The Real Reason You’re Yelling at Your Kids (and How to Stop)

Between school closures and work-from-home schedules, do you find yourself yelling at your kids more than ever before? The “new normal” post COVID-19 certainly has us in close and constant proximity with our kids and as a result, tensions are running high. Chances are you’re tired of Zoom calls and feeling guilty about yelling at your kids for the zillionth time and want to learn how to stop the pattern.

Did you know that there is a science-backed way to get kids to listen so that you don’t have to yell? 

It’s true! If you’ve ever gotten mad because you felt or thought your kids “should” listen to you, you are right. Your kids SHOULD listen to you. So why don’t they?

It’s because you’re missing a key piece of information—the piece of the puzzle that will explain why you yell at your kids and how you can get them to want to behave.

Before I divulge the secret that is well-known to developmental psychologists, imagine for a minute that suddenly gravity ceased to exist. Instead of walking, crawling or running on the floor, your kids were suddenly bouncing off the walls—literally!

Would you get mad at them in this scenario?

No, because you’d realize that something was physically off kilter and beyond their control.

So why are we yelling at our kids?

Like gravity, there is a very real force that parents have relied on for generations,[1]  for thousands of years, that makes kids want to behave for them. It’s the most studied and accepted phenomenon in developmental psychology. It is taught everywhere from the biggest most prestigious Ivy League schools to the smallest colleges, all over the world.

It’s not contested or controversial.

But most parents don’t even know that it exists, let alone know how to harness it. Like in the imaginary gravity scenario I mentioned above, this force has been dramatically weakened in modern society. As a result, our kids are psychologically-speaking, bouncing off the walls. This is because we don’t understand that our kids are missing a force equivalent to psychological gravity.

The force I’m referring to is called attachment.

I call it alignment, for a reason I’ll explain in just a minute.

What is Attachment (and will it help me stop yelling)?

I’m not talking about attachment parenting; I’m talking about attachment science. Most of the speakers I’ve interviewed on the Great Parenting Simplified interview series, formerly the Great Parenting Show, such as Dr. Laura Markham, Dr. Dan Siegel, and Susan Stiffelman are attachment-based. My first and still one of my foremost mentors, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, who I’ve also interviewed, is who taught me all about the power of attachment.

Basically, attachment is the force that drives two people in love to want to move mountains for each other. Attachment is responsible for many things. With children, it makes them want to behave, pay attention to us, and be overall amicable in all our interactions.

I like to use a different word.

Because people often associate the word attachment with attachment parenting, I intentionally refer to this force as alignment. Some of what attachment parenting advocates, such as extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping are not necessary if you want to harness the power of attachment. So while some of what I did fit in with attachment parent philosophies, such as breastfeeding, and co-sleeping, I don’t advocate these individual choices per say.

(More sleep is often a huge trigger for parents, and largely because I didn’t know how to get my child to sleep without doing so!)

I use the word alignment because it avoids confusion, but I also like the image it paints in one’s mind.

Alignment is the connection or LINE that makes us want to cooperate with and behave like or for another.

Think of the planets orbiting the sun. You are like the sun to your children, and they are ideally orbiting around you.

You can also think of it like you being their compass point, or guidance system. You are meant to be their strong GPS (which typically stands for global positioning system).

When your children are deeply aligned with you, (and your mental health and lower stress levels help), you don’t have to yell, remind, or get angry to get their attention.

Yelling is like firing off a bunch of asteroids. The more often that this happens, the more damage is done to the child’s orbit.

Acts of criticism, shaming, perfectionism, and too much pressure to perform all become like asteroids hitting our kids, making them veer off course. Beating ourselves up and living in self-doubt can also throw off alignment.

There are many reasons why kids are not nearly as well-aligned as they were in the past. Unhealthy school environments and social media, for example, can pull them out of deep alignment with us. Lack of support for you as a parent (which is my next topic!) is another huge issue.  We’re experiencing a huge shift right now with the Pandemic. As much as a challenge it is, it’s also an opportunity to slow down and better align with our kids. That will give you the power to get through this pandemic as well as possible, and then to thrive as a family afterwards.

Harnessing the power of Alignment is one of the 5 steps towards Great Parenting Simplified. Most parents need less information, and more help applying a few key concepts. That’s exactly what we do each year with our small group coaching program, called the Inner Circle. We teach parents how to use this powerful tool to bring peace and harmony into their homes. If you’d like more information on the program and each of the 5 steps.

*Great Parenting can be simplified! This post is part of my PARENTING TIP OF THE WEEK SERIES to help you parent with confidence. For the fuller version and more in depth explanation of each point, watch the original Facebook Live on Why we Yell, here.