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Constantly screaming and yelling at your kids is abusive, useless and stupid (if it was useful, you wouldn’t have to do it more than once). Most parents scream because they are frustrated; their buttons have been pushed and they feel like they don’t have any other options. However, the minute you lose it, you lose all the power.
You would think that screaming would make your kids fear you. It doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it does just the opposite. Kids lose respect for you when you start screaming and yelling because you’ve lost control. They know that the yelling will pass, or they become so frustrated and angry that after a while, they become immune to it and don’t take you seriously.
Now, just as all kids misbehave, disobey, talk back, ignore chores and fight with siblings, all parents are going to holler every now and then. However, you need to pay close attention to how you’re yelling. Blaming and shaming – “You’re a loser,” “You’re useless,” “You’re the reason I’m upset” – are very destructive, especially if the child is being told that he or she is responsible for the parent’s problem. According to The American Journal of Psychiatry, emotional abuse is the most significant predictor of mental health, even more than sexual or physical abuse.
Here are 10 things you can do to stop yelling at your kids:
- Set clear boundaries.
Kids are not psychic – you have to make the rules clear. If the rules aren’t clear, kids have trouble following them. You may assume that your child heard and remembers something you said to them in passing, but they may not. So, you need to be really clear. Instead of saying, “Don’t come in the house with wet shoes,” say, “When you come in the house, I want you to take your shoes off and leave them by the front door – whether they are wet or not. That way, we won’t bring the trash and germs from outside into the house.” Now that’s clear. Or, if you want your child to pick up their room, physically go in there and show them what you mean (when I was a kid, throwing everything into my closet and closing the door was my idea of cleaning my room).
- Set simple consequences.
Many parents threaten consequences and then don’t follow through on them. However, empty threats don’t work.
- Speak to your child on his or her level.
Bend down so that you’re eye-to-eye. Getting face-to-face makes it easier for them to hear you, listen to you and pay attention.
- Be sure your child understands what you are asking.
After you’ve instructed your child to do something, have them repeat it back to you. That way, you’ll know if they’ve actually heard it.
- Respond every time a rule is broken.
Be consistent. Each and every time a rule is broken, calmly impose the consequence.
- Remind your child of the rule only ONE time.
Your child gets one reminder. After that, they get a consequence.
- Immediately deliver the consequence.
- Ask someone to remind you when you’re yelling.
Pick someone who knows you well (a spouse, parent, friend, etc.) and ask them to give you a signal when they see you yelling.
- Respond kindly when your child yells at you.
Instead of shouting back when your child is screaming at you, just calmly say, “I know you’re mad at me right now, but please talk to me like I’m someone you love.” That stops everyone in their tracks.
- Take a “parent” time-out.
Sometimes even parents need a time-out. It doesn’t mean you have to go sit in the corner, it just means that you need to take a break. Take a shower. Have a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Revisit the situation later when you’re not feeling so angry. In fact, walking out of the room inspires fear far more than yelling does.
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As human beings, we all want to be liked by the people who really matter to us and know that our efforts are appreciated. So, when someone puts us down, excludes us or reacts negatively to what we do, it taps into our individual insecurities and can really sting.
Here are some of my strategies for dealing with insults:
1. Don’t look upset
I don’t care if you’re about to crumble into a little heap like an old-style vampire who has been out in the sun – never let them see you sweat. That’s exactly what they want. If you don’t look hurt, then their insults haven’t worked. Just smile and look as though they said “good morning” to you. Don’t act weak – they’ll treat you like prey and continue to abuse you.
2. Don’t retaliate
Confront the situation with humor. Instead of getting in their face, making threats or saying something you’ll regret, just say, “Gosh, thank you so much. I’m really going to think about that because it might be very helpful to my life.” It’s called sarcasm, but if you sell it well, it seems sincere.
Even though they’re being an ass, they may actually have some useful information you can use to improve yourself.
4. Respond to the intent behind the insult, not the insult itself
Say something like, “Wow, what happened between us that made you want to hurt me?” That way, you’re highlighting their intent to hurt you rather than addressing the insult. (It also doesn’t hurt to have other people around when you say this because it will really make the insulter look and feel uncomfortable).
5. If you find out someone is talking about you behind your back…
Approach the person and say, “I just wanted to tell you that I’m worried about you because I think you are trusting the wrong people. I’ve heard that you’ve been saying unpleasant things about me. I’m not upset about that – you’re entitled to your opinion – I just wanted you to know that they are not protecting your privacy.” Be sure to use the word “they”; that way, you don’t reveal who told you, and you make the gossiper feel paranoid about who he or she can trust. By making it seem like you’re showing them great compassion, you’re covertly addressing their insult and making them think twice before saying bad things about you or anyone else.
6. Walk away
The unfortunate truth is that some people won’t give up. You should simply avoid them and keep them out of your life.
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