Talk to Kids, Don’t Yell

October 25, 2009

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When I was young, I considered myself to be a patient person.  Then I had children.  On several occasions, I lost it.  “If at first you don’t hear me”, I thought,  “I’ll yell a little louder.”  (The cheerleaders used to chant that line at high school basketball games).  The kids had a lot to learn, but I also had to learn to grow up.  At best, yelling brings about frozen silence, maybe a modicum of compliance on a good day.  But it never accomplishes what you want.

When our children were adults (late 20’s) I asked them what they remembered about my various styles of discipline.  How my eyes were opened.  They said, “When you yelled at us, we had no idea what we did ruby-yelling-500wrong or why you were mad, only THAT you were mad.”  So my being mad was the main focus.  “When you explained to us what we did wrong and why it was wrong, then the discipline made sense.  We then figured out ways to do better next time.”  I learned that yelling stifles learning and growth; explanation with consequences enhances it.

The Bible puts it well in one of the Proverbs:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

That kind of power should caution us to guard our speech.

The best explanation of this verse and other proverbs on the topic of the power of words is a sermon by Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY City.  You can (and should) order this sermon by clicking here.

Our well-read daughter just tipped us off to a couple of good articles in the New York Times that reinforce the need to correct a current harmful trend.  One article makes a case for how yelling is the new spanking.   The other article emphases the importance of talking to your child from birth onward.

If you’re interested in additional tips on mothering, consider Dr. Shiela Cason’s blog and also  Mommy, M.D.