“Why does no one listen unless I yell?!” Here is why, and even better, some simple steps to stop this pattern from repeating itself over and over in your household.
Did you know that there is research that shows a reasonable estimate of the number of commands a young child receives is one per minute? Commands given to our children occur during all types of activities, with some studies documenting an average of 10 commands or more in 17 minutes during mealtimes (e.g., "take three more bits, eat your food, stop throwing potatoes at your sister.") Take a minute to do the math and you can see that over the course of a day, a child might receive upwards of four to six hundred commands. Four to six hundred. Wow. No wonder our kids aren’t listening to what we say.
The thing is, we (very accidentally) teach kids not to listen until we yell. You just read the astonishing number of commands parents give. Kids need some way to figure out how to filter for the important things! Often, yelling becomes an easy way to distinguish between a real command and a choice.
The other reason yelling is "effective" is because we don’t follow up commands to ensure kids follow through. How could you? There is no way that we as parents can appropriately and consistently follow-up on 400 commands in a given day. It just wouldn’t be possible for ANY parent! Instead, we might find ourselves repeating a command over and over, getting increasingly frustrated, or not following-through at all and just letting the matter drop (because we really don’t have the energy/don’t care that much that they listen in the first place). This inconsistency is confusing for kids, and they are left to wonder which commands are a choice, and which they are really supposed to listen to.
And so, all too often, yelling ends up becoming the follow-through. (which doesn’t feel good for anyone).
Now, we have ALL found ourselves in a moment realizing that we spent that last 30-minutes shouting out a list of orders to our kids: “Put that down! Don’t climb that. Be careful. Watch out. Share your toys..” and on and on…and on. Yes, we have all been there, done that. But it is frustrating for you, and it is really frustrating for our kids. So let’s break down why this is happening, and what you can do to change the pattern.
Here is the chain of events involved:
- Imagine you were on the receiving end of all this high-frequency commanding. You would find it really unpleasant, and frankly, rather annoying. It would be the kind of thing you would vent about to anyone who would listen—“My boss tells me what to do every 1.3 seconds. I’m not kidding. I started timing it and it’s true!” Kids are no different. When they are inundated with rapid fire commands, or commands coming at them all day long, it is frustrating, unpleasant, and annoying for them. Which then leads to the fact that…
- When kids receive too many commands, the chance of them listening goes down significantly. And when kids feel too overwhelmed and frustrated, they tend to shut down, throw a tantrum, or just ignore the commands entirely. Which then leads to…
- Parents feeling overwhelmed and frustrated themselves, and that’s when our own tantrums kick in, or at the least, the yelling begins!