Do you try your best to keep calm with your children…but sometimes just can’t help it? Does shouting make you feel guilty…but you don’t know how to stop? This is a common problem – but it is possible to stop yelling at your child. Here’s how to do it.
As a nation, we’re – in general – much more compassionate than previous generations. Smacking is less acceptable and we try to care for our children’s emotions. But even if we don’t hit, many of us can’t help yelling as a form of punishment.
This might not seem as bad as physical punishment. But, unfortunately, yelling has been shown to have a similar detrimental effect to smacking or hitting.
I like to think of myself as a positive parent, but I was honestly shocked to read this, as there have been occasions when I’ve resorted to yelling. It was at that point that I decided I needed to change before it could negatively impact my children’s life.
Here’s what worked for me…
It Begins with Your Feelings about YOU
The first step is to stop punishing yourself or feeling that you’re a terrible parent. Shouting at your child because you’re stressed isn’t OK and it needs to be addressed…but it’s also understandable. It’s even harder to control your emotions if you’re tired, frustrated or just fed up with constant battles.
I would always feel terrible after shouting at my kids – but I justified it by saying that it was sometimes the only way. It didn’t make me feel less guilty, but it allowed me to push the problem to the back of my mind.
Of course, the next time I felt angry I would start yelling again – because I hadn’t solved the underlying problem.
But what can you do about it? It’s easy to make a promise to yourself not to shout when everything is calm and serene. But the next time you get frustrated it’s hard not to slip back into old habits.
To break this habit, the key is to notice when you’re about to start shouting before it happens…and have a plan of how to handle it.
When you feel that anger start to rise in your body, consider this a warning that you’re about to explode. It’s not the anger itself that’s the problem. It’s your reaction to it. And you can control it if you know how.
How to Handle Anger Without Yelling
Next time you notice anger starting to build, here’s what to do:
- Acknowledge that you feel angry. Don’t try to suppress it, but instead use it as an “early warning” system. This is a technique that’s taught in meditation, because trying to force feelings to change can actually make them stronger.
- Put the situation into context. Is this really a disaster? Will I still be angry about this in a months time? Will I even remember it? Even if the answer to all these questions is “yes,” giving yourself a few breaths to take stock of the situation allows you to respond more appropriately. If the situation requires immediate action then do so without trying to discipline – this will be more effective later when both you and the child are calm.
- Try to think compassionately about your child AND you. Sometimes we get so frustrated at “bad” behaviour that we forget to ask why our child is behaving like that. Often children haven’t been taught an alternative. Other times they know something is wrong, but can’t think of another way to express their feelings. It’s important not to validate bad behaviour – but you need to be compassionate. You also need to compassionately remember that you are a human too – and anger is a natural emotion. At the same time, it’s something that needs to be moderated and controlled.
- Sit down and explain to your child what they did wrong. When you’ve given yourself time to calm down, it’s time to decide how best to teach your child the lesson. Being calm is essential, because children can’t be expected to truly learn when they are upset.
- Try to be a role model. A good rule to follow as a parent is to always try to behave as you would like your child to act. Would you want them to shout every time they felt angry? Or do you want to teach them to take a deep breath and control their emotions? How you behave is likely to be how your child learns what is acceptable.
The good news is that this process gets easier over time. Every time you react positively to your anger, your brain begins to rewire itself. It’s a self-reinforcing process that can make a big difference to your mood in the long-term.
What if You Slip Up and Yell Again?
Firstly, forgive yourself. Parenting is hard – and sometimes our emotions get the better of us. You can forgive yourself without justifying what you did.
Secondly, give your child a hug. Apologise for shouting, but also ask them to be kinder to you too. Explain calmly why what they did upset you and how they can help you out in the future. This takes more effort, but will be worth it in the long run.
Trying to stop yelling at your child isn’t easy – as I’ve found with my own children. It’s especially hard if it seems yelling is the only way to get your children to respond.
If you follow these tips and, most importantly, try to act with compassion for both you and your child, you’ll find yelling becomes much less frequent. You’ll also likely notice a positive change in your children’s behaviour.
Just remember that this takes time and effort. But I promise you it’s worth it.