Q: I always find myself yelling at kids, and yet, they still don’t listen to me! I am getting so exasperated! How can I stop this cycle?
A: You know a storm is coming. The wind starts howling, the humidity in the air is so thick that you can cut it with a knife, and the sky fills up with dark black clouds that completely block out the sun. And then suddenly, a moment before the heaven’s open up and pour down their torrential downpour, there is a brief silence. The wind seems to suddenly stop – as if in deference to the mighty tempest that is about to arrive, the birds stop chirping, and everything is still. The calm before the storm. And then, as if it never happened, the wind returns with even greater fury, this time bringing with it a barrage of rain drops, falling in sheets to assault the earth.
As parents, we know the stormy feelings of rage that can overcome us when dealing with misbehaving children. Although we may work very hard on controlling our anger, we all have moments that break the camel’s back. Whether it’s a child repeatedly coming out of his or her bed, having to break up yet another fight between siblings, a child’s refusal to do chores, or general chutzpah or misbehavior – we eventually lose it and blow up at our kids. We may feel that it’s the “right” thing to do, that we have to take a stand, or we may feel that we let ourselves down by losing our cool – but regardless of our intentions – the question we have to ask ourselves, is, ‘Is it working?’ Do we get our way more often because we yell at our kids? And if we do, does it help foster an atmosphere of love and support that we want to build in our homes? Do we want our children to obey us out of fear, or do we want them to want to do the right thing on their own?
Most parenting experts – and anecdotal evidence– conclude that anger does not accomplish anything other than high blood pressure and strained relationships. All yelling does is raise the bar so that the next time we will have to yell even louder in order to get our kids to listen. Some of us may already have found ourselves in this vicious cycle.
The good news is that there’s a way out! Believe it or not, it’s possible to get our children to listen the very first time without ever raising our voice. The first step is learning to tune into the calm before the storm. To recognize that we have a choice to change our thoughts, actions, or behavior a split moment before we hit the point of no return. We all have our breaking point. If we can learn to tune into our inner barometer to find that moment of stillness before the rage explodes, we can choose another way. Permit yourself to breathe into that moment of calm — inject it with love, joy, gratitude and any other positive emotions that give you vitality. Remember that your goal is to transmit love to your children. That must be the foundation and starting point for all discipline.