How to Stop Yelling at Kids
Bonnie Harris, the bestselling author of When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids, reveals why your kids make you so mad sometimes. In this episode, she breaks down her incredible system to stop yelling at kids and start connecting with them instead.
Full Show Notes
Parents yelling at kids is nothing new. When you live under the same roof as another human being for so many years (especially an immature human being) you are going to get on each other’s nerves. But it never feels good to fly off the handle and lose your cool. Yelling at kids is unsatisfying because it makes you feel bad about yourself and it damages your relationship with your child.
We all know this. Thousands of parents search Google for “how to stop yelling at kids” each month. It’s not that we enjoy yelling or we think it’s good for our family, we just can’t help it. You kid does something that makes you furious and you lose it.
Your kids are pushing your buttons. And they are really good at it.
Parenting expert Bonnie Harris has been leading workshops with groups of parents for over 30 years. When she first started, she noticed something interesting. A few weeks into every class, parents would report that they were feeling worse than ever because now they knew what they were supposed to do but they still couldn’t do it. They wanted to use the techniques Bonnie was teaching them but, instead, they were still yelling at kids and losing their cool.
That’s when Bonnie had an epiphany. She realized that these parents were getting triggered by their kids. The kids were pushing the parents’ buttons.
Inspired by this realization, Bonnie started researching the phenomenon. What, exactly, causes parents to lose it and start yelling at kids? She interviewed parents at her workshops and combined this knowledge with her psychology background and was able to map out exactly why our buttons get pushed and how to prevent it from happening.
And, of course, she field tested all of the techniques at home on her own daughter, Molly, who was a master button-pusher.
Bonnie’s methods eventually became the basis for her bestselling book When Your Kids Push Your Buttons. She ultimately discovered 8 different types of buttons and she figured out exactly how kids push each one of them. Understanding your own buttons is the secret to stop yelling at kids.
Two Reasons for Yelling at Kids
Every time a parents loses it and starts yelling at kids, Bonnie discovered, there are two things happening below the surface. First, the parent has a Standard that has been violated by the child. Second, the parent begins to have negative assumptions about the child based on the violated Standard.
For example, you might have a Standard that a child should always speak respectfully to adults. Most likely, this Standard ties to your own childhood. Maybe you were raised in a home where you would never dare speak disrespectfully to your parents. When you hear kids talk to you disrespectfully, it violates your Standard, making you feel furious and start yelling at kids.
Assumptions are the thoughts you have about the kids as a result of the Standard being violated. Most of the time, parents don’t even realize we are making these Assumptions, but these black-and-white thoughts about what the violation means are what really cause you to start yelling at kids. For instance, when kids speak disrespectfully to you, it violates your standard that kids should always respect adults. This might lead you to think to yourself, “these kids have no respect at all,” and “they are spoiled, entitled, and arrogant.”
And that’s when you fly off the handle and start yelling at kids. Your button has just been pushed.
In this episode, Bonnie shares her incredible knowledge and walks through exactly what parents can do to uncover the psychology behind your own buttons and how they are getting pushed. Then she explains what you can do to stop yelling at kids and start responding to them with empathy and love.
Don’t miss this superb advice from an international parenting expert.
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. When your teen wants something, start by getting them talking:
“This is really important to you. You have been coming back and asking me about this several times. So that tells me this party is really important to you. You really want to go and I’m giving you the message that I don’t want you to go, so can you tell more about why it’s so important to you and help me understand?”
2. After you get your teen talking, tell them your concerns:
3. Recognize your teen’s agenda before asking them to do what you want:
4. How to say “no” to your teen:
5. Tell your teen exactly what has to happen in order to get a “yes” from you:
6. What to say if your teen doesn’t live up to their word:
7. After your teen messes up, make sure they learn their lesson:
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Uncover the Assumptions that Cause You to Lose it:
Think back to a situation between you and your teenager where things got a bit out of hand and you lost control or you wish you would have handled things differently. Bonnie refers to these types of moments as “getting your button pushed”. She has developed the following exercise to help parents uncover the hidden assumptions that caused you to react as you did. Write down what your reaction was in the situation. For example, did you scream at your teen? Did you yell certain words? Be as specific as you can about what your reaction was. Next, write down exactly how you felt while you were reacting in this way. Again, try to be very precise about your emotional state. Were you enraged? Did you feel hopeless? Resentful? Guilty? Finally, answer the following question: if you felt that way and reacted that way, what must you have been thinking? Bonnie says these thoughts usually involve very black-and-white language, like “she always attacks me like this” or “he will never learn”. The assumptions you write here are a big part of what is causing you to “lose it” with your teen.
2. Reveal the Standards Behind Your Assumptions:
3. Look Beneath the Surface of Your Teen’s Problem Behaviors:
About Bonnie Harris
A parenting and child behavior specialist, Bonnie Harris has designed and taught parenting workshops and counseled parents for more than twenty five years. Her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education is from Bank Street College in New York City.
Bonnie founded The Parent Guidance Center in Peterborough, NH in 1990, now The River Center, dedicated to parent education, support and community connections. She has written two books, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids, speaks and teaches internationally and has appeared on many television and radio programs and podcasts.
Bonnie lives in NH with her husband and is the mother of two grown children and three grandchildren.