Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ask the Expert: Let the Consequences Do the Screaming

My kids won’t do anything I ask unless I scream at them. And they won’t stop doing anything unless I scream some more. How am I supposed to be ScreamFree and get my kids to behave?
Screaming in Seattle
First of all, being ScreamFree is not simply about lowering your volume; it’s about raising your integrity. But it is also about lowering your volume. This month, I want to talk about both.

I suspect you weren’t always such a screamer. There was probably a time -- though you might have difficulty remembering back to the good ole days -- when you were calm, even when you had to discipline your children. But if words acted as your discipline, and not consequences, then those words probably began to lose their impact.

The words you once used were no longer effective, so you began using different words, louder words -- perhaps even threatening words -- to get your point across. And now you’re seeing the result of all that. Your words have gotten louder and louder as they’ve been increasingly ignored.

Think about this: you probably feel guilty about all the screaming, and it’s not getting you what you want. And yet you continue in the pattern. Nobody benefits. It sounds a little like addiction at this point. You need more and more of something to get the same effect.

So, how do you stop?

Two words: cold turkey. Stop screaming and return to your normal speaking volume.

I know. I know. That’s easier screamed than said, but if you really want to get your kids to hear you when you speak softly, you must begin to speak softly again. Who knows? It may be such a shock to their systems that they’ll be stunned into listening. That quiet tone may work if only because it causes your children to wonder why all of a sudden you’re so calm. They may wonder what you’re up to. They may even feel sorry for you -- thinking it’s been so many years since you’ve spoken softly you may have finally cracked up.

Of course, shock value is only going to get you so far. To get longterm listening, you’ll need to do something a little more. You’ll have to give your kids a reason to listen. In other words, it’ll have to be in their best interests to listen.

How do you do that? You back up your quiet request with an equally quiet but incredibly clear statement of consequences for ignoring you. For example.

  • Empty the dishwasher, or you’ll sit on the couch with no screen time for 45 minutes.
  • Don’t text mean things to your sister, or you’ll lose your phone for a week.
  • Last one to put away their laundry has to fold all the towels.

This way, you don’t have to scream; you can let the consequences do the screaming for you!

Will your kids ignore your quietly communicated requests? Probably. But over time they’ll come to discover that you actually mean what you softly say. You’ll recover your integrity and lower your volume -- all in one fell swoop!

You don’t need volume to be taken seriously. If diplomacy should fail, you are perfectly willing to back up your rhetoric with action.

So give these ideas a try. Okay? Did you hear me? What did I just say? I said give these ideas a try. Don’t make me say it again: GIVE THESE IDEAS A TRY! HOW MANY TIMES AM I GOING TO HAVE TO TELL YOU GIVE THESE IDEAS A TRY?!


GEMsMommy said...

The key thing I note here is the fact that things will change OVER TIME. This is the hardest thing for me to grapple with right now. Do you have suggestions for how to make it through this waiting period, when it seems nothing is changing and despair has me immobilized?

kaity said...

I think what I struggle with most is what to do when they won't stick to the consequences? For example - consequence = 45 minutes on the couch with no screen time. What do I do if he won't sit on the couch for allotted time? I can't force him to sit without physically holding him down (which I would absolutely not do). So do I keep piling on consequences and they'll eventually get it?