Almost anyone loses their temper at times. After all, it is impossible to be perfect in everything you do. Outbursts, like yelling and stomping your feet, often happen when it is all just a bit too much. As a mom of three toddlers, this used to happen to me on occasion. Afterwards, just like other good parents do, I would feel badly about it and would have to apologize to my children. This is my story about: how do I stop yelling at my children? (I am still a little bit ashamed to tell it).
My husband was a truck driver and he was not home much. I took care of the family and also worked as a teacher for 2,5 days of the week. Our youngest son was not a good eater. I had prepared green beans for dinner. I thought he didn’t have a problem with green beans, but it turns out I was wrong. Our kids were at the table. I had served the food. The youngest pulled a face, as if there was something disgusting on his plate. Without saying anything, with restrained anger, I took his plate away and put it on the countertop with such force that it broke the plate, the healthy green beans fell to the floor. After this I yelled. Exactly what I said, I do not remember. I do remember that our eldest was very upset by my outburst. She shouted: STOP YELLING! I felt so badly about what had happened, and you can probably guess that my yelling did not solve the eating issues our son had. So how did I stop yelling at my children?
I have listed the ten useful tips to stop yelling at your children for you. But first you need to know what yelling does to your children. Then you will understand why it is so important to stop yelling at them.
What are the effects of yelling at a child?
Yelling at your children is aggressive and intimidating. It frightens children; they will not understand this overwhelming outburst. If it happens regularly, they can start shutting themselves off from emotions, as a means of self-protection. It has been scientifically proven that a lot of yelling when raising a child has a neurological impact on the child’s brain. Yelling causes, amongst others, the alarm system of the body to activate, which causes a release of cortisol. If this stress hormone accumulates in the brain it will influence your child’s emotional balance. It has also been proven that yelling does not actually fix anything; in fact it just causes more problems. Therefore, let’s try to solve this as quickly as possible and stop yelling at our children!
10 Proven ways to finally stop yelling at your children
Prevent stressful situations
You probably know which situations tend to easily cause stress, when it all quickly becomes just a bit too much. Take note of these situations. For example: That window of time, in the morning after getting up and before taking the kids to school. It is actually quite easy to de-stress this situation. Get up half an hour earlier. Wake your children up earlier. Set the breakfast table the evening before. Agree with your children before they go to bed on what they will wear the next day. Children are capable to do a lot themselves. Let them be as independent as possible. After breakfast they can put their plates in the dishwasher or on the countertop, leaving you time to do some of the things you need to do. In my blog ‘Parenting stress, how to get rid of it’ you can find the best tips for this.
If you notice that your children require a lot of your attention in moments when you are unwilling or unable to give them that attention, warn them first, before you get really angry. For example: You are cooking and your toddler keeps hanging around your legs, despite you having said that he or she needs to go play on their own for a bit. Sit down at eye level with your kid and say: I am cooking right now. You will have to play with Duplo on your own now, after dinner I will come and play with you for a while. If you ignore your child in this situation he or she will probably end up playing independently. After dinner you can reward your child by spending some time together.
Know when you are more easily triggered
When you have had a stressful day at work, when you are tired, have a headache, are hungry, when there is still a lot of work waiting for you at home.. These are all triggers! Try to eliminate them. How do you do that? You can try to consciously flip the switch on your way home. Turn on calming music, think of good times, do breathing exercises. Eat an apple or better yet a banana. Are you familiar with mindfulness, do an exercise, or even better, go do a mindfulness exercise together with your kids. See my blog: mindfulness for kids. You might need to make the choice not to cook that healthy meal today, perhaps something simple instead, so you will have time to relax.
Laugh with your children
Everybody knows that laughing relaxes you. It is quite easy to make toddlers laugh. For example, turn up the music, be silly and dance around together. Or let your child put face paint on your face for a change. Tell jokes together, cuddle, tickle. All the more fun if after a moment like this you spontaneously bake pancakes.
Make a list with phrases to use
- Stop! You know what I just told you!
- Stop, (name the consequence)
- I am tired at the moment. Let’s do it later.
- I am sorry that..
- It makes me sad that..
Put this list up, your children are definitely also allowed to read this.
Take a time out
If you notice that your emotions are getting the best of you, walk out of the room before you get really angry. Go to the bathroom or to another space where you can take a moment to yourself, count to 10, take a deep breath and calm yourself down. After doing this you can return to the kids and give them a warning, or, if they had already been warned, discipline them by deciding on a punishment. Afterwards they can show you that they know how to behave and you can compliment them once again.
Preaching does no good
When you are angry, you may say things that you will regret later. Therefore it is better to make only short statements when you are angry. For example: ‘It is up to you. You can choose to stop throwing your toys through the room, or I will put your toys away, and you can’t play with them.’ Later, when your anger has subsided, you can have a conversation about it with your child, but be sure to stay consistent about the punishment.
Know what a child of this age can handle
Sometimes we can ask too much of a child. If your kid has been to daycare after school, this can cause some stress, and might mean that some down time is required for him or her to unwind after they come home. In that case, sit down at the table together and play for a while, for example with play dough or play sand, to de-stress.
It can happen that a toddler is too young to understand what you mean or what you expect. This powerlessness can cause an angry and rebellious reaction from them, which in turn can trigger an angry response from you.
This tip is very useful for whining. If a child, after 5 minutes of whining, receives attention after all and gets his or her way, the next time they will whine for 10 minutes to get your attention. To break through this cycle, the best solution is: Ignore it. However difficult this may be, it works wonders. Your child will whine less each time, if he or she does not get the attention or the results they are looking for. After a while the whining will even completely stop.
It takes some getting used to, but give it a go: If you need to give your child a warning or a talking to, it works best to be at eye level with your child. So sit down with your kid, let them see you and talk to them clearly with a soft voice. Do not ask questions such as: Why haven’t you cleaned up yet? Say what you would like to see: I want you to put all of your cars in the container. Stay with your kid until they start, then give a compliment: ‘Great. In five minutes, when I come and check, all the cars will be in the container.’ You will see that this works well.
Mistakes are allowed
It happens to all of us on occasion, that you lose your patience and overreact towards you child. Of course you regret this later. But do remember that this means that you are an involved parent and that you cannot possibly agree with everything your child does. If you can talk about this with your child later, and apologize, your kid will understand that mother and father are not perfect either, and that everybody makes mistakes.
Use these tips to stop yelling at your children, and I am sure that the mood at home will improve greatly. Read more about parenting in: What are the 4 types of parenting styles?