When my husband and I were dating, I learned from his family that he had a pretty explosive temper as a child. I was surprised! That’s not who he is anymore and he has worked hard to improve. Though I’ve seen him fairly upset on occasion, I’ve never seen that side of him.
I, on the other hand, never had much of a temper when I was younger. Not much bothered me enough to incite a reaction. (I had plenty of other flaws, of course.) Even when our first child was born, or during her terrible two’s, I remember feeling pretty calm and in control most of the time. It also helped that she’s naturally logical and we were able to talk through most of her problems with her and see results.
But then we had another kid, and another, and another. Sleep became a foreign concept. My husband picked up a second job so that I could continue to do the full-time mommy thing. Our second child was diagnosed with ADHD, we began juggling all the extra-curricular activities, and I lost my ability to stay calm.
Yelling actually became necessary. Or so I felt at the time. I had to raise my voice just to be heard over the kids arguing. I had to raise my voice after repeating instructions because obviously, they couldn’t hear me, right? And let’s not even talk about the yelling when I actually got angry.
Aside from the things mentioned above, I was also battling serious depression. I never had energy, I didn’t feel good about myself, and I was extremely inconsistent with everything the kids needed to be learning from me. I couldn’t keep up.
Thankfully, we found the right medication (that’s another story for another time, you can read it here if you’d like), and I started to feel like me again. What I didn’t expect though, was that feeling “normal” meant re-learning to deal with certain emotions. I felt happy again, which is amazing, and I was more patient in general, but when something bugged me or one of the kids acted out, I felt like Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk.
It was a completely foreign emotion to me. One that my children were learning to deal with in their own lives, and now, as their mother, I was re-learning it with them, rather than guiding and teaching them.
I felt lost. And a little desperate. My kids had become accustomed to “inconsistent and tired mommy,” so they weren’t taking me seriously.
We had a lot of work to do.
You may not be battling depression or facing the same struggles that I am, but I know that every parent gets stressed out, has things that push their buttons, and resorts to yelling from time to time.
I feel like garbage when I yell. I lose my ability to be compassionate and logical, which means I stop trying to understand what they are feeling and I miss out on a valuable teaching opportunity.
One of my children in particular has ADHD, and with that, some anxiety and a lot of self-doubt. When I yell at her, she becomes so focused on the emotions, that the words I’m saying don’t even compute. She shuts down completely and it is no longer possible to reach any kind of solution. I’ve had to really train myself to speak her language when she is in trouble, or to give her time to deescalate before talking through the problem.
It also truly scares her. I definitely don’t want my children to be afraid of me! There is a parenting theory that children should fear authority figures because it makes them more obedient. I disagree emphatically. I won’t launch into an anti-spanking tirade here, but I will just say that all I remember from being spanked and yelled at as a child is that my dad was angry. Yes, I still love and respect him, but no, spanking and yelling are not the reasons, and I learned nothing of value from them.
According to a great article I found at ahaparenting.com :
“The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we’re trying to teach. What’s more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice. And it trains them to yell at us.
If your child doesn’t seem afraid of your anger, it’s an indication that he’s seen too much of it and has developed defenses against it — and against you. The unfortunate result is a child who is less likely to want to behave.
Whether or not they show it, our anger pushes kids of all ages away from us. Yelling at them practically guarantees that they’ll have an “attitude” by the time they’re ten, and that yelling fights will be the norm during their teen years. And as kids harden their hearts to us, they become more open to the pressures of the peer group. We lose our influence with them just when we need it most.”
I recommend hopping over and reading the rest of this article here, for more great solutions and alternatives to yelling.
As we’ve been working on this within our family, we’ve found some great strategies for coping with yelling in our home and reaching more effective conflict resolution.
1. Be Consistent.
Kids thrive on routine. When their actions are met with a different result every time, they struggle to form an appropriate behavior. They may be genuinely trying to be good and obedient, but aren’t sure which behaviors you want to see more of. They may be trying to see what they can get away with, and discovering that most of the time it’s quite a lot, which is a why being punished “all of a sudden” seems so unfair.
- Make a plan of action. Decide ahead of time what your response will be to the behaviors occurring most often with your children and be prepared to follow through.
- Set goals as a family. Let the kids have input about what they think they need to work on and discuss the problems before they occur, while everyone is calm.
- Try a reward system. A little praise and recognition goes a long way when it comes to behavior modification.
- Choose alternative punishment options ahead of time. If your child knows beforehand that they will lose a favorite toy or privilege, it will be easier for them to connect their behavior to the consequence, rather than associate the consequence with your anger.
2. Be a Problem Solver.
This has become our family’s mantra.
When the kids are arguing over something, allow them to find a solution. Resist the urge to control the conversation. Ask them, “What do you think we should do to fix this?” or “Can you find a way for everyone to get something they want?” or simply say, “Be a problem solver!”
This teaches them to be more patient with each other, to empathize with the other person’s side of the problem, and to resolve conflict.Teach your kids to be problem solvers. Click To Tweet
3. Act as though Someone is Watching.
I borrowed this idea from Cheryl Butler, aka Mighty Mommy in an article at quickanddirtytips.com.
She shared a story about a time she was seen yelling at her kids and how it affected her. She also has some great tips to help you stop yelling at your kids.
This idea resonated with me because I have noticed that I am definitely more aware of my actions in public than I am within our home.
We recently took all four children to a nearby park while the oldest had pictures taken with her soccer team. The younger three wanted to play on the playground, but it was just far enough away that I didn’t feel comfortable letting them go on their own. I told them if they could wait patiently until pictures were finished, we could play afterward.
Oh, the tantrums that followed.
I was losing it. I was fully prepared to drag them to the car and yell and lecture the whole way home. All the other parents of the soccer team were nearby, and probably didn’t care, but I was embarrassed and it added further to my stress.
I somehow managed to get them all to sit down at a picnic table and told them they would sit there until the tantrum stopped. If they continued to cry and yell, we would leave as soon as their sister was done, but if they could cheer up and calm down, we could still play at the park for a few minutes.
While we sat there, one of the moms, who has been a friend of mine for a long time, told me she admired my patience. I think I mumbled thank you, but let’s be honest, I thought she was crazy.
It stuck with me though. I had tried so much harder to find a solution that made all of us happy and didn’t involve yelling because I knew there were people around who might notice if I lost my cool.Parent as though someone is watching. Click To Tweet
4. Be Empathetic.
Instead of focusing completely on the behavior or disobedience, try to understand their side of the problem.
When they do something you asked them not to do, try to understand why and to communicate to them why it is important to you that they not do it in the future.
When I yell for them to stop jumping on the couch, it is much less effective than when I put them on my lap, look into their eyes, and explain to them that I know it’s fun, but I don’t want them to get hurt.
My favorite parenting book, Love And Logic Magic for Early Childhood, dedicates an entire section to empathy. It says on page 92:
“Providing empathy before delivering consequences has a number of benefits. It preserves the parent-child relationship– no one has to shout, or shout back, in defense. Empathy allows your kids to think more about their mistake and less about being angry with you. Empathy forces your children to “own” the pain of their mistakes, rather than blaming the pain on you. And, very importantly, empathy decreases the chances of “paybacks” or revenge.
Consequences + Anger = More Anger
Empathy + Consequences = Learning”
5. Fix it.
When you make a mistake, apologize. Let them know that while their behavior still needs to be discussed, you are sorry you lost your temper and you love them.
- Be sincere (kids can tell the difference) and explain to them why you are upset and how you felt unable to fix the problem and get their attention.
- Ask them what they think you should do to get their attention next time. This will help them see their part in the problem and how they can help.
- 5 Positives to 1 negative. An article at messymotherhood.com says: “In every healthy relationship there’s a balance between positive moments and negative moments. There have been intensive studies and they show that for every negative moment, we need five positive interactions to keep the relationship healthy and in balance. These studies were done with couples, but have been applied to the parent/child relationship as well. Positive interactions can be small. A smile, a touch, small gestures. I bet you do a lot of those small gestures with your children throughout the day. We are all going to get angry and do things that we aren’t so proud of, it’s how we make up for those things that count.”
6. Forgive Yourself.
I promise you are not the first, or the only, parent to yell at their kids. The very fact that you are reading an article about how to improve shows that you are doing a great job.
When my first baby was born I remember having a conversation with our pediatrician about the abundance of information out there on the “right way” to parent your child and how overwhelming it was.
She told me that, while it’s a good idea to read and seek information, it’s up to me to decide what to use because “no one knows your child like you do.” You are the best parent for your child and you know what their needs are better than anyone else does. So trust your instincts, do your best, and just keep on loving them.No one knows your child's needs better than you. Click To Tweet