Despite the fact that I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and years of experience working with children, when it comes to this parenting gig I still struggle with things, just like everyone else.
One of my biggest battles is with yelling.
I yell. I yell way too often. I loose it and I rant and rave and yell.
In the beginning it feels quite good to yell, it feels good to let it out. It feels like this is the only way I can get my message across, the only way I can regain some control. When I begin yelling I feel powerful and totally justified.
But then I realise what I am doing.
I suddenly see and hear this angry person spewing forth angry words on the people I love more than anything in the world. It scares me that I could ever feel like is ok, and it makes me sad.
When I blogged about not wanting to regret shouting I was surprised at how many people told me they felt the same way. It made me feel a little better to know that I was not alone, but it also made me think. I don’t have all the answers (not by a long shot) and I know this will challenge me (a lot!) but I’m going to work on ways to yell less… who’s with me?
How to stop yelling at your kids… or at least try to
Before I Start Yelling…
It’s always easier to stop something before it begins don’t you think? And it’s easier to be successful at something if you set yourself up for that success. So I’ve been looking at how I can stop yelling before I am even angry. What can I do to change myself and the environment so that I don’t even get to the point of wanting to yell?
Find Your Triggers
After thinking about it for a while I realised that I often loose it and yell when I am frustrated by something other than my children. When I am feeling stretched by everything I have to do, when other things in my life are not going right, when I feel generally stressed and out of control, that is when the little things set me off into that downward spiral of yelling.
While the fact that I take my stress out on my kids was a hard truth to face, it is actually quite liberating in a way. This is something I can actively change. I can’t change the fact that four year olds whine and that seven year olds like to say “It’s not fair” a hundred times a day, but I can change how many things I put on my to do list. I can identify those things that stress me and work out ways to either let them go or deal with them better.
What are your yelling triggers?
A Positive First Response.
The idea is simple…. work out the types of situations that frustrate you and pre-plan a ‘positive first response’.
For example – It really pushes my buttons when my girls whine about how things are ‘so unfair’. When it happens I want to scream at them and tell them not to be ungrateful and send them to their rooms, except I know that won’t achieve anything and that isn’t the way I want to parent. So I sat down and I thought about it. I thought about why they say that, about how they are feeling, about what they understand. I thought about what I could do and say when they say that and I wrote myself a little script.
So now when someone says those fateful words, and I’m in that moment of wanting to yell I don’t have to think too hard to come up with a better response. I can just recite my little script… “Being fair doesn’t mean being equal. Everyone gets what they need when they need it, that is fair.” and hopefully not yell.
When I’m in the Moment…
When I am in the moment… right there… angry and frustrated and feeling unheard. What do I do then? How do I stop myself tipping over the edge and being the crazy shouting Mum?
It seems so obvious, just walk away, but oh boy it can be SO hard for me to do!
When I am on the verge of yelling I need to just take a breath and walk away. I don’t have to engage in whatever the problem is right then, that instant. It is ok for me to step away and come back when I have had a chance to think things through and find some rationality. If it really is a problem it will still be there when I come back to it, or perhaps it’s not such a big deal in the first place and giving the kids a chance to sort it out on their own is a fabulous thing.
Not only does taking a break give me a chance to calm down and not yell, it also shows my children that it is ok to walk away, it is ok not to fight, or to take a moment to yourself when you need it. I think that is an important lesson to teach.
Redirect Your Energy
When my kids lash out at someone or something I often tell them that it is ok to feel like hitting but it is not ok to hurt someone or break something and that they could instead hit a pillow or kick a ball to get that feeling out. I need to take my own advice.
After I’ve walked away I’m going to do some mundane physical activity. I’m going to redirect my frustrated energy into something like folding the washing, or cleaning the bedroom, or gardening. I need an activity that I can do without thinking too much, to give my brain a chance to slow down and think things through, and I need an activity that is physical enough to help get out some of that tension.
What would your mundane activity of choice be?
Make a Funny
Humour is something I’ve been using more and more of late. Doing something to make everyone laugh can really change the tone of the situation. When everything feels like it’s about to go to hell in a hand basket try telling a fart joke or singing a favourite song replacing the half of the words with ‘poo’.
“Baa Baa Poo Sheep, have you any poo?” Come on… who can yell when they are singing something like that??
It’s hard to stay angry when you are being silly and funny. It is hard to yell when you are busy telling a joke or acting the fool. Being funny can be enough to remind myself of the parent I want to be.
After I’ve Yelled
I feel crap after I’ve yelled. I feel like a big huge parenting failure. But there is still something positive I can do, even after I’ve yelled.
Saying I’m sorry, and really meaning it, is important. I don’t need to go into details and tell my kids what a terrible mother I am, they don’t need to hear that. But they do need to hear that sometimes everyone makes mistakes, sometimes everyone gets angry and says or does things they don’t mean, and that is ok. Even when I’m angry I still love them and even when I’ve made a mistake they still love me.
Cut Yourself Some Slack!
I can beat myself up for days after I loose it. I easily fall into that cycle of self talk that goes something like… “I suck at this parenting gig, why on earth did I think having four children would be a good idea, they deserve better than me….” But you know, that is not going to help me be a better parent. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect. I make mistakes, and that is ok. Instead of being down on myself I’m just going to pick myself up, dust myself off and try to do better next time. After all… that is all we can do.
This is something I struggle with and I don’t have all the answers so I’d love to hear the things you do to try and avoid yelling at your kids.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
I just want to say thank you. I feel like I am not alone. I do apologize when I yell, but it doesn’t make me feel better. I am going to try and walk away. My 4 year old already yells back at me – how can she not? That’s what I do. Here’s to moving forward. I’m going to try and walk away.
I feel like a huge weight has lifted just reading everyone elses comments. I have a friend who seems to be posting constantly on facebook about Non violent communication, and how she connects with her kids in all these wonderful ways, and how they dont winge, etc etc and I feel like crying because my boys fight a lot, they take forever to get going in the morning, I yell a lot, and find myself frustrated every single day and I wonder where the joy of parenting went. Just knowing I am not alone makes a difference.
I feel better reading everyone comment. My daughter is nearly seven and she is simply a star. I feel bad as I shout a lot, for all the little silly things when she is simply being a child. The other day I shouted at her and she made me a song on why it is not good to shout and what it makes her feel. At that momemt I wished if the ground has a big opening and took me away.
Danni Bartley says
Hello, Well how happy am I to have just read this after putting me son to bed earlier I sat down and cried, I felt an awful Mum. He’s been testing me today as started in year one and doesn’t want to go and I ended up yelling at him this evening and then feeling like the worst Mother in the world. I am also a foster carer and sat here thinking ‘how can I be a foster carer when I am a bad Mum who yelled at my son’ he’s only 5 and he’s my world and more. I love fostering but I think I just having a bad day, hay we all get them. With thanks to reading this I feel less of a failure now so thank you. Here’s to tomorrow : }
read your post it was really good and I wish wish wish I could try and put these things into action. My dad shouted at us when we were kids and he is still can be angry at times and he is almost 80!!! Obviously it was done to him. I remember as a little girl being terrified and now i feel I am repeating history. I just want to die after there has been a big shouting match and the stress of it is worse than what the shouting was about to begin with. I get chest pains and how my husband hasnt ran away I dont know cos I can be a nightmare epseciallly when I have PMT. I have got so angry with my kids but I have really being trying lately. It definitely is caused for me by having so much to do. Good to know I am not alone.
This is wonderful. Emotional and then I cracked up at the poo joke. Will try to remember humour when I’m about to lose it. Everything you’ve written is so true for many of us. For someone that detests noise and loves peace, I sure do a lot of yelling at times. I beat myself about it all time and I hate it when I feel helpless at the wave of rage that rises up, but walking away might just do it. Followed by that poo joke of course. x
I was brought up like this my mom n dad constantly arguing and dad beating mum and mum beating us but they loved us so much and now im shouting because its easier i hate myself for it and i really dont want my kids scared of me.. my boy knows i love him.. i am myself goin through a second broken marriage and no help from familys but its no excuse.. the kids constantly argue and beat each other and never tidy up im just so tired and broken. But i love my kids more than anything in the world. Im going to start the breathing teqniques and walking away into another room.
Jill Hollingsworth says
I have read so many parenting articles, but none speak to me like these… I yelled loud at my 4 year old last night and I yell every day at both kids. I had a headache, after, all night ( I feel like it’s my punishment, probably stress ) and felt like the worst parent ever since last night. I just now visualized how I could have changed the situation last night with the humor. I will be using that for sure. I love my kids more than anything but since my two year old was born, I have felt so fatigued and just alone. I am so glad to read this and the comments too. Thank you so much.
tzen d says
glad i read this post!! i have 2 toddlers (2 1/2 and 4 yrs old) this has been such a difficult month for me cause my husband is on a business trip. i feel that the only thing i do is yell yell yell!!!! i feel that when i yell at my kids there is monster coming out of me or sth!!! then when i look at their beautiful faces all upset I feel sooooooo terrible!! I just walked away and started crying! I’m thinking did i have to react that way? why? why do i have to yell so much? i know it’s because i’m tired and that i feel alone. but it’s not their fault! from reading all the comments, i’m not alone!! responding to this post helped me get it off my chest! thank you
One thing that should be on the list of suggestions is to recognise when we are doing it tough and seek support. I know that is not always easy, and we can’t always get a family member or babysitter to come and give us a break, but even just planning some time for ourselves after the kids are in bed, or calling a friend on the phone… we were not meant to cope with this all on our own and I think the yelling is a symptom of that sometimes.
Thank you for this post Kate! And thank you to everyone who has commented! It helps to get through the guilt of yelling afterwards, to know that I am not alone with this feeling. Today’s theme…yelling…at my son who will be 4 this month – still a baby, still learning. I yelled because I was stressed – long few weeks of stress…no excuse but today was a yelling day and now I feel guilty. What set me off? This morning, cause he wanted a chocolate bar for breakfast and continued to ask over and over and over. Tonight I really lost it cause he wanted the pj’s that are in the washing machine. As I am writing this I realize how silly it all is but as many others have said it only takes that one little thing to push you to the crazy yelling mom point. My poor husband thinks I’m a loon! Kate I appreciate the calming tips and I already try the walking away for a few minutes to breath which, when I can get myself to remember to do it, does work for sure. But for the times I just forget to walk away, I am going to try the silly poo song. Good to know I am not alone and am not the worst mother in the world…but do need to work on myself.
You are certainly not alone… it has been a while since I wrote this post and sometimes I still struggle with all this stuff. We are all a work in progress…
read your post today im constantly shouting at my 3 year old little girl and 1 year old from first thing in morning.i feel like a bad mum I cant help myself but shout all the time the littlest thing irritates tates me don’t like them having toys out because of the mess ,I cant find the time to sit down and play with them as I feel there is other important things to do,i feel down and angry think I need help but my mum doesnt want me to get on anti-depressants so it try and cope with all this I feel im the only one out there.do you have any advice thank you.
Much love katy… sounds like you are in a difficult place right now. I wonder if there are other forms of help besides medication? I truly believe that if medication is the right thing for you, there is no shame in taking it… but perhaps just talking to a professional might help, and that doesn’t always mean taking meds in the end.
“Am I doing enough to stop shouting…?”
I think that if you have enough about you to be able to ask that question in the first place then you are well on your way to doing enough.
That’s not to say that we are ever going to turn out perfectly balanced children in one generation, rather all we can hope is that we have done enough to show the way and give our kids the self awareness to be able to handle their children better than we did ours.
That said, we are and likely always will be subject to stresses and worries in our everyday life and it will always be a test to respond to them as rational calm individuals.
It’s not a crime to shout if you apologise and endeavor to be better next time.
Children will always test their parents and sometimes it is easy to see why some species eat their young…
Glad to know I’m not alone… came across this today as I’m totally at my wits end, trying to understand why I’m so angry all the time. Kids are 7 and 5 (boy and girl) they constantly fight over every little thing. I’m tired and feel like I’m suffocating. When the decibels start to rise, I go into panic mode, I can’t breathe, it’s hard to ignore and walk away (have already tried that). Love my kids, but agree my ‘screaming’ is harming my relationship with them and my relationship with my husband who I feel is unsupportive. He works long hours and I’m currently unemployed – we emigrated to Australia 2 years ago so I don’t have the support of family or friends to lean on here. Being a full-time stay at home mom was never my intension and whilst I have been looking for work – the knock-backs are frustrating and is destroying my self-confidence. I hate the way my body looks now – post babies and age! Have had a number of set backs in last 10 years – redundancies, failed relationship, losing a baby… I am forever analysing things, still recalling/living in the past – wishing, wondering – can’t seem to let go and move on. Have seen several Councillors relating to different things – mainly the kids but truthfully I don’t think the problem is the kids – I think it is me. I am so angry for my own failings that I am taking it out on everyone around me. I get weepy – think it’s depression but no-one takes it seriously. Current councillor just made me feel worse – some think they know everything about you after a couple of sessions. Not quite sure what needs to change but obvious something has to. Getting a job would be a start, at least I’ll have some money to book a well deserved pamper, lol. Have tried exercising (Drs orders) helps a little but some days have no energy or am so busy doing chores (OCD) – I channel all my anger into tidying the house!! Would give anything for my kids to stop arguing and be nice together – would definitely make my life more pleasant :)
Much love and strength to you Tania… it sounds like you are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation. I hope things turn around for you soon and you can find your way to a better place.
Thank you for this article. Sitting in my car feeling like the worst mom in the world because I lost in with my 6 yr old on the way to a parade- yes fun event – bc be wouldn’t brush his teeth. Not the end of the world but he can be so defiant at times. I then end up replaying all the other times I have been terrible to him and my heart could just shatter into a million pieces. I have made great strides but when we have a set back it can devestate me. Glad to know I’m not alone but I want so bad to STOP this behavior. I feel so ashamed and as the other readers mentioned it many times isn’t about our kids- it is our own stresses and issues. Tania, I can relate to a lot of what you said. We should connect. Hugs to you all