Want to stop yelling at your kids? Find out why kids often don’t listen until you’re yelling and try these simple alternatives instead!
Has this ever happened to you?
It’s time to go somewhere, so you walk into a room where your child is playing and say something like, “Hey sweetheart, can you get your shoes on?” in your nicest voice.
Nothing happens, of course, so you patiently try again, “Can you get your shoes on?” followed by:
“Really, it’s time to get your shoes on.”
“Get your shoes on.”
“Get your shoes ON.”
“GET YOUR SHOES ON!!”
Only to have your confused child look up at you and say something like, “Geez mom, why do you always yell?”
Chances are, if you have little people living under your roof then you’ve experienced situations just like this (likely more than you can count). Just know, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there, I know I certainly have.
“MY CHILD ONLY LISTENS WHEN I YELL”
When it came to getting my kids to listen, I used to feel that I was deficient. I mean, why could other moms get by without yelling. What was wrong with me?
And then I saw a hilarious YouTube clip that portrays the exact scenario above. And then it hit me – I’m NOT crazy. It’s not just me!
I’m not the only one who asks nicely only to get ignored until I yell!
(When you’re done reading through the alternatives to yelling in this post, make sure to come back and watch the clip. It’s hilarious and will give you just the validation you need.)
And what was making things worse was the fact that I would say things like “no one ever listens until I yell” out loud to my kids all the time. Unfortunately, this didn’t instill the remorse and change I naively hoped for. All it did was reinforce their habit!
My kids came to understand (and expect) that no one really HAD to get moving until mom lost it.
Well, I didn’t want my kids growing up only remembering me as the crazy lady who yelled all the time, so I knew I had to figure something out. I needed to find some yelling alternatives.
WHY DOESN’T YELLING WORK?
Well, to be honest, when we yell…our kids simply learn to tune us out.
Of course, yelling has negative effects on our children’s development, but the main point I want to drive home in this post is that it simply doesn’t work.
Not long-term anyway.
The more we yell, the more our kids get used to it. They learn to adapt and we become invisible – until we go absolutely crazy, that is.
And the worst part is, they can even get used to our tantrums, meaning each subsequent explosion has to be bigger than the last just to get their attention. And that’s the start of a vicious cycle none of us want.
So what’s the alternative? How can we actually get our kids to listen so we stop yelling at them?
While there’s no guarantee that we won’t ever lose our temper, it helps to have a few strategies and yelling alternatives to break the yelling cycle.
GETTING KIDS TO LISTEN: 10 ALTERNATIVES TO YELLING
When I’m mad, it’s hard to come up with rational solutions on the spot. That’s why I love having clear and simple reminders to fall back on when I can’t think.
So when formatting this list, I decided to start with the “don’t” first to make it easier to recognize the common trigger behaviors we experience. By pointing them out, we can better understand why our kids aren’t listening so we can meet our kids in the middle instead, and work toward better outcomes.
1. DON’T REPEAT…
…Mix things up instead.
Don’t say the same thing the same way more than once. Change your phrasing, tone of voice, body language, speed or volume. But by volume, I mean get quieter. If your kids aren’t listening, did you know you can trick them into paying closer attention by talking softer than you usually do?
You could even get more creative by changing your voice into something silly. Doing things differently or using humor can be a great way to get their attention.
2. DON’T OVERCOMPLICATE…
…Keep it simple.
If you say something like, “Put your toy away. It’s time to go upstairs, get your shoes, brush your hair, and go to the bathroom. Meet me by the door in 5 minutes.” the only thing your kids will take from that is, “I have 5 more minutes to play.”
Whenever possible, give only 1-2 instructions at a time. I still have to remember this with my 10-year-old!
Kids need short, clear directions. They’re more likely to listen when given instructions in phases.
Bonus tip: When it’s almost time to wrap up an activity (playing, screen time, bath, friends, etc.) give a 2-5 minute warning. This will prepare them, making them more likely to listen when it’s time to be done.
3. DON’T COMMAND…
Rather than saying, “You need to clean up your toys”, you could say, “Let’s clean up our toys” or “Can you help me clean up these toys?”
The next time you ask your kids to do something, try replacing pronouns like “you” and “your” with pronouns like “us” and “ours”. You could even invite them to do things by turning the instructions into questions.
Simple changes like these make our approach less threatening and can lessen our kids’ desire to resist.
4. DON’T THREATEN…
As parents, it’s our job to introduce and teach consequences. Some are natural, and others are chosen by us. But in the heat of the moment? That’s not the best time to dangle a consequence, especially one we might not be able to follow through on.
When we’re angry, it’s easy to find ourselves threatening with consequences that are either too big or don’t fit the “crime”. So rather than leading with an “if/then” statement, try some of the other alternatives in this post. Then, if nothing is working, it’s time to hold your child accountable – but stay neutral.
For example, instead of “If you don’t clean this up right now, then…” try, “I’m sorry you chose not to follow instructions,” followed by a reasonable (and related) consequence.
Keep your body language and tone of voice neutral. The consequence is a result of their action, not as vengeance from a mad parent.
5. DON’T BE VAGUE…
…Say what you mean.
“It’s time to go!”
When? In 5 minutes? Right this second?
So often, I would say this exact phrase over and over with no avail. Why wouldn’t anyone just listen the first time??
When I finally thought about it, I realized that I’d say, “It’s time to go”, then run upstairs to get something. I’d say it again, then start going through the house to turn all the lights off. Then I’d say it louder while I ran to the bathroom real quick. Only to yell it while I started changing the baby’s diaper.
No wonder no one took me seriously!
We need to say what we mean, when we mean it. We have to be clear.
And that includes “It’s time for dinner,” or anything we say over and over while multitasking.
6. DON’T GIVE IN
If you’ve asked your child to do something several times with no luck, don’t shrug it off thinking, “fine, whatever, it’s not worth it”. Follow through!
This is especially hard for moms with multiple children. We’re often so caught up in other things that it seems easier to forget it. But if we want our kids to learn to listen, we have to stay consistent. We have to be reliable.
Our kids have to learn that it’s not okay to ignore us until we yell. So don’t say anything until you’re prepared to follow through.
7. DON’T BE UNREASONABLE
…Pick your battles.
If something is important and we need our kids to obey, we need to stay firm, like I just said. But is everything always so important?
Sometimes, we need to loosen the reins a little. We need to step back and ask ourselves if something is really worth turning into a big deal. Is it serving a purpose or are we just trying to win a battle?
One of the hardest parts of parenting is letting go of some control. We still need to teach our kids and maintain order, of course, but we also need to be understanding of where our kids are coming from.
Sometimes kids are as slow as snails and other times they really do need the entire roll of tape to complete their artwork. That’s just how it is.
8. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY…
…Remain the adult.
Years ago, when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher taught me a powerful lesson. She said, “I know I’m relinquishing control as soon as I resort to sarcasm.”
It’s hard to admit to ourselves, but sometimes, we start sinking to our children’s level. When we start being sarcastic, accusatory, or defensive, we’re giving control of the situation to our kids. We’re putting them in power – and they know it.
Sometimes kids are the sweetest. And sometimes they’re jerks. That’s just part of child development. They’re constantly testing boundaries so they can establish their safety zones, whether it’s obvious or not. And it’s our job to help them out.
So when you feel yourself losing control of your maturity, catch yourself and find another way. (Hopefully with one of these yelling alternatives!)
9. DON’T EXPLODE
…Take a timeout.
If all else fails and you’re about to lose it, it’s time to leave the situation for a moment.
Not only is this an excellent way to regain control of your emotions, it’s also the perfect opportunity to teach your kids an anger management technique. Our kids watch and learn from our behaviors, so when they see us take steps to control our anger, they’ll learn it’s something they can do too.
Say something like, “Mommy’s feeling angry right now, I need a quick timeout”, and say it out loud. There’s an incredible power in calling out your emotion for what it is. Naming it makes it something that can be controlled and managed, rather than something you can’t help.
For a quick timeout, physically move into a new location and take a second to calm yourself down. Then you’ll be able to think clearly and rationally so you can get the situation under control.
10. DON’T GIVE UP…
…Take it one situation at a time.
We’re all human, and we all get angry. We won’t always handle every situation perfectly, but we can’t pile that onto the “mom guilt” so many of us feel already.
If you mess up, be kind to yourself. You’re not a bad parent. You love your kids and are a good mom or you wouldn’t be searching for yelling alternatives in the first place!
But as nice as it would be to read an article like this and never yell at our kids again, we still have to take it one situation at a time. And the more we practice, the better we’ll get at it.
WANT TO STOP YELLING AT YOUR KIDS?
Before you go, be sure to grab The Peaceful Parent Starter Guide. This free guide will show you how to begin creating simple systems in your life so you can become a more calm and confident parent.
You’ll love having this quick, easy reference to add to your parenting toolbelt!
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS:
- The Surprising Reasons You Yell At Your Kids And How To Stop
- 5 Simple Ways To Discipline Without Yelling
- How To Keep Your Cool When Kids Won’t Listen
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