Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Yelling works...

The hidden cost of using threats or force to get your kids to comply.

"Then I'm not going to school!" my 6 year old son shouted, stomping his feet.

He wanted to watch TV. I wanted him to get dressed.

So I turned off the TV. Which led to the stomping and shouting and refusal to go to school.

"Then I not going to school also," my 4 year old daughter chimed in, always willing to follow her brother's lead.

I tried to stay calm. I really did. But we were running late. I was tired. And they were really frustrating me.

So, I yelled "Get down here right now, or I am leaving without you!" and I loudly unlocked the front door.

Instantly, I heard their little feet on the stairs. I achieved my goal of getting them to comply...but I didn't feel good about it. It felt like I had missed an opportunity.

The truth is, yelling and threats can work well to get your kids to cooperate (which is why we parents so often fall back on doing it)...but the problem with using force to get compliance is that you get short term results, but pay a long term price.

To understand this, think for a moment about your goal as a parent. What do you want for your children? What do you want to teach them?

Do you want to teach them compliance and obedience? To always listen and comply with the demands of others?

Or do you want to help them develop their potential? Help them develop their ability to regulate their emotions and make better decisions?

Misbehavior = Teaching opportunity

You see, every time your child misbehaves, or doesn't want to cooperate, it is an opportunity to teach them to make better decisions and regulate their emotions, and show them how to deal with difficult situations.

BUT, when you "short-circuit" this process by using threats or punishment, you miss that opportunity.

Dr. Jean Clinton, a clinical professor in child psychiatry and author of Love Builds Brains, explained this when I asked her for her best advice on how to get kids to listen:

We don’t really focus on getting children to listen.

That implies compliance and obedience. And compliance and obedience are not really values that are as important as helping kids develop their emotional capacity and potential and self-regulation.

Dr. Jean Clinton

Dr. Clinton then explained that it is much more important to connect with your child before you correct them. Because when your child feels connected to you, they feel valued and important, and that is what helps them develop.

It’s far more important to focus on connecting with your kids before you correct them. When they feel felt by you, you know, that real sense of “I’m seen, I’m valued,” then that love is what builds brains.

Dr. Jean Clinton

In my interview with Dr. Clinton, she shares how to prevent your own frustrations from driving your behavior and saying things that you'll regret afterwards.

She also explains how to help build your child’s emotional competence and capacity by becoming a “stress detective”, by changing your perspective from trying to get your child to comply to using their outbursts or bad behavior as "clues" to understand them better.