You end up yelling at your kids for lots of reasons. You might have picked up the yelling habit from your own parents. You might be swimming in difficult emotions, and yelling is a kind of release. You might have a high-stress job where barking orders is part of the territory. Maybe you don’t know where your yelling comes from – it seems to come out of nowhere when your emotions are running high.
Wherever it comes from, give yourself a break. Remind yourself that you’re human. You are not an efficient machine of rational responses.
You know that yelling at your kids doesn’t feel good to you and doesn’t serve your relationship, so keep reading. This list goes in order from easiest to hardest. Just start at number one, and see where it leads.
Stop Yelling As Soon As You Can
This is the easiest one to try because you still get to yell. Let yourself off the hook for those times when yelling just seems to fly out of your mouth.
Here’s the key thing to remember: just because you start yelling at your kids doesn’t mean you have to keep yelling.
When your conscious mind catches up to your reflex, stop yelling. As soon as you notice, stop. Whether it’s been 2 words or 20, stop right there. It can be in the middle of a sentence. In the middle of a word, even.
You will notice over time that you can catch yourself sooner and sooner. When you can, try one of these other suggestions.
Take a Breath
Yes, it’s a cliche. Deep breathing is a common recommendation for all sorts of emotional upsets.
There’s a reason for that. It works.
In that second before you begin yelling at your kids, try to take at least one big breath. Whatever comes after that breath will be better than what would have come without it.
Look away from your child or whatever is bothering you and take one single moment all to yourself. It will take mere seconds, but it will help you AND whoever you’re about to yell at.
Additional Reading: Yelling at your kids? Emergency tactics to try right now.
Time Out (For Yourself!)
If you remember to take a breath, but you still find yourself yelling at your kids often, you need more space for yourself than what a few breaths allows.Often the inputs that led you to anger are still there: the stain on the floor or the taunting look on your child’s face. This makes it hard for your to shift gears.
Give yourself permission to just walk away. Go to your room, lock yourself in the bathroom, or step outside.
Now, don’t berate yourself or go over the details of the thing that got you upset. Cry or yell into a pillow, affirm your feelings to yourself, and breathe until you find even the smallest bit of calm inside you. When you do, go back out there ready to try something new.
If this might scare your child discuss it well beforehand. Explain what you want to do and why. Perhaps agree to a signal you can give when it happens.If your child is too young, take your timeout by turning your body away while staying in the same room. Stay in physical touch if your child needs it. But turn the rest of your body away so you can have your moments to yourself.
Try to connect with your child before yelling at them. Once you establish a connection, you are less likely to want to yell.
Move closer to your child. Get down on their eye-level. Make eye contact. Touch them on the shoulder, arm, or back. Take a second to watch what they’re doing or notice their emotions. If you can, try asking a curious question about what they’re doing before moving on to what you are angry about.
If you have one handy, connect with another adult. Connecting with a support person will make you feel stronger. You can also try connecting with yourself. Put your focus on yourself instead of whatever went wrong. Tell yourself that you have big emotions, and that they’re okay. Hold your own hand or wrap yourself up in a favorite blanket. Once you’ve connected with caring for yourself, you can go back to care-taking the difficult situation.
Transform Your Anger Into Play
Here’s the trickiest tactic on this list. It’s also the one with the most power to transform your patterns of anger into something delightful.
There is nothing wrong with your feelings. It’s okay to be angry, exasperated, tired, or overwhelmed. These are all valid emotions, and they’re YOURS. You don’t have to eliminate your feelings, you just want to change how your child receives them.
One tactic is to express the strength of your feeling but to do it in a dramatic, exaggerated, playful way.
If you’re tired you could pretend to slowly “wilt” to the ground, while saying “Woe is me! Look at this terrible mess! I can’t do it! I’m just going to melt into a puddle!” Collapse to the ground in the playful embodiment of your exhaustion.
Or if you’re angry, you could be a lion, down on all fours, roaring and stamping your paw, pretending to eat the offending item or child.
In this way you and your child can understand your feelings and stay engaged with them, without fear or defensiveness.