(CMR) As parents, we sometimes yell at our children, especially when they tend not to follow instructions. We often feel bad about it, but how can we keep our anger in check?
Vicki Glembocki, a Parents Magazine writer, said that the answer may be simply to break the habit. Glembocki shared how she was able to accomplish this with five simple steps. She shared:
“Every time you don’t act on the urge to yell, you rewire your brain so it’s no longer your default reaction” (Laura Markham, Ph.D., author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting).
I knew from past attempts to kick other habits that I wasn’t going to wake up tomorrow as a non-yeller, all cold turkey-like. Rehabbing would need to be a process—a five-step process, to be exact. Here’s what I learned about how to stop yelling at your kids.
1. Quit Yelling About Ordinary Stuff.
If you should check, you would notice you yell about ordinary things, such as asking your child to close a door or put on a shoe
“Instead, try walking right up to your kids and talking to them in a regular speaking voice,” suggests Parents Advisor Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. This has a boomerang effect. When we summon them quietly, they stop screeching back, “I’m coming!” or “In a minute!”
2. Put Out Your Own Fire.
Meditate for a few minutes each day, allowing for introspection. This helps parents handle the situation better.
Try downloading a meditation app like Calm or Headspace. These guided programs will help you learn how to ignore distractions and be in the moment.
3. Think Of a Safe Word.
“Come up with a phrase to tell yourself as soon as you realize you’re about to freak out,” says Dr. Markham. She suggests, “Choose love” or “You’ve got this.” Self-soothing phrases won’t just stop you from flipping your lid. They are most effective at helping us hijack each other’s explosions. If I see my husband’s jaw get tense, for example, I saw his safe word, “snow.” That’s all it takes to shake his annoyance.
4. Get Close.
While my husband and I have (mostly) curbed our yelling, our children still push our buttons and misbehave. When they don’t listen, it makes me want to, well, shout. But instead of consequences or lost privileges, Dr. Markham suggests I focus on a gentler method: reconnecting. Literally. Get down at your child’s level, put your arm around them, and tell them that you understand how they feel. This approach will help everyone stay calm.
5. Tone Down Those Trigger Moments.
Weekday mornings are when I’m always most likely to yell. So many tasks need to be accomplished in a finite amount of time that I feel like I’m sprinting up Mount Everest. It’s maddening, but getting mad doesn’t help. “You have to be able to keep your cool in order for your kids to keep theirs,” says Vanessa Lapointe, Ph.D., author of Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up.
I start with my opening move. At Dr. Lapointe’s suggestion, instead of awakening them by charging into their bedrooms with a brisk (and admittedly jarring) “Rise and shine,” I begin the day using a more pleasant, neutral “Good morning, sweetheart” and aspire to maintain this pitch all day.
When my children volley with their typical shenanigans, I choose not to sharply remind them that “the bus will be here in 22 minutes.” Instead, I inject some humor, pointing out that our dog, who is lying on the floor of their room, just burped so loudly that she actually scared herself. Usually, this elicits a giggle. Then, as if forgetting to be her usual irritable self, they get dressed and come down for breakfast without complaining, screaming, or making a fuss. Simple enough.
Since embarking on my journey a month ago, I’ve noticed something unfamiliar in our house: quiet. It’s not tranquil all the time (because, you know, kids), but more often than not, our family is less agitated and shrill. Plus, when I yell, it’s usually for good reason—like when kids nearly ran into the street. And because I do it far less often, my kids actually hear me when I do.