say they are ready to stop the action and be civil.

Now let me add the disclaimer that should the child be in harms way and yelling is the only way that you can think to get the attention fast such as, "No! Don't run into the street" or "No! That is hot don't touch it!"  should arise, I believe it does not harm to yell, though you most likely will startle the child and may even expect it to cause tears.  At this point it is important to go to the child and tell them why you yelled.  How you were scared that s/he would have gotten hurt and needed the child to stop quickly.  If your child is not yelled at daily, yelling in these cases will even be more effective at getting a quick stop, than if that tone is a normal one.  Thus my final argument against yelling as a general rule.  Eventually, as the cliche states, "it goes in one ear and out the other".  In effect, the child will learn to tone you out and not listen at all.  For if you do not respect the child, the child will eventually stop respecting you. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your blogging, I will definately keep following! Whilst I get that your approach to discipline is probably working for you and agree with everything you've said, I am using a different approach. I am mentioning this because you seem like a pretty open minded person. I thought you would find an alternative even more unconventional approach interesting to at least think about (if you havent read it already). It is a book (also a DVD but the book is slightly more thorough) called unconditional parenting by Alfie Kohn.

    In a nutshell it explains alot of the aspects of modern parenting advice and how it all relates to " behaviour", his approach is to look at the behaviour as a consequence of thoughts and feelings and the idea that the child gains their perception from how we behave to them and as a role model. You have encorporated this idea to some extent but your approach is still kind of managing behaviour.

    I thought you raised a really interesting point about the word "no" and are on the right track with it, what are your thoughts on eliminating this confusion by not using the word "no" when setting boundaries, describing eg. touching the cat when she's sleeping might upset her, shall we find something else to touch?or even, the cat seemed a bit upset when you just touched her, maybe she likes to be left alone when she sleeps, she seems to like it when we stroke her gently when she's walking about...as a really basic example. It also suggests that if a child does not hear the word "no" re: boundaries, the child is less likely to use it themselves when protesting or going through the stage of trying to exert their own autonomy (hopefully also because they would have been given more autonomy and you would have analysed whether they really need to be told they cannot do something, or whether what they are doing could be taylored so they still have choice and autonomy). Also, in our own upbringings there is usually a mental association with the word "no" when it was told to us (usually with our parents being the authority figure), i believe not using it commands a whole new mental approach that doesnt have all the sub-conscious associations attached to our experiences, so we are less likely to revert back to "habit" of how we were raised, or maybe an approach we used before trying this. What do you think?

    Anyway, I emplore you to read the book and blog about your thoughts. It is all backed up with research and makes alot of sense to me. He is also an advocate for progressive education! ( I am looking at homeschooling montessori..my daughter is only one at the moment!I actually bought the DVD for her montessori nursery but she hasnt gone yet and they have a behaviourist approach which I personally feels clashes with the autonomy that montessori aims to give children). Enough rambling! take care, Jen.