Are you ready for a Family Vow of "Yellibacy"?
Let’s face it, yelling is one way to let off steam. And we seem to be letting off more than our share these days. Unfortunately, the holidays are a time when stress builds and we let off steam with one another. Studies show that both kids and parents alike are far more stressed than just a decade ago. Those studies also show that family yelling matches and flaring tempers are especially prevalent during tough economic times–like now, and there’s proof: An online survey of 1300 U.S. parents named yelling—not working or spanking or missing a school event—as their biggest guilt inducer.
Our tempers do affect our kids. Yelling can also become an easy habit that can ruin family harmony. Just tolerating yelling just teaches a kid that the way to get what you want is by upping the volume. And beware: the more yelling, the more it must be utilized to be effective. So family members get used to the screaming, the pitch gets louder, the frequency gets longer and soon everyone starts using it so they can be heard. Yelling is also contagious so chances are that if one family member has learned to scream, another will catch the “screaming bug.”
If you want to boost your family’s harmony and reduce those yelling matches, then something needs to be altered, A.S.A.P. Here are the seven steps to reduce this vicious yelling cycle. Change takes commitment, but it is doable. Stick to that plan!
7 steps to reduce yelling, temper tempers and be a calmer family
STEP 1: Take a “Calmer Family” vow. Begin by gathering the troops and convey your new “no yelling” expectations to all family members. Everyone must know you mean business-- that yelling will no longer be tolerated. Explain that while it’s okay to be angry, they may not use a yelling voice to express their feelings. If the member needs to take a time out to calm down, he may do so. Some families take a “no yelling” vow and sign a pledge, and post it as a concrete reminder. Hint: Kids mirror our emotions. When you raise your voice, they raise theirs. When you get tense, they get tense. The fastest way to help your kids reduce anger is for you to be calm.
STEP 2: Learn your stress warning signs. Stress comes before anger. Anger comes before yelling. The best way to stop yelling is to identify your own unique physiological stress signs that warn us we’re getting angry. Explain to your kids that we should tune in to them because they help us stay out of trouble. Next, help your child recognize what specific warning signs he may have that tell him he’s starting to get upset. For example: “Looks like you’re tense. Your hands are in a fist. Do you feel yourself starting to get angry?” Anger escalates very quickly: If a kid waits until he is in “melt down” or a “screaming match” to get himself back into control, he’s too late—and so are you to try and help him. Here are a few common warning signs: Flushed checks. Pounding hearts. Louder voice. Clenched hands. Grinding teeth. Rapid breathing. Body vibrates. Drier mouth.
STEP 3. Identify family temper triggers. Yelling matches typically happen at the same time such as when you just get home from work, homework time, the morning mania or witching hour. It helps family members learn to recognize one another’s time vulnerabilities–or the time they are most prone to yell. For instance: John: First thing in the morning when he’s always grouchy. Kenny: around 2 pm when he needs a nap. Mom: 6 pm when she’s trying to get dinner going. Members just need to be a bit more sensitive.
STEP 4. Teach healthier alternatives to express needs. Many families yell because they simply don’t know how to express their anger another way. So teach a healthier way.
- Teach “I” messages. Explain that instead of starting messages with “You,” begin with “I.” It helps your kid stay focused on the person’s troublesome behavior without putting the person down so the chances for emotional outbursts (and yelling) are lessened. The child then tells the offender what the person did that upset him. He may also state how he’d like the problem resolved. For example: “I get really upset when you take my stuff. I want you to ask me for permission first.” Or: “I don’t like to be teased. Please stop.”
- Label emotions. Encourage members to acknowledge their hot feelings to one another. “Watch out. I’m really getting upset.” “I’m so angry I could burst.” “I feel so frustrated that you’re not listening to me.” Labeling the feeling helps both the yeller and the receiver calm down and get a bit of perspective. Give everyone in your family permission to verbalize their feelings and then honor them by listening to their concerns.
- Give permission to “Take Ten”. Let everyone in your family know it’s okay to say, “I need a time out.” Then take a few deep breaths or walk away until you can get back in control. Then give that permission. If the yeller doesn’t stop, ask him to go to time out. Set up a place where a yeller can calm down.
STEP 5. Refuse to engage with a screamer. You know this one: “If your kid screams and you scream, you all scream. So make a rule that you will NOT engage with an out-of-control kid. Wear a bracelet to remind you. Or tape a red card to your wall so when you see it, it tells you: “Stay calm!” Here are a few other tips:
- Create a warning signal. Some families make up their own “family signal” such as pulling your ear, holding up a red card or a “Time Out” hand gesture. It is agreed upon by all members and it signifies someone is using an inappropriate voice tone. Then use it the second his voice goes one scale above a “normal range”. It means he needs to lower his voice immediately or you won’t listen.
- Do NOT engage. If he continues using a loud, yelling tone, absolutely refuse to listen. Firmly (and calmly) explain: “That’s yelling. I only listen when you use a calm voice.” The moment you yell back, the yeller knows he/she won and the yelling cycle continues. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom, do so. The screamer needs to know yelling doesn’t work. Walk away and go about your business until he talks right. As long as he yells, keep walking.
STEP 6. Reduce stress as a family. Find what is adding to your family’s stress that is triggering those yelling matches. You may not be able to get dad’s job back or gain back your retirement fund but you can do things to reduce the stress in your home. Here are a few things.
- Keep to routines. Sticking to a routine helps reduce stress because it boosts predictability and boosts security. While everything else around them may seem to be crumbling, those bedtime rituals, nighttime stories, hot baths, hugs and backrubs remain the same.
- Cut down. Too much going on? Cut one thing out of your schedule. Just reducing one thing can reduce those yelling matches because you’re cutting the stress.
- Monitor news consumption. Limit viewing those stressful news stories or better yet, turn the TV off during the news hour. Kids admit those stories are scaring the pants of them (and us) and will boost our stress—and tempers.
- Find ways to relax. Find no-cost ways to reduce stress as a family. Meditate with your kids, do yoga with your daughter, ride bikes with your preschooler, listen to relaxation tapes with your kids. Not only will you reduce your stress but you’ll also help your kids learn healthy ways to minimize theirs. It will also reduce the yelling.
- Rebuild relationships. Are your kids yelling because they’re not being heard? Or has yelling been going on so long and now relationships are jarred? Find one on one time with those family members who need you most.
STEP 7. Stick to your “Calmer Family Challenge” at least 21 days. Change is hard work. Be consistent. Your kids need to know you mean business, so stick to your plan at least 21 days. Get a monthly calendar and mark off each day you stick to the plan. You should see a gradual reduction in the yelling. If yelling continues despite your best efforts or escalates, then there is a deeper underlying problem. It’s time to seek the help of a mental health professional for your child or a therapist for you and your spouse or family. But commit to following through so you do temper those tempers and you become a calmer family.
Above all stay calm. Kids mirror our emotions and just-released research proves that our kids are picking up on our stress. They also copy our behaviors. When you raise your voice, they raise theirs. When you get tense, they get tense. The fastest way to help your kids reduce stress and help kids calm down is for you to be calm yourself.
So are you ready to take that Vow of Yellibacy??