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Break the Shouting Cycle

I’ve worked with many parents whose children shout at them or are in other ways disrespectful. For any primary carer, the first instinct is to try to make things better, to calm things down. But this can have the effect of making the child shout harder or flounce out; often with a bit of eye rolling too!

As a parent, you want your child to be happy and understandably you will do everything you can to help them, but this is an abusive pattern of behaviour that won’t work for them in the outside world. The cycle needs to be stopped and this is where you come in.


Imagine if an adult spoke to you like this. Quite rightly it would be called bullying!

Bullies rely on the fact that their victims get cross or upset. It’s how they know that the bullying behaviour is working and, having someone effectively join in, allows the bullying behaviour to continue.

With you and your child, this is a behaviour issue. It doesn’t mean they’re bad and it doesn’t mean they’re choosing to be a bully. They just need a better way to communicate, and you’re the one to help them.


  • In a quiet moment, decide for yourself on what behaviour is - and is not - acceptable to you.
  • Explain this to your child at a time when they are receptive.  [Depending on the age of your child, you could make an appointment to have a chat with them.]
  • Get their acknowledgement of the issue and go through the Emergency Breach Plan with them.


If you find yourself in a situation where you are being spoken to disrespectfully, it’s important you hold firm and don’t make excuses for them.

Remember that this is not an acceptable behaviour and will not serve them in the future. Also, you are a valuable person who is doing your best and you deserve to be respected at all times.

  1. STOP doing what you are doing.
  2. STAY resourceful and keep yourself calm. Think ‘EXCELLENT’.
  3. TURN to face the person who is speaking disrespectfully.
  4. SPEAK quietly to explain that the way of communicating is unacceptable and you will engage with them only when they can speak respectfully/calmly/quietly – you choose.
  5. GO BACK to what you were doing before.

If they should carry on shouting or being disrespectful, repeat the process. But in practice they tend not to because you are not engaging in the conversation.

This works for two reasons: It’s all about you not engaging with them while they are shouting. And it’s about you staying calm and being fully in charge of the situation.

Not Engaging: When people are shouting they’re on what I call ‘INFORMATION OUT’. In other words, they’re ‘NOT ON RECEIVE’. It’s like they’ve become temporarily hard of hearing. They can’t take in anything you say. They just want to overpower you. By not engaging until they can speak differently, you take back control of the interaction.

Staying Calm: When something starts going wrong it’s easy for us to run a train of thought that makes things worse. Best thing is to think ‘Excellent’ because that jams your internal dialogue. It’s like slipping into neutral.

This is a great technique that works with all age groups and in all situations. It will help you stay firm and enable you to reposition your place in the relationship.

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