“The only way I can get her to do it is to yell and scream…and I don’t like that” – How to switch from negative to positive.

photo by martinak15 via Flickr

Recently, I posted an article on the BehaviorBandAid Facebook Page that was intended to be about discipline techniques for children with ADD/ADHD (read it here). I thought the discipline techniques they listed were true for ALL children, so I posted it. The article included a list of common mistakes:

-Not communicating with the child what he or she did wrong (what you need to tell them is what they can do instead…and be specific)

-Flying off the handle

-Failing to follow through

It also included simple reminders and lessons for what to do:

-Get your child’s attention (in a good way)

-Institute a warning system (being clear about expectations-not doling out warning after warning…that can be troublesome)

-Treat discipline as a teaching tool (teaching appropriate behavior instead of punishing misbehavior)

-The bottom line of good communication

Pretty simple, huh?

Well, I got some responses and questions, so I wanted to respond here. One mom mentioned,

[the author] said that if you always have to yell and scream at your kids to get them to do what they should, then they have learned that they won’t act until Mount Mom erupts.  But here’s the thing… I have tried everything else and having Mount Mom erupt is sometimes the only way to get my daughter to stop doing whatever she is doing.  So what else am I supposed to be trying to avoid Mount Mom? Because I don’t like her…

Another said,

The only way for [husband] and I to get [son] to comply is to yell.  We always start out asking firmly but nicely, but then inevitably it ends up with yelling.   It is so frustrating!  

First, I am glad they asked. I don’t think anyone likes being “Mount Mom,” so I appreciate the honesty.

What is it that you are actually teaching your child?

I think you are teaching them that your requests are suggestions until the point that you reach the edge and get to the point where the next thing you do will be terrible. The yelling means something because it has likely been associated with something worse than the yelling itself. It is like the flashing “HOT NOW” sign on the Krispie Kreme store telling you the donuts are hot and ready…except your yelling is not announcing donuts. It is announcing something else is probably about to be hot and not good.

You do not want to parent with what we call aversive control. It is terrible for your child’s behavior and your emotions (not to mention your relationship with your child – See the posts on side effects of punishment and on aversive control).

What NOW?

If you have this problem, you probably know very well what are the weak points – the places, times, behaviors for which you “have to yell” to get something done. This is your homework:

Find a way to make it more appealing for the child to do what you are asking them to do. You have several choices (many I have already talked about, so I am including links to those posts as well).

The “easy” part

Make something they don’t like to do easier and less demanding. You would be much more likely to clean 2 dishes than the entire sink after a dinner party. You have to start somewhere, so start some momentum with positive experiences rather than bad ones. You can build from there (instead of digging a deeper hole). Make a big deal out of it. Reinforce it. Praise, high fives, etc.

That has not worked in the past? Make it easier…I’m serious (and be real with your praise when it does. Make it fun).

Increase the motivation for doing what they should do. This will not be as effective if you have not made the thing they will not do easier, but in combination with that, having a little carrot on the end of the stick works. Have a plan in place…talk to your kids about it.

That has not worked in the past? Look again at my first direction, then increase the motivation (think access to preferred activities rather than things you have to buy). Read The Competition of Motivation and the post for kids who take forever to do things

Be clear about expectations and rules for reward.

Make the rules clear. “You’ll be done when I say you’re done” is ridiculous…stop it. Be clear, set up a motivation and back away. See this post about kids picking up after themselves.

PRACTICE. Do it when it does not matter. PRACTICE to experience the benefits of doing it right. Read Sitting Practice…(if it is the only other article you read).

Do these things one behavior at a time. Put some thought in it. Dont wait until its too late and Mount Mom starts boiling.

Please add your comments below…I’d love to hear from you on this one.

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One thought on ““The only way I can get her to do it is to yell and scream…and I don’t like that” – How to switch from negative to positive.

  1. Pingback: I yelled at my kids…and IT WORKED! |

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