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We have a vision of Gentle Parenting as sunny mornings around the breakfast table, with an abundance of time and patience. Birds singing, children humming. All smiles and tranguility. I sure do.
Then reality kicks in! Tired toddlers who dont coorperate. No teethbrushing. No boots on. Late for work. Behind with a load of emails that need my attention. They dont want to get in the car. They dont want to get out of the car.
I’m sure we’ve all been there, where we feel that yelling has been our ‘go-to’ reaction. We might start out with the right intentions, we listen, and we stay calm. But in the end, we grab the last resource we have – suddenly we are yelling – and only then do they finally listen and take us seriously. It works!
And I get it; it takes lots of practice and patience to get what we are asking for without yelling or losing our temper.
Why we shouldnt be yelling!
- When we yell, we have lost all control of ourselves and any chance we had of staying in charge of the situation. Actually, we have given away all the power we might have had.
- When we start yelling, we have stopped all forms of healthy communication since we are not listening anymore. Our negative emotions have taken over and are controlling us. There is no way forward to solve the issues that respects our kids and sits well with us.
- It sends a signal to our kid’s brains that they are in danger and they will most likely go into fight or flight mode and will automatically fight back or move away (run away from us, in fact they are just running away from danger)
- Yelling can have a long-term effect on our kids if it happens too often and we become out of control. Nobody likes to be yelled at and it is a humiliating experience they will carry with them.
- We are our kids’ biggest role model and from an early age they copy everything we say and do and how we say it! I think you know what I am about to say now. Yes, if we want our kids to stop yelling and start listening, we need to show them how to do it!
Gentle Parenting comes from the inside.
First we need to show and teach our kids how to control our behavior by checking in with our emotions – what we feel in the here and now:
- Notice the feeling when it comes, stop what you are about to say or do and take a deep breath. Nothing else for now.
- Think: What am I feeling right now? At this point don’t fight it, step into the feeling and accept it, ‘this is my feeling and I cannot get rid of it but I don’t want it to control how I parent next!’
- Notice any self-thoughts or doubts and then challenge them. It might be that you think ‘I am so mad right now why does he do this to me’ or ‘I don’t deserve this!’ or ‘here we go again, she is not going to listen to me and she will create another battle’. Stop yourself and challenge these thoughts i.e. ‘I can deal with this, his behavior is normal and will go away’, ‘she is so nice most of the time so we can get through this. Obviously, she is not like this all the time’ etc.
- Allow a pause before you do or say anything. This will allow you to get yourself, your emotions and actions under control.
- Make a decision: choose what you will do and say, or not do and say. It is ok to take a time out or ignore a child’s behaviour (never ignore the child, only the behaviour i.e. nagging, yelling, moods etc) as long as we re-engage later, restore the balance and connection.
- Make it a family agreement to work on the yelling. Have a signal that you can give each other when anybody is about to yell.
- Admit to mistakes: We are human, you will get it wrong, but awareness is the first step to change. It is good parenting and role modelling to be able to go back and say, ‘you know what, that was not my finest moment and I am not proud or happy of the way I behaved, I will do my best to changing that and not repeat it’.
Gentle Parenting really means be gentle to yourself: find your own inner peace. Let it radiate from you.
Just by reading this article you are already changing things for the better, since you care and are willing to work on things. No one said that parenting was going to be easy and most of us are trying our best and sometimes that is good enough!