Are You Yelling Too Much? Try This!
By Dr. Thomas W. Phelan - ParentMagic Newsletter
Angry people make noise: happy people
remain silent. We all suffer from a biological
curse that motivates us to say something to
our kids when we’re angry at them but to keep
quiet when the little ones are doing what we
want them to do.
Imagine it’s Sunday
afternoon and I’m watching a football game.
My two children are in the next room playing a
game with each other, having a great time and
getting along very well.
What do you think the
chances are that I’m going to get up out of my chair, walk all the way into the next
room, and say, “Gee, I’m delighted you guys are having such a good time!”? That would
be a great thing, but the chances of my doing it are about zero. Why? Because when
adults are happy and content themselves, they are not particularly motivated to do
anything more than what they’re already doing.
But imagine that my children in the next room start fighting and screaming. Why do they
behave this way?! I can’t even hear the football game!! Now I am motivated—I’m mad. Now
the chances of my getting up, running into the other room and yelling at the kids to keep
quiet are high. Anger is a much better motivator than contentment. The result is that our kids
are more likely to hear from us when we have negative rather than positive feedback.
Youngsters as well as spouses can start feeling they’re just a pain in the neck to us.
One Powerful Antidote Is Positive Reinforcement
One powerful antidote to this unfortunate biological orientation inside us is praise, or positive
verbal reinforcement. Praise should be done early and often. Your praise and other positive
interactions with your kids should outnumber your negative comments by a ratio of about
three or four to one. If you look, you shouldn’t have trouble finding something to reinforce:
“Thanks for doing the dishes.”
“You started your homework all by yourself!”
“That dog really likes you.”
“You kids did a good job of getting along during the movie.”
“Good job on that math test, John.”
“That’s wonderful! I can’t believe it! How on earth did you do that?”
Keep a sensitive eye on your son or daughter, though, because praise should be tailored to
some extent to each child. Some kids like rather elaborate, syrupy and emotional verbal
reinforcement, while others do not.