How can parents show a toddler they mean business without yelling?
When we need our child to cooperate, we can elicit cooperation through silliness and playfulness “Don’t get in your carseat because you’ll sit on my imaginary friend Marvin!” We can be more effective in helping our child listen if we reallyconnect with our child. It works best when we stop what we are doing, kneel down, make eye contact, hold their hand or put your hand on their arm, and give a simple instruction “It’s time to put your shoes on.” And then have a symbol or gesture that you and your child come up with that lets you know your child has heard you, like a thumbs up or a silly handshake. If a child continues to beg or ask for you to change your mind, use empathy with a boundary “I know you really want to stay at the park and you’re sad to leave, but I’m not changing my mind.
How does yelling affect a toddler?
We should never make our children afraid. They have a biological instinct that prompts them to go to their parent if they are afraid, and if the parent is the source of that fear, it’s very confusing and creates a lot of stress in their nervous system. Yelling is often quite frightening for children, and activates the threat detection part of their brain that can cause them to shut down or go into reactive fight mode. We should always be safe people that keep our children safe. If we find ourselves yelling at our children frequently, it’s important to make changes that help support our own self-care so we have the capacity to be patient, or we may need to work through our own history that may be contributing to us being reactive with our children. If we want our children to respect us, we need to stay calm and in control of ourselves, and be safe people for them. We feel fear, not respect, for people who are unpredictable, scary, or highly reactive.
“Parents have two primary jobs when it comes to keeping their kids safe and making them feel safe. The first is to protect them from harm. The second is to avoid becoming the source of the fear and threat.” - from the upcoming The Power of Showing Up (January 2020), co-authored by Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Dr. Daniel Siegel
If a parent does lose it and yell, what should they do to recover the situation?
All parents will find themselves being reactive, or yelling from time to time, and the most important thing we can do when we have ruptures with our kids, is repair. When we handle ourselves in ways we don’t feel good about, it’s crucial to make things right with our kids. When we apologize and repair, we can teach our kids how to make amends when they make mistakes in relationships.