Family life

Great parenting tools: Parent like a professional

Are you a yeller? Tracy is, but she's using this technique to try to lower the volume at her house.

By Tracy Chappell
Great parenting tools: Parent like a professional

Photo credit: edenpictures via Flickr

Do you ever go to pick up your child from daycare and catch her in the middle of a screaming match with her teacher?
Of course you don’t. And maybe you’re not a yeller either. Good for you (I mean that sincerely). I never imagined I’d be a yeller, either, but it turns out I am. But I’m getting better. Why? Because when things get heated, I’m trying to parent like a professional.
There are lots of reasons that daycare providers don’t scream at the kids in their care and this post touches on just one of the many things we can learn from their methods. (And maybe I’m being a tad presumptuous in my opening sentence; if your answer was “yes,” run as fast as you can to find a new caregiver!) In defense of parents everywhere, our kids do tend to behave differently with other people. Plus, there’s the herd mentality of daycare, the predictable structure and teachers who are paid to spend the day focused on the kids. When a child does step out of line, he is removed from the fun by a firm, focused adult who is trained to turn it into a teachable moment. (At least that's what we hope.)
What is different about the caregiver-child relationship is the level of emotional attachment. Sure, they love our kids, but at the end of the day, they go back to their lives and our children come back to us.
Caregivers aren’t new at this, like many of us parents are. They recognize that all children misbehave and that most of it is developmentally normal, not a reflection of their care. They don't take it personally. They don’t project into the future the way we do. They don’t look at a back-talking child and think “Where have I gone wrong?” and question how he will ever hold down a job and steer clear of bar brawls down the road. They’re more likely to go through a checklist: Hungry? Tired? Frustrated? In need of a cuddle? If the behaviour continues, they reiterate the rules, implement a consequence if needed, and everyone moves on. The end.
For us, emotion often plays a big role. It isn’t easy to stay cool and collected when we struggle with the same issues day after day or when our child does the opposite of all we hold dear. But often, it’s our emotions that turn a dust-up into a hurricane. Before you know it, you’re Scary Mommy, stomping around and yelling at everyone to get to their rooms and stay there. Forever.
In a potentially heated situation, if we try to focus on the issue at hand (rather than our child’s morals and integrity, or our parenting shortfalls) and distance ourselves emotionally, we can get the same result without getting all worked up, without feeling physically and emotionally drained by the end, without escalating it to "why does no one ever listen to me?" territory. And most importantly, we don’t disrespect our children or ourselves.

In other words, try to handle the situation like a professional. I ask myself “What would an ECE worker do? What strategy might she employ right now to encourage Avery to get her shoes on or Anna to sit down and eat her dinner?” (Hint: it often includes a game.) When I think that way, even if I can’t always come up with a perfect answer, it’s easy to see what not to do — and why those things will never work. At the very least, taking those few moments to think about it, gives me a “time out” to take a breath and regroup. And sometimes, that’s all I need to approach the situation in a new way. 
I’ve been trying to do this at home and, while we don’t necessarily have fewer problems, I do feel less overwhelmed by them because I can put it all behind me more quickly, rather than stewing about it long after the situation is over. Removed is all the volume and anger and disappointment and heat that fills my body when one of my kids decides she isn’t going to do what I ask. From my kids’ perspective, Scary Mommy stays firmly locked away, while consequences (calm, well-articulated, firm consequences) remain.
Sometimes, I still yell. Guilty as charged. But I am getting better.

Do you have any other strategies to cut back on yelling?

Read about other great parenting tools: the egg timer and family meetings

Photo by edenpictures via Flickr

This article was originally published on Apr 18, 2012

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