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  • Yell Less: How To Raise Respectful, Confident, And 'Drama-Free' Kids

    It can even effectively stop tantrums.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Yell Less: How To Raise Respectful, Confident, And 'Drama-Free' Kids
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/MIA Studio
  • No parent wants to yell at their child, but losing your temper is sometimes unavoidable especially when you have toddlers who seem to love testing your patience. If you’re looking for a reason to curb this behavior of yours, a mom says yelling less can actually lessen tantrums.

    Michaeleen Doucleff, a National Public Radio (NPR) journalist, learned this while traveling with her then 3-year-old daughter, Rosy, and meeting parents from a Maya village in Mexico; a community of hunter-gatherers Tanzania; and the Inuits from Canada. She published her experiences in the book Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans.

    According to The Atlantic, Doucleff witnessed “well-adjusted, drama-free kids” who got along with their siblings and did chores without being asked. And what was different with these communities’ child-rearing practices? They yelled and praised their children less.

    While Doucleff was with the Inuits, a group of indigenous people living in the arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska, she hardly saw parents losing their cool in front of their children.

    She lived with a grandmother named Sally, who was looking after her three grandchildren all under 6 years old. Doucleff shares, “At one point, a little toddler, maybe 18 months at the time, I think he was pulling the dog's tail or something. Sally picked him up and, when she did, he scratched her face so hard that it was bleeding.

    “I would have been irate, but Sally, I saw her kind of clench her teeth, and just say, in the calmest voice, ‘We don’t do this.’ Then she took him and flipped him around with this playful helicopter move, and they both started laughing. Then it was over — there was no conflict around it.”

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    She also experienced firsthand how staying calm can immediately put a stop to a tantrum. “Another time on our trip, in the grocery store, Rosy started having a tantrum, and I was getting ready to yell at her to stop. But Elizabeth, our interpreter, came over to her and addressed her in the calmest voice,” Doucleff recalls.

    “Immediately, Rosy just stopped—when she was around that calmness, her whole body relaxed. I was like, Okay, I’m just doing this tantrum thing completely wrong,” she says.

    When toddlers throw a tantrum, parents sometimes think that the children are deliberately pushing their buttons. But the Inuits told Doucleff that children do not know “how to manipulate like that.”

    They reminded her that children are “illogical, irrational, beings who haven’t matured enough and haven’t acquired understanding or reason yet. So, there’s no reason to get upset or argue back — if you do, you’re being just like the child.”

    Apart from being mindful of their actions and staying Zen in the face of children acting out, Doucleff also noticed that the parents in these communities avoid overly praising their child.

    “Everywhere I went, I don’t know if I ever heard a parent praise a child,” Doucleff shares in an interview with The Atlantic. “Yet these kids are incredibly self-sufficient, confident, and respectful — everything we want praise to do, these kids already have it, without the praise.”

    Parents have been accustomed to praise their children as a way to show support and encourage good behavior. But experts have said that praise, when given inappropriately, can work backwards and cause kids to build a sense of entitlement.

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    According to Doucleff, she used to “exaggeratedly react” to her daughter’s smallest accomplishments. When she cut down on the praise, she saw something change in her little girl.

    “It’s not that there’s no feedback, but it’s much gentler feedback — parents will smile or nod if a child is something they want. I started doing that, and Rosy’s behavior really improved. A lot of the attention-seeking behavior went away,” Doucleff said.

    Does your child's tantrums make you feel like a mean mom? Click here to learn ways to be in control.

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