Please help me stop yelling
December 31, 2017 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I yell at my six year old in specific situations (see inside). I am determined to stop. Please help me with alternatives.

Please don‘t tell me why yelling is bad. I know. That‘s why I‘m asking for strategies.

When I yell, it‘s because of this: I tell her to do or not do something and she grins and does the exact opposite.

Like, it‘s time to take a bath and she makes me chase her through the whole house, giggling.
Or, she repeatedly licks the filthy ice on the ice skating rink. Or she runs out onto the rink in her socks as a protest.

I yell because I feel powerless and furious and it feels urgent (it‘s late/full of germs/dangerous).

Please help me stop in the moment and
1) think something different
2) do something different

I know I‘m supposed to know how to parent, and in general I do, but it all goes out of the window. I need a strategy that short circuits the rage balloon and the „this is terrible“ panic.

Because my kid is amazing and doesn‘t deserve a yelling mom.
posted by Omnomnom to Human Relations (38 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I read this article recently that suggested using hair bands on your wrist as an anger accounting system.
posted by noloveforned at 6:55 AM on December 31, 2017

I think we might be able to advise you better if you explain whether you want to stop yelling because it's ineffective or because you think it's "wrong", and also, what you think is going on with your kid.

In the situations you cite here, I don't think yelling is wrong, in the sense of being too harsh, at all. But it might be ineffective, if goading you to yell is the reason she's doing those things.

Why do you think she does that stuff? To goad you, or because she's (for example) genuinely curious about the taste of filthy ice?

(I could tell you that for my kids, a clear explanation of why I needed them to [do whatever] usually worked, even at that age. We generally ran into trouble only when I failed to explain or got frustrated because I just wanted them to "have common sense". But I have no idea if your kid is like my kids.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:59 AM on December 31, 2017 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: I think that when I yell,I don‘t teach. I just get into a power struggle and „win“ it by being the loudest. I think that I am unleashing my anger and not parenting. And I think it‘s bad for her.

I‘m not sure why she does it - she gets caught up in the excitement of testing her boundaries AND she is curious in general?
posted by Omnomnom at 7:03 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

well, I do know that rage, that "EVERYTHING I DO IS FOR YOU AND I'M SO TIRED AND WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU JUST GET IN THE GOD DAMNED TUB LIKE I ONLY WISH I COULD DO" rage. And yeah, if you let it take you you won't get anything done.

So maybe first, stop beating yourself up: it is totally natural to feel that frustration. I believe all parents feel it: the difference is how they handle it. Acknowledge the frustration - give it a name - then try your tool box.

I do two things that seem to help with redirecting a power struggle. The first is explanation. I don't bother to dumb it down, I just speak at adult level, they have always gotten it. "Do not lick that ice, it is very dirty. Eating dirty things is a great way to get peritonitis, which will hurt you more than you would believe. Also, people won't want to be friends with you if you behave in socially unacceptable ways. You don't see anyone else here licking the ice."

The second is redirecting with humor. Making exaggeratedly horrified faces, clutching imaginary pearls, pretending to faint, using archaic or anthropological language to describe what they're doing. This one works particularly well when the kids are poking at each other; they get to roll their eyes at me instead and it all winds up ok.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:14 AM on December 31, 2017 [32 favorites]

The best book for techniques this is How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. Please get this book; it’s awesome. The second best book for this is Barbara Coloroso’s Kids are Worth It because it helps you examine the things that lead up to yelling.

Another resource which takes a log of time but has worked for our family is Playful Parenting, which diffuses power struggles through play.

That said, quick ideas:

Instead of yelling at her, express your own feelings: “I am so frustrated right now!” “I am in a rush and stressed out!” “I am really scared you will get sick!”

Talk before things happen: we’regoing To the rink. I have to trust that you won’t lick the ice. If you do, we’ll have to leave.” Then follow through. This is in no way blaming you but she has learned not to take you seriously until you yell, so decide what will happen if things go off the rails in advance.

The bath one is tricky. If that happens on a regular basis I would actually have her bathe at a different time of day.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:32 AM on December 31, 2017 [27 favorites]

I have been a parent for only half as long as you have, and have not yet had the experience of parenting a six-year-old, so grain of salt and all that.

I think there’s a difference between brief “HEY! STOP!” yelling and longer “I TOLD YOU AND I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT AND YOU AREN’T LISTENING YOU KNOW BETTER” lose-your-shit-type yelling. Neither is great, but the former is occasionally needed (ideally very occasionally) if the kid is headed for imminent danger or if they just won’t listen to anything else. The latter is just anger and noise. If you do find yourself having to do the attention-getting yell, your aim is getting to a non-yelly point as soon as possible, which means making sure you have your kid’s undivided attention (come over here, look at me, etc). If you can mentally reframe your anger as seriousness, that can help you sort of get it to a calmer, focused point.

It’s not clear whether you’re giving her any consequences when she acts out. You should. These should be as close as possible to the original incident, both chronologically and thematically: “we can’t have bath toys because we ran out of play time” or “we need to leave the rink” rather than unconnected punishment. Communicate these potential consequences well before you get to the breaking point, and you must be prepared to follow through.

Seconding How To Talk So Kids Will Listen; it addresses this exact type of scenario. A lot of parents I know also swear by 123 Magic, though I personally haven’t read it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:56 AM on December 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

oh, yeah, consequences is crucial. The most sabotaging thing you can do is to yell or threaten without actual consequences. Real, immediate follow-through - leaving the rink, not getting to go to the event (or bedtime reading time curtailed, whatever) because bath wasn't done timely - is necessary and remarkably effective. Never, ever threaten something you're not prepared to go through with.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:03 AM on December 31, 2017 [11 favorites]

Good book recommendations above. Also helpful is 1 2 3 Magic.

But do note, what works with one kid won't necessarily work with another. What works one week for your kid might not work the next. Kids are tough, and at that age they're changing a *lot*.

I have a 7 year old and an almost 9 year old. The seven year old is an angel who does what he's asked because he's easy going and doesn't fuss. The almost 9 year old has been diagnosed with significant behavior disorders and goes to school that his brother's after school program calls "the school for violent children."

Things that sometimes (though certainly not always) work for me with the difficult one:

Lowering, rather than raising my voice. This is very hit-or-miss, but sometimes just getting down on your knees so you're eye-to-eye, and almost going to a whisper can be effective.

Trying to teach the kid mood regulation strategies is really effective for one's self too :). If the kid is getting wild and you want them do some breathing to calm down, even if *they* aren't doing it with you, you're doing it for you and that's awesome.

Reward goals, like sticker sheets, can be very motivating. I have a little pocket notebook with some sticker packs tucked in, and boy wonder gets a sticker in the book for uneventful car rides, not fighting with his brother at the park, doing his homework, etc. He works toward rewards like getting to go to the pizza place with an arcade, things like that. One of the keys here is *never* remove stickers, etc. They might go weeks without earning one, but if the stickers can come out they won't have any faith in their getting the rewards.

Good luck!
posted by colin_l at 8:14 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Can you try a strategy like telling her it's bathtime 15 minutes earlier (so it feels less urgent) and then not chasing her when/if she runs. The chasing game isn't really fun unless you actually chase her, so she's not likely to keep running.

You could also try asking her to go and pick out a toy for the bath or offering a reward "Hey, if we can get you in pajamas by x time we'll have time for an extra story."

Or you could give into the chasing game, which she seems to love.
posted by bunderful at 8:15 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's 6 years old. There's this radical change in personality that is both awesome and also frustrating and can put them in harms way. Often I'm with my son and his best friend. Yesterday was great.

I'm entirely aware of the power struggle part, but I also think it's some sort of mental and physical growth spurt, there's so much energy there!

Number one forgive yourself, and think of the word "forgive" like giving a gift to a future you. I don't think we're making the mistakes our parents made and we're not warping our children. I know because we're both actively thinking about this. Number One, you'll have a lot more patience with the typical acting out if you're not mentally beating yourself up. Take your internal drama and guilt out of the equation. Forgive yourself.

We're trying to make the adjustment that our son needs step by step supervision again, but definitely in a sit by and encourage patiently type way. This includes getting up earlier, being more organized so we can devote effort towards stuff our son was previously doing on his own like sitting still through breakfast or getting dressed quickly and by himself. Now for each of these tasks there are 2 comedy routines, he's gotta bounce off the walls intermittently, there's a bunch of stories that don't make sense it's my job to enthusiastically pretend I understand. Good times.

Our strategy is to build more time for his current process into our routines, just until this stage passes. I know you know what I mean here when I say I don't want to accidentally squash a budding interest or talent with harsh words taken to heart because I was in a rush.

I'm interested to see what others say. We're dialing up the patience and adjusting ourselves to (within reason) accommodate his growth spurt weirdness.
posted by jbenben at 8:16 AM on December 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, this is so hard. My daughter was/can still be like this and it's such a terrible feeling, because sometimes it's a safety issue. Fair warning, this is a novel because it's not a quick solution.

When she was 2ish, my friend and I both took our kids to the park, and practiced letting them run, and then "stop!" and "come back!" Her son would stop on a dime, and come back obediently every time. My kid would laugh and dash farther away. We joked that these are qualities that might serve her well as a growing woman - but that were going to be infuriating in the meantime, and it proved true when it came down to navigating parking lots and thin ice. I cried to our doctor that if we every had to be in a situation like Anne Frank's family in an attic, I'd have to suffocate her to save others because she would never, never be quiet if I merely told her shush.

A dozen years later, after considering ODD, and getting a prescription for my own anxiety, and after a dozen or more incidences at parent teacher conferences where we've discussed her questioning of authority, it has turned out that she is a kinetic, experiential learner who is navigating the world boldly, sometimes fearlessly and achieving things such as leading the team to win grants for her GSA, and she has started her first job and has been described as having an incredible amount of presence and confidence for a teenager. I tell you this so that you can take heart - the days are long, but the years fly past.

It also turned out that she has a processing speed delay and executive function issues, and difficulty in reading facial expressions and tone of voice. Quite recently I had to pull the car over because she was not getting how much I really, really really needed her to stop goofing off when I was driving, as it was dangerously distracting. I did yell, and it was appropriate time to yell and it worked - and that is indeed the key to what I think will help. You have to be willing to pull over.

At Boxing Day brunch, my friend recounted how I had to teach my daughter a few things, and how I was actually a great mom because I tailored my parenting to what she needed when traditional methods didn't work. For example, at 4 she used to do this thing where she'd brace her arms and legs against walls, and "walk" up them - and would do this up the stairwell. So while I tried to find appropriate outlets, like Circus Camp and Rock Climbing and hours and hours of playground time, she still tested the boundaries at home because there was no consequence that seemed real, and it was ALWAYS worth the standard time-out. I wasn't dealing in her currency. So I told her, the next time I caught her climbing the walls like that, I'd show her what would happen if she fell. Within a short time it happened. I heard a giggle from above me, and there she was up the stairway, Spiderman-style, up fifteen stairs. I made her come down, and then I walked to her room and got a ceramic deer from her shelf, and threw it down the stairs. I showed her the broken-off head, and said that would happen to her if she fell. It worked.

Later, I had to put an orange in the middle of the road in front of our house for a car to drive over, to show her how she'd be squashed. She has had to touch hot things. I have had to do the glitter germ thing. To this day, because she is saving for a motorcycle, I show her @mrs_angemi 's instagram posts of motorcycle accidents, so that she'll see what happens when not wearing proper gear.

What also worked was for me to be more enthusiastic with praise, more fun when it's time to have fun, and scary firm only when it really counted. I think I read about this technique in the book the Nanny - about being all sweetness and light most of the time, and deadly serious when you need to be. It was a contrast with my naturally sarcastic and introverted and even-keeled self, but it was hard for my kid to read when things were going well versus when they were beginning to go ff the rails.

So, what I am telling you is that you are going to have to take good care of yourself so that you can be present and creative with your strong-willed kid. Build in extra time for everything. Eat well. Do what it takes to sustain yourself. We have rules to live by in our house - like "leave a margin for error" and "save energy for the dismount." When we're rushed, tired, spent and hungry, it all falls apart. And above all "All behaviour is communication." That's when it's also a good time to switch into my favourite bit of Ask advice ever, what Madamina learned from her friend: switch into Robonanny gear. "Child is overtired. Child needs a snack and fresh air. Chid needs redirecting. Beep Boop."

So, at bath time, if the running is about her needing fun and control, build the time in, set a limit - or, maybe it's time to switch to quick showers. If it's a power struggle at the ice rink, well, there were times that we put skates on at home and had her walk in her guards because that's what it took to be on time.

It means waking up before her in the mornings now and getting myself ready so that our mornings are about getting her through hers, because trying to accomplish things while being frustrated with her is a recipe for disaster. And, it means that we have had to let her experience the consequences of her shitty behaviour at times. So she misses a party, a lesson, a movie, a school field trip, or goes hungry at lunch because she learns by consequences. It sucks, it hurts me to see what could be so easily managed for neurotypical kids - but she actually can't handle certain seemingly simple things, and has had to create her own coping skills and learn to trust our scaffolding. It's not a reflection of my parenting - it's because that's how she learns. It made me very tired, I still feel like I'm recovering, and I feel for you.

Books that helped us were Kids, Parents and Power Struggles and Raising Your Spirited Child. Because my kid's Executive Function issues meant she also had issues with organization and impulse control, the book Smart but Scattered helped us create better daily routines that relieved a lot of frustration.

I wish you well - I am now in a place to sit back a little and enjoy my sparky kid who can now navigate the city very well, verbally smack down bigots and cat-callers, self-advocate, and who is thoughtful and compassionate and is becoming a fantastic young adult. But I remember how hard it was to have a kid that didn't respond as most others did to what seemed like basic, simple, traditional parenting techniques.
posted by peagood at 8:30 AM on December 31, 2017 [38 favorites]

Bunderful's comment reminds me that we're also giving more small jobs and responsibility to channel all that energy. So, giving him a sense of purpose and accomplishment? Today I'm going to try and get him to help me with some cleaning and organizing. Shaking the rugs out with me, helping me fold sheets from the laundry. Clean sheets are going to be all over the floor, ha ha, but he'll be working on our family's team. (I hope. Heh.)
posted by jbenben at 8:32 AM on December 31, 2017

I yell because I feel powerless and furious and it feels urgent (it‘s late/full of germs/dangerous).

Please help me stop in the moment and
1) think something different
2) do something different

For stopping in the moment, what might help is when you notice the feelings of powerlessness, anger, and fear rising, stop and take a deep breath. Or three. Or five. Other people have great suggestions for what to do after that, but you'll likely need to start building in a moment of mindfulness/awareness/grounding-yourself. Give yourself a breath to hit the Reset button, basically. (Obviously not if your child's about to run in front of a car or is otherwise in immediate danger, but ice-licking and bath-avoiding are not imminent-danger situations.)
posted by lazuli at 8:37 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

That's really frustrating.
I don't like to punish and use positive reinforcement but my kid paid for my wasted time. Does she like TV or Ipad, etc?

Running around the room not taking a bath? "I'm sorry, it is disrespectful to waste my time. I am going to count and that is the number of minutes you lose of your TV time."

So continuing to lick the ice? "I'm sorry. Licking the ice is not ok. I told you why - now we have to leave the rink and you can try again another day." Take her by the arm and lead her out.

She is 6 and unless there is a diagnosis, she is fully capable of listening most of the time. And when she doesn't, immediate and appropriate action. Not using it properly? Take it away for the day/week. "Sorry, these markers are not to be used on the table, I will put them away and you can try again next week."
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Alan Kazdin’s books are what worked for us. His view is that the only way to get your kids to do anything is to reward the behaviors you want. It worked quite well for us while the consequences-oriented approach of 123 Magic just never got us anywhere.

Knowing that consequences and yelling don’t work for your kid may help you stop yelling. As others have said, of course, all kids are different.
posted by Xalf at 9:05 AM on December 31, 2017

One thing really stood out to me in your question—“I know I‘m supposed to know how to parent...”
I think a lot of people feel this way, but parenting is not an innate skill and it’s not something you’re born knowing how to do. It takes a lot of “on the job” practice plus a lot of trial and error!
Good for you for recognizing that you could use some help with this particular aspect of parenting your daughter—please try not to beat yourself up over your past responses to her behavior. A lot of parents never get as far as recognizing that there’s room for improvement.
posted by bookmammal at 9:11 AM on December 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

There's a lot of great, solid advice above. Having said that, you might be being a little hard on yourself about yelling. I don't think there's anything wrong with a child learning that behaving in a certain way can make people angry and one way people express their anger is yelling. It's OK to have feelings, and it's OK to occasionally express those feelings within the boundary of not crossing the line into being verbally abusive.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 9:13 AM on December 31, 2017

I don't see anything about disciplining her when she misbehaves. Timeouts and taking toys are well-deserved for those behaviors.

Yelling isn't optimal; yelling without actual punishment is counterproductive. The lesson you're teaching is that you're a pushover.
posted by jpe at 9:24 AM on December 31, 2017

All good suggestions but I would also suggest that you also need to make sure you build into your day time just for you - when you are NOT parenting or choring or working. I unfortunate rarely had a break but the days that I did made a huge difference to how many "last nerves" I had left.
posted by saucysault at 9:45 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stop participating in her game. If she wants to play chase at bathtime, tell her You can have bubbles (bath paint, some treat) or no bubbles. To earn bubbles, come get in the bath. Don't give in to tantrums. If you say No bubbles, then no bubbles. Sympathize with her. It's sad that you don't have bubbles. Maybe you'll have bubbles tomorrow. If she runs out on to the rink, you grab her, tell her it's dangerous and and not nice to other skaters. If it happens again, pick her up and go home. Same with licking the gross ice. Unfortunately, you weren't able to cooperate at the ice rink today, so we'll go home where you can play safely and not get in the way of other skaters. Maybe next time it will be better. It's not about being bad or good, it's about learning how to act in public, how to get stuff done at home. Explain, but don't get in to a long discussion.

Rewards work. If you get your pjs on by the time I hang up the towels, you'll get a star on the calendar. Literally, put up a calendar. All good behavior gets a star in marker. 5 stars gets a sticker on the calendar. 3 stickers gets a small prize. There are no demerits or taking away stars. Bad behavior gets disapproval and disappointment and a natural consequence Time out has been turned in to a punishment, but it's meant to be literal. You're would up and being mean to the dog, so I'm taking you to your room to have a chance to settle down. Sometimes, the consequence can look a little different. You are very energetic today, running and yelling. I have to finish this task, but as soon as I'm done, we're going to the park.

When you get frustrated, try to postpone yelling for 5 seconds, then 10, then 30. Stopping a habit is hard, delaying it is not as hard. You can earn stars and stickers, too. You are not a bad parent. You have a lively, energetic child. You'll both have more fun when you both manage behavior.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Chasing sounds like it’s part of the game here. If your child is neurotypical and fairly well attached, and also there are no other children or another adult to mind the others, you can try the following.

When your child wants you to chase, stop. Sit down if you can, or at least take several steps back. Deep breaths. Figure out what you are feeling (frustrated that the child won’t listen? Stressed about being late? Scared for safety?) Sometimes if I am really stressed myself I will cry because I feel like a bad parent.

Wait for your child to approach you. A well attached child will look for you. When your child asks what is happening, tell the child your feelings about the situation. End the chase session. Check in on HALT - is anyone hungry, angry, lonely, tired? If so, change activity plan and fix the HALT problem. If not, brainstorm ways to achieve your original goal because what you were doing was not working. Have the child help originate the solution.

“Mom is disappointed in me” is a far more potent behaviour changer than “mom is mad at me”. If used sparingly, only in situations where your emotions have started out of control, it can be effective.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2017

A lot of the responses have been about how you could get your child to change their behavior. I’m going to address you and your feelings in that moment. Because I have a six-year-old of my own, and I know of whence you speak!

When I catch myself in that angry shouting moment, I stop, look at my son, and take three deep breaths. And then I tell him that I’m taking these breaths, just like he has learned to do at school. He has told me about their relaxation exercises that they do, and so he feels a little proud when he sees me doing them. And then I say that I’m sorry I got shouty, I didn’t want to be shouting at him, and I ask if we can start over. Usually he says yes. And then, I ask whatever it is calmly and we go from there.

If I realize that I am over hungry/rushed/whatever, I take steps to address that and I narrate to my son. “Wow, I really needed food back there, I was over hungry and that was making it so hard for me not to shout. Now that I have some food in me it’s so much easier to talk like I want to!” I figure that way at least we are getting some modelling out of the situation.

And as others have mentioned, I focus on prevention for myself: looking for moments that are the hardest and taking steps to lower my stress in those times. So, making lunches the day before to reduce stress getting out the door, etc. I can’t eliminate hot spots, but I’ve been able to reduce them by a lot.

Good luck!
posted by wyzewoman at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

Something I learned in therapy - when I get to the point of having undesirable reactions to stress, it's often because my stress and anxiety have been building up already. By recognizing my stress and anxiety early on and taking care of myself, I can make it more likely that when I hit another stress point I'll be better able to handle it in the way that I want to. Looking at wyzewoman's comment I see she's already made a very similar point.

Good luck and good for you for recognizing the situation and trying to adjust your response.
posted by bunderful at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I feel you. Parenting is hard. What I do:

1. Tell yourself you only have 3 yells a week, so make them count. When you feel like you are about to yell, ask yourself "is this worth burning one of my yells for?" If yes, do it! Little monster! If no, then:

2. Make it clear that it's the kids choice and there are consequences. Licking dirty ice? Fine, enjoy it because if you keep it up there is no dessert tonight. Still licking? Ok, no tablet time today. Etc. Follow through.
posted by gatorae at 11:16 AM on December 31, 2017

I would rethink the scenarios where you yell.

Think about how much control your kid has, how much more she's demanding, and how much she needs. You might have to back down on things (especially bathtime---I'd just drop that for now) and let her make more choices.

Through various developmental stages, the need for control increases, and some of the things kids demand control over can seem pretty silly to an adult. One of my kids would go through this thing where she would flatly refuse to eat dinner and then the very second we finished, she'd scream she was hungry and wanted dinner (which she was welcome to then get on her own).

When my son was six he decided he wanted to play outside in the snow in his shorts and sneakers. I knew it wasn't worth fighting with him about it, so I was like, "Okay," and went in the house.

He came back in less than a minute later and cool as could be changed into his snowpants and went back outside. I'm glad he did that because I really had no clue how to deal with it if he stayed outside and got frostbite.

Have a think about how much or how little control your kid has in general. See if you can give her more opportunities to run things. You may find less pushback. She wants to lick the ice? I might just ask her if it's yummy or if it needs whipped cream. Ask if she wants to take a shower or a bath. Take her shopping and let her pick her special bubble soap. Shopping? Ask her to be in charge of two healthy snacks and one new fruit or veggie to try this week.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:03 PM on December 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

My child is not yet two, so I have no idea about 6 year olds. But here are a few ideas to throw into the mix:
- The Hands in Hand blog has a different approach than most of what I'm hearing above, and it's been useful for me.
- It talks a bunch about using play. I second the idea that if you aren't using that to defuse some of these situations, it might help.
- Another thing it recommends is that all parents get a listening partner and regularly exchange listening time. It can help lower your stress, and help you dig into why certain things send you over the edge. For me, it's throwing food on the floor that I just worked hard to prepare. I can handle so many frustrating, wasteful, "disrespectful" (if that word can even apply to a toddler), nonsensical actions with plenty of patience, but for some reason that one just shoots my blood pressure through the roof!! I keep meaning to do some listening partner time on that to see if I can defuse my trigger there. Anyway, the Hand in Hand facebook group is full of people who have read the blog post on how to be a good listener and are happy to trade 10 minutes of listening time apiece.
- I recently read Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with your Child. The author questions a lot of the manipulative strategies that are common practice (e.g., rewards) and would recommend bringing up the bathtime situation with your child at a calm time and trying to figure out how to handle it in a way that works for you both.

Good luck. Thanks for asking the question. It's been an interesting discussion.
posted by slidell at 3:56 PM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites] has good gentle parenting blog posts, including getting herself to yell less. Like many answers above, this was tied to reconfiguring the routine to help her succeed in not yelling. She thought about the times and situations that she was most likely to yell - like you have done - and then re-arranged her routine so that those times wouldn't occur as much. And she asked for help from her co-parent, too.

Good luck! I find I yell most when I'm tired and distracted on my own thing instead of my kid. It is those times when I tend to resort back to what *I* learned as a kid which was whoever yelled the loudest won.

Another thing to think about is differentiating between responding and reacting. A reaction is yelling in the moment. A response is more of a planned action. Asking this question is great because you are trying to plan your responses.
posted by jillithd at 9:39 PM on December 31, 2017

You're likely not actually enforcing your words as well as you might think you are.

Say, for example, the skating rink. Running off? One warning - behave or we will leave. And when she doesn't, then YOU LEAVE. Not pretend to, not continue to threaten to, YOU LEAVE. Once chance, and then enforce. No yelling, no anger - just calm matter-of-fact and GO. Yes, even if you don't want to leave.

Promise, it doesn't get repeated more than once or twice.

Thing is, you have to never ever threaten anything you don't absolutely intend to follow through with - and you have to follow through IMMEDIATELY. Not repeat yourself, not give up and ignore the behavior.

One personal example: I've raised four kids. They're now 22, 19, 17, and 15. Know how many tantrums I've ever had to deal with in the store?


I walked the basket full of items - and all four kids - straight up to the courtesy desk, calmly said "Could you please put these back for me? This isn't a good time for me to be shopping, I'll need to come back later."

And we left.

The child in question went silent, then switched to promising to behave. I continued to the car. The tantrum started back up again as I buckled him into his seat. By the time we got home, he'd wound down.

And it NEVER EVER happened again.

When we were out some where, and younger siblings - or even their younger cousin - started to get a little grumpy, one of the older ones always piped up with, "Stop. When Mom says we'll leave, SHE MEANS IT."

A couple other little hints: asking once, in a nice way, at an appropriate time, receives consideration. Asking a second time guarantees a firm NO for an answer, even if I'd intended to do whatever it was in the first place. That stops pestering. And if you start it young enough, they may not even learn what whining is.
posted by stormyteal at 11:15 PM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for your kind and helpful answers.

As for consequences - that doesn’t seem to work.
With the ice licking, I told her if she did it again, we would leave. She did it again, we left. Which is why she tore loose and ran onto the ice in her socks, giggling. I had to threaten to disinvite her friend for new years eve which was a dumb move (because unrealistic) but it did finally work.
I‘m sick of threats and draconian consequences. Reasonable ones (leaving now) never seem to work in the moment because she‘s too giddy with excitement at disobeying or something.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:05 AM on January 1, 2018

Based on your update, I am not sure that’s how consequences work. Telling her you’ll leave won’t necessarily stop the struggle in the moment but hopefully you did leave after she ran off and will leave again if required and hopefully you will disinvite the friend if it comes to that. By consistently enforcing the consequences you set up reliable and predictable pattern for cause and effect. She knows what is expected of her, she knows what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, she knows that non fun ‘consequence’ will happen if she doesn’t cooperate so she can choose to cooperate or not. If it is consistently more fun to cooperate than not hopefully she will prefer fun most of the time. But she may still not feel like cooperating or may not be able to do so all the time, just like you can’t stop yourself from yelling all the time. If she consistently chooses not to cooperate the consequences may be things she doesn’t care about enough? Or there may be other reasons why this particular method may not work for your child, as suggested above.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:28 AM on January 1, 2018

The giggling makes me wonder if she's enjoying seeing you get angry, maybe? Which would frustrate me further, so I get it, but what happens when you're able to stay calm?
posted by lazuli at 7:05 AM on January 1, 2018

First I just want to reiterate that you are a good mom asking this question and it is so likely to be completely okay. And that 6 is a big age to test how the world works.

I do think you are really misunderstanding how consequences (ideally) work. They do nothing for you on the day that your child takes her stand at the ice rink to the degree you're describing. Nothing. That day is not a day my child behaved well day. That day is one of the 234334 days your child learns what happens when she doesn't follow the standards of the day. She can learn:

1. My mum is someone I can connect with by pushing her until she starts yelling at me, which is how I know that The World Is Okay, because I have succeeded in playing a game in which I have pressed the "interact with parent" level enough to get a lot of noise and lights flashing, woo hoo. Or

2. When I push all the paddles in a way that disrespects the family/safety rules/whatever, the game goes off and I don't get to play any more, which is boring, and so I will try to motivate myself to press the interaction buttons in a way that gets me what I want, which is basically - a sense of having accomplished something. (Yes, you yelling is an accomplishment to a 6 year old. She won't like it, it may be damaging, but she has had the control.)

So on the day that she breaks the rules, you go home. If she runs on the ice in her socks first then her feet are going to be wet and ache (don't let her get frostbite obviously, but there is a built-in self-limiting feature for most kids* here.) No matter what she does, funtime is over, briefly. You drive home saying "wow, I'm really disappointed, I wanted to have a good day." You don't have to make home awful, but you don't break out any cool crafts once you get there either. The result of her behaviour is funtime ends.

At the same time, when she has a good day, you show her the connection between her behaviour and the good time. "Hey, we had such a great dinner out today. You sat at the table really nicely even though it was slow. That makes me think we should go out and do something fun next weekend."

It takes time. You do not get an instant effect.

Based on your update I will sort of up my recommendation for Playful Parenting. The premise of the book basically is that kids look for connection and control. If you are proactive in playing games with them (even if you hate doing it, and I am a parent who kind of hates playing certain ways) around control that make it clear you want to connect, you create a chance for them to do it when you're ready for it.

An example is a game my husband and I play with our 6 year old every night where we both "argue" over who GETS to read him his bedtime story. We give him the control to choose the parent (note that for some kids this would be stressful, but ours is good with it) and we both lobby him to pick us (pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasePLEASEPLEASE PICK ME, we say, in whiny tones. And stomp our feet.). He laughs his head off and sometimes his cruelty in saying no is a little astonishing, but weirdly he is also fair.

This game has eased some of the tension we used to have at bedtime when everyone was tired and frankly no one wanted to be the parent in charge of getting this child in pajamas and to sleep.

But he was doing the "one more drink" thing because he wanted to prolong his connection to us and establish his control of falling asleep (which is a loss of control) and also he's the youngest and has the earliest bedtime and his Fear of Missing Out was huge. So letting him decide which of us misses out on his bedtime has been very effective.

FYI I figured this all out a long time after we started it, we're all fumbling in the dark here, us parents.

Your daughter sounds like she's in a similar struggle with you, and in a way the skating seems connected to maybe? trying to learn skating? Just a guess.

So make misbehaviour really boring, but give her a lot of huge opportunities to get the same impact at times that it is safe and okay to do so.

* There are kids for whom the usual limits don't apply. I don't see anything in your post yet that indicates that she's wildly off the curve. My 6 year old is about to turn 7 and he was laughing at my distress up until a few months ago, and running away and those kinds of things, and now he's exhibiting a lot more prosocial awareness and behaviour. But you are the mom, and some of the recommendations above about spirited children may well apply, so it's really worth looking into whether you need a different level of support.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:50 AM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Just a quick point: I have read, and this seems true with my kids, that giggling can be a way of letting out nervousness/anxiety in the face of a parent’s anger. It doesn’t mean that the child is enjoying making you react like that, or that they are actively trying to piss you off. The story I tell myself is that it’s stressful for kids when their parents are angry with them, and stress fills their bodies with lots of cortisol, which makes them want to run/act crazy/ fight back/ giggle/ whatever. I try hard to focus on the original behavior (licking the ice) and not react to their giggles or whatnot, although obviously if they are being unsafe that needs to be addressed.
posted by wyzewoman at 10:53 AM on January 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Learning consequences can take longer for some kids than for others. Keep at it. Don't make threats you aren't prepared to go through with; but also don't fail to do what you said you'd do. Kids need this, they need to know where the boundaries are and what will happen if they cross them. Some kids need it reinforced more than others.

A couple things you've said - describing appropriate consequences as "draconian", your own self-condemnation re yelling - make me think that you are a bit of a pushover and easy to manipulate. Apologies if I'm reading that wrong. It sounds to me like the goal needs to be more consistency (strict adherence to plan) and less excitement and ambiguity in disciplinary situations; and perhaps more planning. Like, BOTH of you need to know exactly what's going to happen if anything goes south, well before it does.

And also - provide the excitement and engagement other ways. Sometimes kids act out because that's a way to get focused parental attention. Give her less excitement, not more, when she misbehaves; and more when she's doing the right thing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:43 AM on January 1, 2018

I think "1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children" might be helpful for you because it gives a very specific recipe for how to handle problem behavior and it requires the parent use a neutral tone. Maybe if you yoke yourself to a solution that necessitates non-yelling it will be helpful for both you and your child? I've seen the book mentioned on the blue before and know of a mefite friend who had success with it.
posted by funkiwan at 2:46 PM on January 1, 2018

Alan Kazdin’s books are what worked for us. His view is that the only way to get your kids to do anything is to reward the behaviors you want. It worked quite well for us while the consequences-oriented approach of 123 Magic just never got us anywhere.

That was my experience with my kid who, like me, is not neurotypical. You know the old saw that someone would cut off their nose to spit their face? That was my kid. She was so impulsive that consequences were effectively meaningless.

What (mostly) worked for us:
1. Lots of structure. As in, a weekly schedule with meals (what we were eating), what we were doing, how we were getting there, etc.
Not tons of details just enough so she wasn't surprised.

2. Always having a Plan B so that if things did not go according to plan (the toy store was unexpectedly closed, real-life example) and she had a meltdown, we could just wait it out (plus always having water, snacks, etc. to help soothe her and me).

3. Giving her lots of love and attention when she was not acting out. Like full attention, not half attention while juggling 4 other things. Not for longer than I could handle, but every evening we'd spend 30 minutes together that was her time.

4. Establishing me time. Every day there was 30 minutes of quiet time for me, where she needed to play quietly as I read, rested, whatever because my kid was super intense and I needed the break. (I'm intense, so she did too!)

5. Worry about deal-breakers and let other things go. There's a huge cost to both parent and child when you routines get into power struggles. Ask me how I know.

People who don't have kids like this may believe there is one or two techniques that will bring them into line every time. That's because they don't have kids like this. For me, some days the usual approaches above didn't work; often they did.

For what it's worth, my exhausting, wonderful, challenging, energetic little kid grew up to be a wonderful young woman whose company delights me more than I can say. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:14 PM on January 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

The Four Mistaken Goals of Child's Misbehavior (excerpt):

GOAL...................................................PARENT FEELS
Attention (to get special service).......annoyed, irritated, worried, guilty
Power (to be boss)..............................angry, challenged, threatened, defeated
Revenge (to get even).........................hurt, disappointed, disbelieving, disgusted
Inadequacy (to give up)......................despair, hopeless, helpless, inadequate

If this resonates, check out the complete Mistaken Goal chart; pdf link is at the end of the WHAT IS MISBEHAVIOR? section: Lots of Q&A situations in the blog: to give you more of a feel for the program. The Positive Discipline organization also has educators and classes in many locations around the world.

The Positive Discipline books by Jane Nelsen are good. I think natural consequences, rather than punitive ones, tend to be better for the child in the long run. Undoubted, children vary in the time they take to respond to such training/raising methods.
posted by dancing leaves at 5:47 AM on January 3, 2018

Response by poster: So, the very first thing I did after ruminating on your answers was, I told the kiddo:
„Let‘s play a game. You run away and if I catch you, you take a bath.“ It was worth it for her baffled look alone. There was a lot of, „hey, mommy, noooo hahaha“ and squealing, mauling and dragging (which she loves) and an uneventful bath time. I believe this takes care of this and a few other similarly motivated problems.

I also dealt out „no screen time“ today for what I defined as „antisocial infractions“ by both her and the four year old (biting, lying and hurting feelings for fun). I‘m not a big fan of „no screen time“ because I don‘t want screen time to be such a big Thing for them. But we‘ll see. I sought their input on what a suitable consequence could be and this was the best we could come up with for now. I explained why I needed this consequence to stick with them and why this behaviour is unacceptable (I mean, I‘ve said it before but maybe it‘ll stick better now?)

We‘ll continue tweaking as we go. Going to check out the book recs now.

Thank you!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

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