The Most Effective Way to Stop Yelling

With Thanks To Ben Franklin
by Laura Elston

mom and son yelling at each other

As grownups, we’re thoroughly aware that yelling is not good for kids or for us. Still, it happens. Parents are not born saints, they have to work at it first.

You can more easily reach your goal to stay calm and to get better cooperation from your children by using the trick below. Thanks to Benjamin Franklin for the inspiration.

The Yelling Timeline

Does the timeline below look like what happens when you yell at your kids? If so, you’re about to discover how to easily erase the yelling impulse from your daily interactions.
yelling timeline

The Most Effective Way To Stop Yelling

There are two possible mechanisms to help us stop yelling at our kids: One is to increase our tolerance for frustration, and the other is to decrease our kids’ delay in complying with our requests. 

As per Ben Franklin’s famous dictum on economics, the single most effective way to stop yelling is to change both mechanisms at once. A little movement in each direction results in a big transformation.

You can see from the diagram that it’s only necessary to move a little in each direction in order to successfully curtail yelling and get greater cooperation from your kids.

If your kids have been conditioned to wait until you yell before moving, make double-sure that you have their benign attention before speaking. You want them to act on a single request and not wait for you to repeat yourself louder.

Below are ten tips for making it happen – five for increasing tolerance, and five for decreasing response time. Use at least one from each side.

10 Tips To Stop Yelling

Increase Tolerance Decrease Delay
  1. Do the Vital check: Is it dangerous to himself or others? This can include property damage, like when your toddler is using his toy hammer on the china cabinet.
    —> 90% of the time, your request fails the Vital test; in that case, stand down and deal with it later when you’re calmer
  1. Use different wording for the same message. People understand things in different ways, and we like variety. If you hear yourself saying the same thing twice, be alerted that you’re on autopilot.
  1. Frequently revisit the pros and cons of yelling. Meditate upon them. Be clear on what you’re giving up and what you’re getting when you yell. Empathize deeply with your future self who will grieve over, and atone for, this brief episode. Why go through it?
  1. Tag your request with fulfilling one of the Six Human Needs. How can it satisfy your child’s need for, say, Variety, or Contribution?
  1. Learn to make a joke to break your tension. Stress is directly related to inappropriate behavior, while laughter is a top stress-buster.
  1. Speak to the brain. Be clear and direct. Make a short request with definable parameters. 
  1. Consider which of the six human needs – Certainty, Variety, Significance, Love/Connection, Growth and Contribution – yelling fulfills for you. Is raising your voice an attempt to get more significance? Proactively fulfill your need in a better way.
  1. Do as you would be done by. Make your request respectful of your child’s nature and priorities. But don’t be a pushover; you have rights, too.
  1. Ask your child a question about the situation that doesn’t have “why” in it. Don’t assume you already know the answer. With more information, either of you may come to a different conclusion.
  1. Remind the child of his own stake in the desired outcome. For instance, remind a small child that when you go to the store, you get to drive by the big statue of the man on a horse.

The Pick Three Technique

The Pick Three technique is a deal you strike with your child which restricts your demands to three essential behaviors that are specific and measurable. If the child does these three things, you’ll get off his case about everything else.

Ironically, this technique increases cooperation across the board, not just in your chosen three behaviors. It’s critically important to keep your end of the deal. If you slip up, apologize.

Relationships Ahead Of Rules

As much as possible, put relationships ahead of rules. It’s safe, it’s effective, and it’s rich soil for growing kids.

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