You asked your child come to dinner, and he didn’t respond. So you ask him again, this time with a voice that’s quite clear, direct, and firm. “Put your Leggos down and come to dinner now, please.” And your child responds, “Stop screaming at me!” You are quite sure you didn’t scream, you didn’t even shout or yell, but it sure sounded that way to your child. He didn’t even hear your words.
Very often parents are not aware of the power of their tone. But children hear tone more loudly than they hear words. It is the tone (including decibel level) that betrays or supports your words. It can work for you or against you as you raise your children.
Imagine holding your precious new born, the one who has cried non stop for the last 6 weeks, the one who has the worst case of collick your doctor has ever seen. Cradling him in your utterly exhausted arms, you coo in your most I-love-you-more-than-life voice, “Sweetie pie, I am sick to death of you. I want to throw you against the wall. I dont want to be a mother anymore.” And all that baby hears in your gentle voice is, “I love you I love you I love you.” Tone delivers the message. The words (thankfully) were missed altogether.
Yes, of course, we all live in worlds that try our patience–work, children, schedules, demands, life. Our trigger points and frustration tolerance are lowered by all of that. And while you really can’t always control those daily circumstances that eat away at your ability to be your best self with your kids, your tone really is something you can control..especially if you know what a difference it will make. When you leak your frustration through “screaming,” you are digging yourself in deeper. Your message gets lost.
One of the current hot topics in the world of parenting is shouting. In fact, Hilary Stout in her New York Times article, called shouting “the new spanking.” Everyone knows it isn’t okay to spank your child; but somehow, you can get away with shouting. Can you?
Shouting doesn’t work. It may temporarily stop the behavior, but in the long run the child’s behavior won’t change. When a parent shouts at a child, the child hears a verbal spank. It eats away at your relationship with your child, as well as his sense of himself. The child can feel demeaned and rejected. It just plain feels bad. So, all of his energy goes into defending against your anger; your words, what you want, and the lesson are lost. Shouting, screaming, and yelling hurt. They are just socially more acceptable than spanking. There are more effective ways of getting your message across. Just one of these is using a calm, low, slow, clear voice, delivered face to face, down at the child’s level. At least your words won’t be drowned out by your tone. Then follow through. He’ll hear you, loud and clear.
If you are trying to modify behavior, instead of shouting, shore up your supply of parenting techniques that enable your child to change his behavior.
If your life is so stressful that you are unable to control your reactions to your children, then that’s a whole different discussion.