How to get your son to listen – without yelling

Last Sunday, after a hot and restless night, I decided to take my sons to the cinema and then to IKEA. By myself.

Sure enough, sweltering in the car on the way home, exhausted by Captain Underpants and flat-pack furniture, my 5-year-old began an epic meltdown that lasted a good hour.

I was handling it so well. Really I was. And then, after 40 minutes of my littlest boy screaming at me and trashing his room, I crouched down to his level and… I yelled at him. Loudly.

It didn’t help. I knew it wouldn’t. All it did was make him shout louder and make me feel like the world’s worst mum.

Later that night, racked with guilt, I searched for answers on the internet. I read a raft of articles about how yelling is ‘the new spanking’. How it damages our kids’ brains. How it triggers anxiety that can stay with them for life.

However, I did find some comfort. Apparently, I’m not the only parent who yells (and wants to stop). Tens of thousands of parents take to forums and follow blogs such as The Orange Rhino seeking advice on how to yell less.

Of all these parents, I don’t think any believe yelling is a good parenting tool. But guilt and shame aren’t particularly useful parenting tools either.

The most useful article I found was this one by parenting educator and mother Ariadne Brill. Brill offers some helpful proactive strategies but, most importantly, she approaches the yelling issue from a place of understanding rather than judgement. Brill helped me recognise that, having spent time feeling guilty about yelling and Googling ‘how to yell at my kids less’, I’m not such a bad parent after all – just a human one.

We all lose it sometimes, but the best way to start being gentler and kinder to our kids is to be gentler and kinder to ourselves.


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