Parents, you are not alone! If you find yourself yelling at your kids most days, it’s time to understand more about why you yell and what to do about it. Maybe you were raised by a yeller, and you can’t seem to kick the habit of letting your feelings spill out and land on your kids. Or perhaps you’re stressed and have temporarily misplaced your compassion, kindness, and gratitude. Or you may be raising a spirited child, who is destined to be an entrepreneur or lawyer, but is not so good at remembering to follow the family rules. Yelling happens easily during parenthood—even though simultaneously you’ve probably discovered deep wells of love for your children.
You Can Learn to Stop Yelling at Your Kids!
Most parents yell at their children occasionally. Losing it with our kids comes with the territory of parenting—we’re tired, they’re tired, it happens. Often you can apologize, laugh together, and get back to your calm and patient approach to child rearing. But if you are yelling just like your mother used to yell, or yelling so hard that your throat hurts, then it’s time to focus on how to reconnect with yourself and your child.
I have found that the combination of understanding temperament (a person’s behavioral style) and a cognitive behavioral approach (working with thoughts, feelings, and actions) works well for parents who are motivated to understand themselves and to make positive changes. Fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes and change our habits and conditioning. It’s never too late to start fresh.
I wrote Is That Me Yelling? to offer parents and providers inspiration and tools to yell less. When you understand yourself and your child better, and forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, you can begin on the path to less yelling and more harmony.
Am I Yelling or Just Being Firm?
When parents yell—regardless of their volume—they are often angry or frustrated and have lost some degree of self-control. When I yelled at my kids, I always felt my intensity rising—my breathing and heart rate were up, and I was literally feeling hot under the collar. My main goal was to express my frustration and let my kids know that they had better listen “or else!”
In contrast, the assertive communication you use thoughtfully as a part of the way you discipline is not the same as yelling. There are times you may need to be firm (and calm) to get a child, who tends to tune his parents out, to listen to requests.
Most people agree that it is appropriate to yell sometimes, especially in dangerous situations when someone might get hurt—to stop a child who is reaching for the hot stove or about to dash into a busy street.
In my book, there are many exercises and stories to help you understand the things that trigger yelling and what to do about them. Here are a few tips to help you begin on the path to yelling less:
- Ask yourself, “Why do I want to yell less?” Reflecting on the consequences of losing it will help you change.
- Think about the reasons you use yelling as a form of discipline. Maybe you don’t know what else to do, or yelling is what you learned from your parents.
- Become aware of the signs of stress and anger in your body. Do you get warm, does your breathing become rapid, do you clench your jaw? Notice your thoughts and feelings when your child does something that bugs you.
- Learn how your child’s temperament and yours affect your yelling. Maybe he’s loud and you are sensitive.
- Imagine a hidden camera in your house. What would you see?
- When you are triggered by your child, take a few deep breaths and pause before you speak. Give yourself time to calm down and decide what’s needed.
- In general, think about how you can connect with your child so that respectful communication comes more easily to both of you.
- Work on setting limits and establishing family rules. Being proactive is easier on everyone.
- Practice self-compassion. It is a key ingredient to yelling less.
- Get enough sleep so that your irritability is lower and your patience is higher.
- Your decision to yell less will allow you to start right now down the path of calm, connection, and peace. Start slow and reach out for support.
Is That Me Yelling? will be available in local bookstores and online May 1. Rona will be talking about her book at a Parents Place event at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Monday, May 12, 4:00 pm. Please check her web site, www.nurserona.com, for other events and readings.