Hello, summer! School’s out and more family time is in…
And with more family time comes the possibility of more ‘ugh’ parenting moments. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those moments when you lose your cool and words tumble out that you just wish you could take back. Maybe they escalate the situation. Maybe they were just a poor choice. Or maybe you were upset about something completely unrelated to your child’s tantrum — and took it out on them in your tone of voice.
It happens. Not one of us is a perfect parent.
The Family Tree wants to help Maryland families flip the script when it comes to parenting. The non-profit agency strives to raise families up by providing positive parenting education and intervention services. They act as a resource to help parents build bonds with their children, manage stress, understand child development, overcome challenges, and build community among families.
“Child maltreatment is a huge issue in Baltimore and beyond,” said Executive Director Pat Cronin. Their mission? Educate to prevent maltreatment.
The word maltreatment is striking because there is such a range of behaviors attached to the word. Everything from abuse to emotional indifference. In the state of Maryland, there were 51,000 cases of child maltreatment reported in 2014. That’s one every 10 minutes.
For every case reported, it is estimated that two go unreported.
But it’s not just “other families” that The Family Tree is helping. They’re giving all parents “simple strategies to help them focus their energy on positive behavior and communication instead of scolding, pressuring, rejecting or ignoring,” said Pat.
Research involving middle school students has shown that yelling at a child can be just as damaging as hitting them. The experts at The Family Tree have put together a talking toolkit to help parents learn communication and behavioral management techniques that actually make parenting easier – and foster happier, healthier children!
The thing to note about the research? Most of the kids involved in the study were not from at-risk families. They were middle-income families where there was an “okay relationship” between the child and parent.
Here’s how you can start flipping the script.
Flip the Script: How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids
Speak. Don’t Shout.
As parents, we all have times where we feel like we’ve lost control of our kids. And sometimes we act on it, insensitively snapping orders, or saying unkind things we don’t mean. Yet harsh verbal discipline – including yelling, cursing, and insulting – can have a lifelong effect. When you find yourself in this situation, count to ten. (Yes, the same technique you’re teaching your three-year-old to use).
Listen. Don’t Lecture.
It’s 8 AM. You need to be out the door in 10 minutes and your kindergartener is refusing to put on the outfit you set out. Sure, you could get into a battle of the wills, unintentionally belittle, get your way, and then hop in the car feeling guilty — and your child angry. Or, you could listen to your 5-year-old and work together on reasonable alternatives. There’s an emotion behind his/ her action. By listening to and observing your child, you can learn what makes their unique mind tick.
Teach. Don’t Force.
Patience and problem-solving skills. Things we all want for our kids. But we have to teach them. Give your child the opportunity to make choices as soon as they’re old enough to understand, starting simple (“Which snack do you want to take to school?”) and growing more complex (“How can you handle this differently?”). In addition, you can help them label emotions and encourage them to practice waiting.
Reflect. Don’t React.
When your child acts out, don’t immediately go for the time out. Start by taking a look within to see if this situation is triggering you — and if your immediate reaction may be harmful. Be sure whatever the consequence is, it fits the actions. Suspending privileges? Be mindful of the time. Long suspensions can build resentment and lose their effectiveness as the child forgets the original wrongdoing.
Want more ideas for flipping the script? Check out The Family Tree’s website and their parenting resources.