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Monthly Archives: April 2011

How to Train Your Dragon: Yell at it?

This week, I’m happy to bring to you my first guest post from Kelly Bartlett. Kelly is a mother of two children living in Portland, Oregon, the assistant editor of The Attached Family magazine, an API leader and a certified Positive Discipline Educator. You can follow her blog at Parenting from Scratch.

“Maybe,” [Old Wrinkly] said, “you can train a dragon better by talking to it than by yelling at it.”

“That’s sweet,” said Hiccup, “and a very touching thought.  However…from what I know about dragons…I should say that yelling was a pretty good method.”

“But it has its limitations, doesn’t it?” Old Wrinkly pointed out.

–From How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

It does. Yelling is effective at pretty much two things: intimidating someone into doing what you say, and making them feel bad. No one, children or adults, likes to be yelled at.

Yelling, while an instinctual stress-reliever, doesn’t do anything to actually educate a person about the point you’re trying to make.  I had a teacher once who yelled a lot, and what I remember most about her class is the crummy feeling I had when I was in her room.  I remember feeling uncomfortable and sad when she yelled at other students, and I became so afraid to ask questions or talk to her about anything, for fear of her then yelling at me.  One time, I thought my book report was late, and oh, the fear I felt then!  Just imagining what she would say to (yell at) me turned my stomach into knots.  Thinking back on it now, I can’t remember anything about that book report, not even the title of the book, nor any other academic lessons I learned in her class.  I actually can’t even remember this teacher’s name; it’s like a traumatic memory, suppressed. (By the way, my book report did not end up being late, so crisis averted.  I do remember the joy of that moment of realization.)

As a parent, it’s easy to have my buttons pushed by my kids, yet difficult to remember that yelling doesn’t actually do anything to help them meet their behavioral goals.

“We can’t teach kids to behave better by making them feel worse.” –Pam Leo, Connected Parenting

“Children do better when they feel better.” –Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline

I am nowhere near perfect at this…the yelling thing.  It takes a lot of practice to recondition the way we respond to anger, and I am in the midst of working on this.  It’s a many-years-long journey. What I’m working on first and foremost is reconfiguring my “buttons”; trying to take the triggers that usually make me angry and change them so that they, well…don’t.  This is a matter of understanding and perspective.  The more I understand about my children’s behavior–how their brains develop and why they do the things they do–the less they trigger my anger reflex.  And the more perspective I have over “the big picture”–the foundational aspects of raising children that are truly important–the more I realize that in-the-moment yelling doesn’t work toward meeting the long-term goals I have for myself, my children, and our family as a whole.

Yelling at kids doesn’t help them learn a lesson.  Just like my book report experience, what kids remember most is the feeling brought on by the yelling; the fear. That’s the piece of information that our brains hold onto and shape our future interactions and behaviors.  Even the joy I felt when I realized my report was not late and I was not going ot be yelled at was a positive feeling, but still brought on by fear.  Was I then motivated to make extra sure that I was never late on an assignment in this teacher’s class again?  Of course.  I do think fear is a very effective motivator…no argument from me there.  But that’s not the motivation on which I want my parenting, thus my relationship with my children, to be based.

Our most prominent memories stem from feelings around events: succeeding, failing, solving a problem, making mistakes, having fun, going through a difficult time, being held, getting yelled at.  After many years, the details of events are likely to become foggy, but the feelings remain. What do I want my kids to remember when they think back on their childhoods?  Less yelling and feeling afraid, more understanding and feeling supported.  Teaching by yelling does have its limitations.  Teaching through connection is limitless.

 

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Another Attachment: Let Others Bond with Your Children

As we spend time with various family and friends over spring break, I thought I would share an old post about loosening up your strings a little. As I watch my three little ones run to greet their father, grandparents and friends, it’s a nice reminder that these relationships started when they were babies. Enjoy.

Giving Dad some room to make mistakes and take on the mundane chores of childcare really strengthened their bond.

During my first few months caring for our very fussy first-born daughter, my exhaustion had reached its peak. My husband urged me to use the breast pump that sat unopened on the counter. He was able to take the first late night feeding on weekends, allowing me to get four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep — something I desperately needed. Just as important, my husband was able to bond with our daughter in a new way. After a long week at work, he savored these late night feedings alone with his baby girl.

What is Attachment Parenting?

I’m a contributing blogger for Attachment Parenting International’s blog; API Speaks: The Voice for Gentle Parents Everywhere. They advocate eight principles of parenting that promote healthy connections with your children, helping them to become confident, compassionate adults. Read the summary of the eight principles to get the general idea.

The principle I choose to write about most often is “Strive for Balance.” One of the easiest ways to achieve balance as a mother is to let others lighten your burden so you can take a break. If you are constantly worried that no one else is capable of caring for your child (even your spouse), or you are afraid to ask for help, your child has no opportunity to form an attachment to anyone else.

Are you allowing others to bond with your child?

Mothers and fathers (and grandparents) have very different ways of holding, playing and interacting with their babies. Research shows that babies recognize and thrive on these differences. Do you constantly correct others on the proper way to hold, feed or comfort your baby or do you let them develop their own technique? It’s great to let others know what your child prefers, but hovering and immediately taking over once a baby cries is not really the best answer.

If you’re caring for an infant or young toddler, this is the week to work on loosening your strings a little. You won’t be giving up the connection that you have with your child, but allowing someone you love to form a stronger bond. Whether it’s your spouse, a grandparent or a trusted friend; let them spend time with your child without you swooping in for the rescue.

Give yourself some time off and let your child understand that there is a whole village of loved ones to whom they can turn. You will see over time how relaxed and joyful a child can be when they form loving connections with the people around you. (And trust me, you will feel the same relaxation and joy knowing that your community of support is loved by your child.)

Grace and Peace.

 

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