“QUIT HITTING YOUR BROTHER!!!”
“DIDN’T I TELL YOU TO PICK UP YOUR TOYS???”
“I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN. YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY MORE COOKIES!!!”
“FOR THE 1,000TH TIME, NO, YOU CAN’T ___________(fill in the blank).”
And then they ask for the 1,001st time and you totally lose it. I’ve lost it. More than once. More than twice. Let’s be honest, several times.
Every parent has been there.
At some point, I decided I can’t keep losing it. I can’t keep yelling at my kids when they fail to meet my expectations or they simply don’t do what I’ve told them to do. I can’t continue to scream at them to get them to listen to me, and I can’t frighten them into respecting my role as their parent.
✦ Research shows that yelling at your kids out of anger or frustration can damage them emotionally. Researchers also found that adolescents who had experienced harsh verbal discipline suffered from increased levels of depressive symptoms, and were more likely to demonstrate behavioral problems such as vandalism or antisocial and aggressive behavior. I don’t want to yell at my kids, but sometimes there seems to be no other way to get their attention.
How do you actually stop yelling at your kids?
1. Allow the consequences to do your screaming for you.
One of the best parenting tips I received early in my parenting journey was that you train your kids when you’re serious. If you never yell until the 3rd time you’ve said something, then your kids learn that their parent isn’t serious until they’ve said it 3 times. Of course by the third time, you’re frustrated. The focus is now on your yelling and not on the issue.
Practice telling your children one time, make certain they heard you and then give them consequences after the first time. No yelling required.
Example: “Look little Johnny, please pick up your toys.” Get assurance that he heard you.
If a couple of minutes later, Johnny hasn’t picked up his toys, proceed like this. Without yelling, but in your normal conversational tone say, “Johnny, you didn’t pick up your toys like you were told. I’m now taking your toys for the rest of the day.”
Johnny’s learning that you’re serious when you say it once, not the 3rd time. Johnny may scream, Johnny may cry, Johnny may throw a fit. But Johnny isn’t used to you being serious the first time. Johnny will become trained to hear you without the yelling. And the focus is on the act, not how upset you are.
2. Know Your Triggers.
What causes you to go off the deep end? We all have triggers.
- Do you obsess over the cleanliness of your house?
- Do you absolutely hate to be late?
- Are you fearful about how your kids will represent the family in public?
- Do you hate having interruptions?
- Does disrespect make your blood boil?
Your children probably do some things that you don’t like that don’t bother you much at all, while others set you off very quickly. Name those things that set you off so you can prepare to respond rationally when they push your buttons.
If you’ve yelled and violated your no-screaming clause, then be proactive and apologize to your children. You don’t need to apologize for the consequences, just for yelling and expressing your anger in a way that is not loving.
After you’ve sincerely apologized a few times to your kids, then it’s amazing how you begin to become more conscious of your actions the next time they frustrate you. A few apologies shouldn’t cause you to give up hope. Let it be quite the opposite. It shows your children you’re human, and that you’re actively trying to improve as a person and parent as well. Who wouldn’t want their child to learn that lesson for themselves? They too may be a parent one day. They’ll value the apologies as much, if not more than, they valued the discipline.
☆ You’re also much more likely to get a kid who genuinely tries to do the right thing.
4. Take a Timeout.
Yes, it is hard to take a timeout in the heat of the moment. But the alternative is apologizing again or giving up. Your kids are too important to give up on and even if I’m willing to say “I’m sorry,” I’d rather not need to. The key to the timeout is to jump on it the minute you feel your button being pushed.
Nothing is lost when you take 10 minutes to calm down. You haven’t lost any power as a parent. You haven’t lost the opportunity to teach a lesson or the chance to effectively discipline. Generally, nothing bad can come from taking a moment to calm down and think through the issue and consider what is the best way to get the outcome you desire.
5. Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask.
When you’re sleep-deprived, lacking energy, and stressed, you’re more likely to get irritated and it becomes more difficult to respond to your kids in a loving way. Finding time to get good sleep, have some quiet time, spend time with friends, or snuggle up with your sweetie can be difficult. Talking with your family, friends, and loved ones about helping you to get some alone time is vital.
While practicing good self-care does not guarantee that your kids will never push your buttons, it can help you be in a better mindset to respond in a positive way to help your relationship with your child grow. Taking care of yourself will help you be the best parent to your child.
Remember, kids will be kids.
It’s easy to forget that your brain has developed its sense of judgment, problem solving, and basic understanding of right and wrong. Sometimes we yell at our kids simply because they’re not adults yet. You see the dangers of the toys on the floor. They don’t. You understand the value of respecting your siblings. They don’t.
Yelling at them says that you’re mad at them for the given behavior. Calmly teaching, training, and disciplining them says you love them. The message we want to deliver to our children is that we love them, and that message should never be confused with anything else. They may not hear that when you’re taking away a privilege, putting them in timeout or whatever loving consequence you enforce, but it’s a lesson they will grow to love and respect as their brains develop the judgment, problem solving, and basic understanding of right and wrong that you already have. Let’s not confuse any of that with yelling.
Let’s save the yelling for the real, physical danger that calls for drastic, immediate action.