Member question:

We are focusing so much on helping my oldest not yell when she is frustrated that I’m worried we are starting to make her feel like something is wrong with her and I don’t want that at all. My husband bought her a toy and said she couldn’t yell for two weeks to get it (not approved by me). The problem is when it became a topic at dinner with my in laws that I feel like we are saying “you have a problem and now we are talking about it in front of people and there is something wrong with you”. I kinda flipped out on my husband. How do you address the yelling and nastiness without making her feel like there is something wrong with her? Thank you!!

Rachel’s response:

This is a question I’ve heard a lot… How do we make sure kids change their behavior without making them feel bad about themselves? That’s exactly why I teach the Firmness + Respect model and Calm, Connect, Correct.Obviously it’s important to let her know that yelling is not OK. At the same time, you can be on her side about it, which basically means showing her that you care about her perspective.

So it would be something like, “Hey you know that we don’t yell and disrespect others in our family. And since I know you’re still struggling with that, I’d like to know what YOU’RE going through.”

Then you can ask questions like, “When your sister bothers you and you know you’re not supposed to yell, what’s that like for you?” and “I’m sure it’s hard when you know you’re not supposed to yell and you haven’t found something else that works yet. Am I right? Do you want to tell me about it?” When she’s answering these questions, your job is to LISTEN, not explain why yelling is not OK. (She knows that already.) Once she tells you, you can say, “Thank you for telling me. I want to know what you’re going through.” (That is one of the biggest deposits into significance you can make.)

Then you can say, “I know learning new behaviors is hard. It’s like learning a new language. It takes time. We’re going to get through this together… I know we will because yelling and disrespect will never be OK in this family — even toward you.”