The Voice of Reason: Yelling at your kids

By: Sarah Stokes Email
By: Sarah Stokes Email
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You can check out 1, 2, 3 Magic materials at the library according to parents and local facilitators say they will have Love and Logic classes starting up again at the start of the new year. See a link to Eau Claire Classes and the attached document to find Coulee Region classes.

Eau Claire A study this fall published in the Child Development journal found that yelling at your kids may be just as harmful as physical punishment.

The University of Pitts burg study found that using harsh verbal discipline may cause the very kind of behavior your kids are getting yelled at for in the first place. The research found that kids who were yelled at were more likely to show antisocial and aggressive behavior.

It studied 967 kids for 2 years and showed during that time the effects of verbal discipline were comparable to the physical discipline effects. It also didn't matter if the parents were loving, the yelling did the same damage.

In this Assignment 13 report, we looked into what parents can do.

"I'm guilty of yelling, usually it takes a lot to get me there," says Jeremy Barton, a father of 3.

Even the most tender parents can lose their cool, resorting to raising their voice.

"My daughter the first time I ever yelled at her, her face just dropped," said Crystal Frei, mother of 3.

But in the end they say it just makes everyone feel worse.

"I feel miserable after I've done it," Barton said.

"You know maybe I can find a better way," said Crystal.

Crystal Frei has a busy life. She has 3 kids, 2 of whom have special needs. Between managing work, school and the household, she says she's fallen into the trap of yelling without even realizing it.

"The one thing that got me was I was telling my kids to be respectful and yelling at other people is not respectful and Keion actually looked at me and said but mom you're yelling at me. I was like, oh yeah, what a lesson to teach them!"

For Jeremy Barton and Tiffany Hinrichs, life moves like their daughters do on the playground, running at full speed, trying to keep up.
But this couple says they want to find the right balance. The biggest impact on their perspective as parents? Watching other people yell.

"I've seen parents fight and yell at their kids it just becomes a norm, normal every day reaction to everything to them. Eventually the yelling is normal every day talk so when something big does happen they blow it right off," Barton adds.

Hinrich recalls, "I worked at a store where they called them bad things and said they were ashamed of being their parent, that isn't a good thing. If you're going to bring them into the world then respect them."

"Opposition is met with opposition," says Chastity Drake. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor at First Things First Counseling in Altoona. She specializes in anger management and is a mom herself.

"Showing kids how to manage their emotions is part of our job as parents," she says.

She says yelling becomes a cycle and aggression and yelling leads to more aggression and yelling.

" It has potential long term effects on them if the cycle continues they'll do that to their children. Somebody needs to break the cycle."

She says it can cause anxiety, depression, low self worth, low confidence, outbursts and indecisiveness in our kids.

Drake says her clients sometimes tell her, "physical harm hurts temporarily when the emotional abuse lasts forever because you can never take back those words."

She says shaming is the most damaging, the message that they are not good or not good enough. "It makes kids feel bad about who they are leads to issues later in life, that's actually a fair amount of what I end up seeing."

So what can parents do?

"For me walking a way, count to 10 and re-approach it or I lose my composure and the whole conversation is lost," Crystal says.

Barton says, "I have to tend to walk away."

Drake agrees taking your own time out first is good in the moment, but start with self care. Reduce your stress by taking time for things you enjoy when you can. She also says stop sweating the small stuff with your kids and choose calm. After all you're the adult.

"Show them how you want them to react."

But to prevent yelling long term there are programs for parents.

Crystal tells us, "I do the 1, 2, 3 Magic."

Drake says she uses that with her own children and also subscribes to the Love and Logic way of parenting for any age.

"Takes a lot of consistency," says Sheri Van Vuren is a Family Services Specialist with Head Start and a Love and Logic facilitator with 16 years and 2 kids worth of experience under her belt.

"Children who have positive reinforcements are able to have more self control," she says.

And parents who have more tools can better avoid yelling as well.

Van Vuren says, "I love you too much to argue. Stops it in its tracks."

She says Love and Logic focuses on five core things:

1) The uh oh song... Parents keep calm and with no emotion remove their child from the problem situation

2) Empathy, I love you too much to argue part as well as a statement of empathy

"I'm really sad for you but you had a choice," she references.

3) Energy drain

"When you do that you drain my energy. It's going to take you doing the dishes to put that energy back."

4) Give them choices

"The red shirt or the blue shirt."
If they don't choose: "It looks like you're having trouble making a choice, I'll make it for you."

5) Set clear limits

Van Vuren and Drake say Love and Logic works for any age. Drake likes 1, 2, 3 Magic for young kids. She says it's a way to handle a time out.

When your child starts to act up, you say: that's one
If they don't stop, you say that's 2
(The key is using no emotion during this)
And if you get to 3 it's a time out, 1 minute per year of age up to 4.

Crystal combines the 1, 2, 3 Magic with a consequence instead of time out as her kids have grown up.

"They know if you get to 3 there's a consequence."

Now they lose the fun minutes they've earned through chores that week. "It works really well," she adds.

All the parents and professionals agree you have to be consistent and if you slip up, forgive yourself and start again.

"If you remain calm they will too.They're gonna fight and it's a kids job to test the boundaries and limits, but just remembering we're the adults," says Van Vuren. When asked what they say to the people who argue that children need more traditional or corporal punishment, she says discipline means to teach. If you use verbal or physical punishment you're showing them that's what you want them to do. She says these tools will help parents prevent the kind of behavior that leads to bigger problems and parenting is always evolving.

Crystal says keeping calm has made for easier mornings and more fun family nights. She says by improving her parenting skills she hopes her kids improve upon what they've learned.

"I'm not perfect, I'm never going to be perfect at anything but the most important thing I'll ever do is be a parent and if I can get those tools to do it better then at least I get a win," says Crystal.

Van Vuren says her favorite quote says, "there's no way to be a perfect parent but a million ways to be a good one."

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