I'm a yeller. I never really realized it, until J pointed it out one day. I grew up in a house of yellers, so it just seemed normal to me. And, look, I don't think there's a toddler out there who hasn't driven their parent to yelling at least some of the time. But I wanted to yell less.
A typical scenario: we're trying to leave the house and have somewhere to be at a certain time. I ask P1 to put on her shoes. She keeps playing with her toys and ignores me. I tell P1 in a stern voice to put on her shoes. She doesn't. I'm wrangling P2 and now we're running late and so I start yelling at P1 to put on her shoes. She doesn't.
Sound familiar? (Please tell me this sounds familiar. Please tell me we're not the only ones!)
This was happening so many times a day, it was exhausting. When J pointed out how much I was yelling, my first reaction was to explain why I was yelling. I never started off by yelling. I only yelled because previous attempts hadn't been effective.
But the yelling wasn't effective, either.
Most effective is the totally hands-on approach. E.g., in the scenario with the shoes above, taking P1 by the hand and leading her to her shoes and helping her as she picked out her shoes and put them on. But sometimes, that just isn't practical. Sometimes, my hands are full and I'm doing five things at once and I just need her to get her shoes on her own. Yelling wasn't making it happen, and I was sick of yelling, and my family was sick of hearing me yell.
I don't know what made the light bulb switch on, but it turns out, if you turn something into a game, it's so much easier to get kids to cooperate (ok, maybe not the most earth-shattering revelation, but one that I had not made much practical use of until recently). Also, because toddlers are pretty easily entertained, it's usually pretty easy to convince them something is a game.
How does it work? Instead of telling P1 to get up from her toys and walk over to the door to put on her shoes, I invite her to play a game with me. Maybe we're going to hop like bunnies over to the door, or we'll march in a line and sing a song (like "Following the Leader" from Peter Pan, "Hi Ho" from Snow White, or the kids' song "Walking in the Jungle"). The key to this second one is: you must march, preferably with fun accompanying arm gestures, and you must sing a song that pertains to walking somewhere in a line. As soon as I start, 9 times out of 10, P1 has a smile on her face and is scrambling on her feet to join me, and then once she's in the spot where she needs to be (like by the front door), it's much easier to get her to do the thing I need to do (like put on her shoes).
It's so simple, and faster than just standing there yelling over and over, and we all get to where we need to go that much happier and calmer.
Of course, I mentioned above it only works about 9 out of 10 times. That tenth time? I'm still yelling. But I'm working on it, and these days, I'm definitely yelling less, which is a win in my book.
Dear readers, what about you? Any tips for cutting down on yelling and increasing cooperation from kids? Leave a note in the comments!