101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking

August 31st, 2010 by Dionna | 104 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance

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Photo Credit: obyvatelIf you have come to a point in a challenging situation with your child where you feel that the only thing left to do is to yell at or strike your child, step away from the child.

Here are 101 things you can do instead of yelling or spanking:

  1. Take a parental time-out.
  2. Call for help from a friend or family member (ask them to give you an immediate break if possible).
  3. Pile everyone in the car and drive to the park (or anywhere – just go for a change of scenery).
  4. Sing a silly song about how angry you are.
  5. Do jumping jacks.
  6. Draw your feelings out.
  7. Make yourself your favorite snack.
  8. Write down 3 instances when you felt intense love for your child.
  9. Clean out your clothes closet and set aside a bag for Goodwill (now would probably not be a good time to do this with the kids’ toys).
  10. Change the subject – come back to it when you and your child are calmer.
  11. Whisper.
  12. Practice progressive relaxation.
  13. Act like animals: stomp like an elephant, growl like a lion, etc.
  14. Run around the house (or around the block if your children have alternate childcare).
  15. Do a load of laundry.
  16. Set out clothes for the kids for the next week (or do some other task that will pay off later).
  17. Release tension: shake your shoulders, roll your neck, etc.
  18. Count to 100. Out loud. In a robot voice.
  19. Immerse yourself in an easy craft project.
  20. Dust off the hedge clippers and trim your trees or other landscaping.
  21. If your child allows it, give him a huge hug and tell him you love him.
  22. Scream into a pillow.
  23. Bake cookies (with help from your child), bring some to a neighbor or your local fire department.
  24. Dance to your favorite song.
  25. Instead of yelling at your kids to do something, act out your request in a game of charades or pictionary.
  26. Pluck your eyebrows.
  27. Clean out the refrigerator.
  28. Bang your head – to some loud music.
  29. Write down the angry words you could have said, then rip the paper up and throw it away.
  30. Do some yoga.
  31. Rearrange the furniture.
  32. Make a list of the many reasons you love your child.
  33. Wash the car by hand.
  34. Laugh in as many different ways as you can think of (think Mary Poppins).
  35. Take everyone and go sit in a car wash. Choose the option for colored soap.
  36. Chocolate.
  37. Call a friend who supports gentle discipline (think about finding a “gentle discipline partner” who you can talk to anytime you feel the urge to yell or spank).
  38. Fall down theatrically on the floor. Lie there long enough to collect yourself.
  39. Pay bills.
  40. Keep a roll of washi tape handy – use it on your mouth.
  41. Squeeze a stress ball.
  42. Recite multiplication tables.
  43. Stand as silent and still as possible.
  44. Paint your nails.
  45. Do 25 sit-ups.
  46. Finish a task you’ve been putting off.
  47. Listen to an audio book.
  48. Take a bubble bath.
  49. Ask a silly question. Ask another.
  50. Take a walk around your neighborhood or a park and clean up the trash.
  51. Run up and down the stairs.
  52. Paint on different mediums (paper, rocks, your windows, etc.).
  53. Write a story using only 100 words.
  54. Cook a meal for the freezer.
  55. Look at pictures of your child when she was a baby.
  56. Play Solitaire (or whatever game strikes your fancy).
  57. Brew some of your favorite tea or coffee. Have a tea party.
  58. Sweep, vacuum, or mop.
  59. Learn something new online.
  60. Play with Playdough or clay.
  61. Put a movie on for the kids; have sex with your partner.
  62. Take a shower.
  63. Organize meal plans for the next week. Or month. Or year.
  64. Set up an obstacle course for you and your kids to do (inside or out).
  65. Instead of shouting something angrily, shout “I love you!!”
  66. Make up a rhyme about how much you love your child. Recite it while standing on your head.
  67. Play ball (basketball, throw a tennis ball against a wall, play catch with someone, etc.).
  68. Take artsy pictures.
  69. Make a PostSecret postcard.
  70. Pull weeds.
  71. Decoupage something.
  72. Blow bubbles.
  73. Make a list of “things I would rather do than engage in power struggles with my child.”
  74. Trade roles with your child: pretend you are the little, and she is the adult.
  75. Reorganize a closet or cabinet.
  76. Roll around on an exercise ball.
  77. Make bread or pizza dough (the kind you have to knead).
  78. Form a drum circle: everyone grab a drum or a pot, and start playing.
  79. Build a tower out of books (or anything handy). Knock it down.
  80. Gather the kids for a nature walk around the block.
  81. Have a few funny videos saved on YouTube to watch when you need a break.
  82. Take silly pictures of yourself. Invite your child to help.
  83. Ask your Facebook or Twitter friends to tell you a joke.
  84. Scrub the shower.
  85. Write a poem (it doesn’t have to be a good one).
  86. Send postcards to random people.
  87. Make a silly (and unrelated) announcement. (“For the rest of the day, everyone must hop on one foot when moving about the house!”)
  88. Make funny faces. Tell your child that no matter what, they must not laugh.
  89. Turn on a videocamera. Turn the opportunity into one of love and connection that you can be proud of later.
  90. Play an instrument.
  91. Take the family to a park with sidewalk chalk: write/draw inspirational messages/pictures.
  92. Learn how to say a few words in another language (ASL, Spanish, etc.).
  93. Floss.
  94. Jump rope.
  95. Do something nice for someone else. (Involve your child if he wants to help.)
  96. Write your feelings down on paper.
  97. Meditate or pray.
  98. Hug your child’s teddy bear or doll and talk about how much you love your child (while your child is watching, if you’d like).
  99. Look into a mirror and realize what your child is seeing when you are angry.
  100. Remember your child is young, and innocent, and loves you, and needs to trust you.
  101. Take a minute to calm down and breastfeed your child. (It’s hard to be angry at a child who is nursing, plus the act of breastfeeding releases hormones that will help calm both of you down.)

The bottom line is to not scream at or hit your child. It’s ok to step away from the situation or to defuse a fight by using laughter or love instead of instantly turning to discipline or punishment. If you are trying to “teach” your child something, she will not learn when you are approaching her with anger – whether it is in your voice or in your hand. All she will feel is fear.

Talk about it when both you and your child are calm. Chances are, you will both feel better about the outcome.

What do you do when you need a moment to compose yourself?


Photo Credit: obyvatel via Stock.xchng

104 Responses to:
"101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking"

  1. Tracy   thomer

    I personally enjoy singing my yells – opera style. I can be loud and it makes me and DS laugh :)

  2. TNmommie

    I had a nice breakthrough moment today!!! My son was throwing a fit when we got home from daycare and was thrashing around, throwing toys and screaming because he wanted a poptart. I knew he was just tired and hungry, dinner was almost ready so I went over held his hands and pulled him to me. I hugged and rocked him and he just cried into my chest to let off the rest of his frustrations. At that very moment I was thankful for all the time I’ve been spending reading gentle parenting ideas. The old me would have stomped over to him, told him to stop in a mean voice, when he did he would have gotten a spanking (that would have done nothing!) and he would have gone about rampaging….I like my new approach!!! Thank you so much!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      What an awesome story! Feel free to expand on that a little and submit it to the “gentle parenting success stories” series :)

      • TNmommie

        Hope to be adding to this success story with more in the following weeks/months! It really was great today to go over and love him and give him what he really needed instead of flying off the handle and being hate-filled.

        I still need your 101 suggestions though because I still fight the urge to yell most of the time. One day at a time!!!

  3. April

    I am bookmarking this. Thank you. I have a temper by nature. I was raised with a mom who yelled at us a lot (I inherited the temper from her – my dad is really laid back!). I know she loves me and my brother, but I can also recall many instances of her screaming and screaming at us. I do not want my son to have those memories. I also want to not yell at my husband when I’m upset with him. But it’s a real struggle for me, because yelling is all too easy for me to fall into. This list is great, lots of ideas for redirecting the energy and breaking the tension.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you April (and everyone else who has left a comment or shared this list with a friend) – I was raised in a yelling and spanking household, so it’s taken a lot of work to get a handle on my temper. I feel SO much better in my relationship with my son, though, when I’m gentle with him – it’s worth it!

  4. Sarah

    Okay haven’t read all of it – or responses, but I just have to say – it is NOT a good idea to pluck your eyebrows when angry : ) Trust me on this one ; )

    Great post there are some great ideas that I’ll try with the kids from time to time.

  5. Christine

    Your ideas are great! I think the urge to yell at our children is so common because we are living in a world that demands so much from us as parents and people. How could we not become frustrated and stressed? We put it on ourselves too in order to feel necessary. Something that helps me is to remember that and then I usually realize that the world will not end if I don’t give the kids a bath that very moment or start the laundry this day or have dinner on the table by 5:30 on the dot. I’m a yeller trying to be a whisperer and it is so hard but I see my kids responding to me in the same frustrated tones (which are also very disrespectful on both our parts) that I’ve taught them. It’s not just the tones though, it’s the words too that can hurt. I disappoint myself often by the way I speak to my kids. And I’m trying to remember how impressionable they are! 21, 65, 99, and 100 are my favorites and I will keep them in mind for tomorrows great adventures! Thanks for the ideas, I’ve tried many of these (successfully too) but it’s nice to have a refresher!

  6. Melodie   bfmom

    I’ve never seen that many FB shares before on any post anywhere. Congrats on a fabulous post. I really have nothing to add!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you Melodie – I hope that this means people are starting to realize and accept that we can be gentle and respectful with our children. How wonderful of a world would that be?!

  7. deb from p.s. bohemian   psbohemian

    This was/is great! I’m gonna link to it in a blog post asap! – some favorites of mine (really cause they were new to me and i love adding to my toolbox) were:

    #6 Draw your feelings out.

    #37 Call a friend who supports gentle discipline (think about finding a “gentle discipline partner” who you can talk to anytime you feel the urge to yell or spank).

    #73 Make a list of “things I would rather do than engage in power struggles with my child.”

    #98 Hug your child’s teddy bear or doll and talk about how much you love your child (while your child is watching, if you’d like).

    Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Megan at SortaCrunchy   SortaCrunchy

    WOW. What an incredible list!!! Thanks, Dionna! Just amazing.

  9. What a great list!!! Thank you! it will definitely come in handy.

  10. PDeverit

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, college students, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is “spanked”, but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the sex organs, anal region, and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be intentionally or unintentionally sexually abusive, but I won’t list them all here. One can read the testimony, documentation, and educational resources available from the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at http://www.nospank.net.

    Child bottom-slapping/battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child bottom-slapping/battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping/battering isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson

    by Lesli Taylor MD and Adah Maurer PhD

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping/battering isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The US states with the highest crime rates and the poorest academic performance are also the ones with the highest rates of child corporal punishment.

    There is simply no evidence to suggest that child bottom-slapping/battering instills virtue.

  11. Jazmin

    Thanks! Love all of them. Well except the tweeze your eyebrows. Lol I suffer from tich. So I have to work hard not to tweeze.

  12. Barb

    I stole some fun and silly things from Mr. Magorium……
    Dance on bubble wrap! It’s distracting in such a fun way and is a great way to get that energy out- which in situations like these ^, is negative energy and then it’s quickly replaced by positive.
    Play dress up- my mom collects discounted costumes at after halloween sales for my son. Sometimes it’s easier to…’use’?…your emotions (especially if you’re just figuring them out) if you can act them out as different people/animals/whatever in gentle pretend play.
    I’m not perfect- I’m very thankful for this list, I holler A LOT. But these are just some things that have helped when my son seems to be having a hard time expressing himself and gets frustrated and out of control to a point that we both are getting so frustrated that my patience just plummets.

  13. thanks for the great list. cleaning is a great one for me… it releases my anger and i get some stuff REALLY clean!! i like the #98 since my kids dont want hugs when they are mad….i think this might get thru to them tho!

  14. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I make a lot of funny faces. I say, “I am angry right now. Do you want to see my angry face?” And then I make the most ridiculous angry face ever, and we all laugh. It works pretty well, because it also stops whatever behaviour it is that I’m angry about.

  15. Tai

    I’m still crying right now. Thank you so much for this list. I was an abused child, and i fear that everytime i lose my temper with my 3 year old, i could be turning into my mom. I always cry after I’ve yelled at him, or slapped his hand, when i realize that the action really didnt warrant that much of a reaction from me. I want you to know from the bottom of my abused heart thank you for giving my something i can work with. Ive printed this list, and have it posted on my fridge even now!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for giving your child a better life than you had, Tai – my heart goes out to you!

  16. Lisa Kathleen   fullcrcleparent

    I love this! I have done an exercise like this in one of my classes, where we generate and try out ideas, and it is so fun:) Another of my favourite ideas: imagine yourself in a cartoon, like Calvin and Hobbes or For Better or For Worse.
    In joy,
    Lisa Kathleen

  17. thisbluedreamofsky

    Thank you, Mommiest Girl, for the reminder that God’s highest priority for us is “relationship… over the outcome of a lesson learned…” I can get so caught up in The Big Lesson that I think will help my child to not be a social deviant later in life (I’m only half-joking here. Anyone else out there ever gotten into an angry spiral that seemed to rear its head for hours, or days, or more?) that I completely miss out on our actual relationship as a result! As a kid who was spanked, nagged, and sent to my room by “well-meaning parents”, I have found that my brain needed re-wiring to let go of reflex anger or the need to control, and to embrace my child as she is. That does not mean ignoring bad behaviour, but I must admit that at my ragiest moments in years past, I’m pretty sure I was projecting my own fears and issues on to her. The point of this list, I imagine, is not that everything has to work for everybody, but that but there are one or two gems on here to help everyone diffuse the reflex anger.

    For the record, my three current favourites for relationship over struggle are…

    1) the naughty step/chair, a Jo Frost (Super Nanny) standard – not needed anymore but it was the best thing I ever tried to diffuse anger/tantrums and to get to the point of talking calmly (and apologies/forgiveness)
    2) instead of “mommy, mommy, mommy…”, have the child touch and hold your arm when s/he wants your attention. When you touch it back, that’s your private signal that you know s/he’s there and will be ready to listen at the first available moment, so your conversation/work isn’t being rudely interrupted.
    3) Eat dinner together at the dinner table with no distractions (TV or phone). I know this doesn’t fit the list but as a pro-relationship tool, there’s nothing like it.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for the comment! Your realizations are wonderful, so many people never understand that their reactions are more a product of their past than what they are experiencing right now. Aldort’s “Raising Our Children Raising Ourselves” might be an interesting read for you.
      I do disagree with a “naughty chair,” as popular as it is in the mainstream media. Kohn wrote a wonderful article about it, check it out here: http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/supernanny.htm
      I love your suggestions about having your child touch your arm and eating dinner together – what great ways to connect!

  18. Amy

    I love this so much it’s making me cry. For the times when I yelled or swatted my kids. For my kids at those times. For the mothers who need help or a break. For the children who deserve better. For all of us who love our children so much and are doing the best we can and sometimes fall short and need one another’s love and support and creative alternatives to yelling and hitting. Thank you. May we bring about a more peaceful, loving world through more peaceful, loving parenting.

  19. Lisa Kathleen   fullcrcleparent

    I would love to add a thought here. All of these ideas are options. Your family, your child, YOU are different than anyone else, so what works to shift everyone’s energy in your home might be vastly different than what works in someone else’s home.

    When I am coaching parents, it is about small steps in a more positive direction. It is also absolutely key that you don’t end up feeling like a doormat in your home and in your relationship with your child. I find that the thing that is missing for most families is the bottom line – this is what needs to NOT be compromised: We are going to look for a solution that works for BOTH of us.

    Then, if the solution doesn’t work for you, the adult, you have to continue to advocate for a solution that works for BOTH of you. The key to balancing control is that you also have to consistently advocate for a solution your child likes, as well.

    The goal is to frame for the child that you are trying to find a solution that you both like, and to invite their help in finding a solution. If the child can’t or won’t help you find a solution, you can still look for a solution you BOTH like. When nothing’s working, if your child knows you ALWAYS look for a respectful solution, they will also know that this is the best you can come up with right now, and they will eventually take more and more responsibility for solutions.

    Feel free to email me (through “contact us” at http://www.fullcircleparenting.com) for a Family Meeting Overview that can be used with children as young as 2 1/2 (depending on personality, etc). The concept of “we need a solution that works for both of us” starts at birth, and this is the key to long-term connection and raising children who are empathetic, grateful, and respecting of you and others.

  20. I can say is, “Thank you!” and I’ll be sharing it…

  21. Jazmin

    I agree with all but the plucking eyebrows. I suffer from tich. so I have to work hard on not pulling when angry/sad… When I was pregnant that is how I coped. And I ended up pulling the hair out from the top of my head, and had to walk around with a huge bald spot. Not trying to pick the list apart. Just don’t want another mom to start coping that way. It can lead to OCD especially if the mother already has OCD tendencies(like myself).

  22. Beck

    I would only add that I think the next 101 list should be things you can do to address the situation. I have never spanked or yelled in anger & am fortunate that I have a temperament that is very slow to anger & generally patient (thus why I have previously worked with children & the elderly). My issue is when I have tried a, b, c, d, e, f, & G & still get no change in behavior (after repetition of each many many times) and am left with an empty bag of tricks. I have spanked very rarely & only for dangerous situations that are repeated. Even so I would rather never do it at all – but frankly it has worked for my son when nothing else did. If we want parents to not ever spank, then they have to be given effective tools to get the response that is needed (such as staying out of the street). This may be as simple as putting up a fence in some cases, but when it happens with a child that drops & twists away from your hand & is downtown, there is no way to fence the world. I absolutely think that NO discipline gentle or otherwise is very effective while frustrated or angry & can absolutely be damaging if it includes yelling or spanking at that time. We can’t even have good clear conversations in that state with ourselves or others. I also believe that we can say things, even quietly & calmly that are damaging to children when angry. My father was very good at the quiet character assassination – so not yelling isn’t the only thing that matters. I would rather a parent yell “stop it!” or “be quiet!” when at an overwhelmed moment than to say mean things quieter. I just hope that we can spread more ideas about strategies that effect behaviors vs mostly ideas on how to cool down. I seem to be pretty good at keeping cool – I just dont’ always know how to get through & make something shift. I realize some things don’t shift, it’s just a phase & am okay with that – but other things have to change (like climbing bookshelves & the like :P ).

    One thing we have done is grounding. That is similar to what people usually think of but also is what we call time outs as well. To me grounding is a positive word & we use it as such. When you say an adult is very grounded – you know what that means. To us in parenting grounding means helping our children get grounded again. At three that might be 2-5 minutes & may be quiet time or time that we talk. In teens it may be more like a week. It has been VERY effective for us. We talk during a grounding too about the importance of getting back to basics, having quiet time with ourselves to reflect on what we are doing, what we want to be doing, where we are going, etc… As adults we need grounding too & I find that when I am flustered & seeming out of sorts, my three year old will say “Oh momma, you just need a little grounding. Go have quiet time” and I think it is darling. I try to do this with him BEFORE we have an issue, when I see behavior getting a bit wild. It helps him recenter BEFORE there is any issue. In that way as a family we help each other stay grounded & remember what matters. It isn’t a bad thing in our home (even though teens don’t always initially appreciate it, they usually do by the time it is over) it is a time of resbit to get back to basics.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Beck – thanks for your thoughtful response! I, too, wish there was an easy list of 101 ways to gently/positively address behavior. I do try to write about gentle/respectful ways of communicating with and disciplining children regularly on Code Name: Mama – of course many of those methods aren’t conducive to a quippy one sentence summary (at least, unless you already had a background in the subject).
      I can recommend a few books to you that I think will be helpful, especially since you’re already on a gentle parenting road – my favorites are Hart’s “Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids,” Cohen’s “Playful Parenting,” Aldort’s “Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves,” and Kohn’s “Unconditional Parenting.”
      We are starting a new series here on Code Name: Mama next week called “gentle parenting successes and suggestions.” If you have a specific challenging situation that you’d like some input on, email me – we’d love to feature your question and see what insight other readers have (who are all striving for gentle parenting themselves).

  23. Nurtue   fairywhispers

    When I find myself getting ultra-cranky, I send the kids outside to play. I get a much needed break, and they get some excercise.

  24. Rachel

    Hello i,
    You can customize the suggestions in ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ – and other communication books (such as those published by Puddledancer Press). If it sounds strange to you, just put over the same idea in different words.
    ‘You feel angry because you can’t go to your friend’s house right now’ could become. ‘Oh, it’s annoying you can’t go over to your friend’s right now’ or ‘Ooh, what a lousy deal! You can’t go to your friend’s right now.’ or ‘Tough, eh? Can’t go and you want to, right now!’ – or whatever feels natural for you.
    They may like the new style, once they get used to it!

  25. i came back here to see if you’d replied to my comment asking if gentle discpline was about more than distraction and prevention, but it isn’t here. did you delete it? i asked respectfully and sincerely.

    we don’t spank and it is certainly a challenge to get my 2yo to listen and be respectful. mommy time-outs may curb my anger, but they’ll not do anything to help her learn why/how her behavior needs to change…

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Hi Suzannah – nope, I didn’t delete it. I actually saw this comment in the spam folder and approved it – I went back through the other spam items to see if your first comment got caught, but nothing. Perhaps it just didn’t go through? Sorry about that! I hate it when I type out long comments and they get sucked into the internet dead zone.
      As far as a 2 yr old listening and being respectful, I would say that right now your biggest job is to role model for her. We simply can’t expect model behavior from toddlers – they are going through SO much, emotionally, physically, developmentally.
      I try to write about gentle discipline with toddlers pretty consistently – you can see posts from the archives here: http://codenamemama.com/category/discipline/
      I also invite you to submit a specific question to the new series I’m starting next week, “gentle parenting successes and suggestions.” Here are contribution details: http://codenamemama.com/2010/07/28/call-for-submissions-gentle-parenting/
      Thank you for reading and for commenting – I look forward to dialogue in the future!

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