Paging Dr. Smerling: Are You a Yeller? Here’s How To Stop It NOW
Here’s something we’ve all done from time-to-time when we’ve unexpectedly lost our temper: yelling at or around our children. But when does it cross the line into abuse? And can even a little yelling create lasting problems? Family therapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling weighs in, and provides advice on how to stop, below.
Do you have a “yeller” in your family? Are you the “yeller” in your family?
Lest you are confused…let me define the word. A yeller is:
-someone who knows no volume control.
-someone who shrieks no matter what the issue is, large or small.
-someone who has no sensitivity to pitch. The only pitch is loud and louder.
-someone who wants to be noticed, but is really a “verbal terrorist.”
Now that you can recognize the yeller, let me tell you about the negative effects of this behavior. Current research shows that someone who yells is as abusive as someone who uses physical force. Yelling inflicts emotional abuse, producing the same scars on children as a slap in the face. These scars are ones you cannot see, but are as deep and poignant as if they were physically abused (and have a longer lasting resonance).
Research also shows that many yellers are not aware of alternatives, even though it is those alternatives to child discipline that, in fact, actually produce the desired result.
So lets look at the alternatives and find a healthier way to communicate. I’m a big fan of creating a family sticker chart. Include all members of the family. To keep it light, you might even put the family pet on the chart. Each time you choose an alternative behavior to yelling, give yourself a sticker. If you have gone 7 days without yelling, there will be a small prize at the end of the week. (Your family can think of a meaningful one for each family member). If you yell, however, remove a sticker. This can be a great incentive to replace yelling with new patterns.
Here are some alternatives to yelling:
-Count to 5 when you feel like yelling. Take a deep breathe as you’re counting. Count slowly. Breathe in and out.
-Give yourself a time out when you feel like yelling. Even mommy and daddy can have time outs to remove ourselves from the situation. When you feel more in control, come back and speak in a calm manner.
-Yelling is often a substitute for an expression of anger. Have a family discussion about anger.
-Have a family whisper hour.
-Point out characters in movies or on television who yell. Does it have the desired effect on the person they are talking to?
-If a family member does yell, discuss with them why they felt it was necessary to yell.
-At bedtime, praise your child when they are able to control their yelling.