I say how to not yell at your kids to grab your attention because we all raise our voices at some time or another.
This is a super sensitive topic I know – none of us yell through choice, do we?
We yell because something has triggered us, and we can’t just can’t stop ourselves.
None of us are saints. Nor is there such a thing as the ‘perfect parent.’
Maybe we raise our voices a little because our baby won’t sleep when we need them to?
Maybe we hate being pinched or bitten and resort to shouting the house down in anger?
Maybe, we’re just so exhausted, so tired, and so in need of a break that we snap?
We vow every time to rein it in after we’ve shouted, to no longer shout, to be the calm, stoic, model figurehead of the house.
But they push us, over and over again (oh yes, they do).
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The trigger to yell at your child can be anything, internal or external, from emotions, thoughts and feelings to physical hits, pinches and scratches.
Repeated behaviours can also trigger you. Or maybe the yelling is a bad habit which seems impossible to get rid of?
Maybe you’re hungry, tired, needing some alone time etc?
I for one have to ride through a whole array of emotions and bite my lip a lot when my children pinch or hit me. (Tis a tough time with having two biters in our house right now.)
I try so hard not to raise my voice, I really do, but sometimes the pain is so bad, my blood boils.
It’s a natural response to be angry. Really it is – it means having your sympathetic nervous system kick into gear, which means you’re ready for action.
Anger, anxiety, and stress – they’re all related when it comes to the physiology of the body and the response they create in you.
Furthermore, they’re all linked to the same part of the brain.
The part of the brain which controls anger is the same part of the brain that controls the amygdala. This is the part of your brain that controls your autonomic nervous system.
But what on earth does this mean?
It means that if you’re feeling angry, stressed, anxious or just plain ole’ cranky, the same part of your brain tells your body to go into fight or flight mode.
This means your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid, and your hands may shake. And, you shout!
If you don’t take control of your body and mind before the fight or fight kicks in, you’ll find yourself doing something you regret later.
So now it’s time for some good news. You can learn to stop yelling at your child.
Because ultimately, we’re all aware that yelling causes negative effects on children, as well as low self-esteem and confidence issues.
So, here are some real-life tips to help you shout less and connect more.
How To Not Yell At Your Kids
Try hard to breathe deeply in times of stress or anger.
Doing this regularly over many weeks and months means interrupting the automatic yelling habit, giving yourself a moment to pause and think.
Taking one or two deep breaths before reacting is often enough to calm down the stress response and prevent you from shouting back.
Yes, a child’s behaviour may trigger a shed load of emotions, and on top of a bad or long day, it can make everything seem so much worse.
So, breathing is the answer to your own emotional regulation.
Deep breaths initiates the rest and relax system of the body, which will take you as far away from the fight or flight response as possible.
Breathing also plays a huge part in overcoming anxiety and stress.
Breathing deeply helps relax your body and mind, which can make you think more clearly and act on better decisions.
My go-to breathing technique is a deep inhale, followed by a long exhale. I breathe in for about a count of 4 and out for 6 or 7.
Breathing gives you a pause. A moment to think and react constructively.
Sometimes I don’t say anything for a few seconds because I’m so focused on my breath, which helps me keep calm.
Indeed, taking a moment to breathe before responding will help you remain calmer and more rational, which will help your child calm down quicker too.
If breathing isn’t something that works for you, try counting to 10 before saying anything.
You can close your eyes, count in your head, and then respond in a calm, controlled manner.
2. Be aware of your behavior
It all comes down to whether you’re aware you’re doing something or not.
I recommend reading up on positive parenting or conscious parenting topics (see my book recommendations below), as they tend to advocate a ‘connection before correction’ with children.
The old school authoritarian parenting style is slowly dying out (thank goodness) in favour of looking out for children’s wellbeing and helping them develop in the best way possible.
Use your triggers (what causes you to be angry and yell) as data for yourself.
Look in the mirror and ask yourself ‘why does this annoy me so much?’
It’s likely it’s something from your past or perhaps a way you were treated as a child? Everything has a reason. And through awareness, you can look at yourself and ask yourself why do I behave like that?
3. Remind yourself not to take it personally
Children do not behave in a particular way out of choice when they trigger you.
What I mean is, when their behaviour upsets you, they don’t do it to upset you (a jumble of words there!)
Kids haven’t yet developed the part of their brain responsible for logic or reason. Apparently it doesn’t develop until humans are waaay into their twenties.
Their screams, tantrums and outbursts are not to annoy you, seriously. They are in themselves having an outburst of emotion which they cannot control.
They have zero knowledge of how they behave, so it’s worthwhile telling yourself this mid-screaming attack. This in itself may help you stay calm and help your child instead of shouting and making the situation worse.
4. Think about what you want to say
When you are trying to control your own emotions and reactions, you’ll often find yourself in a state of thoughtlessness and fuzzy headed-ness.
Thoughtlessness is not a good thing when you talk to your child.
Before you say anything, stop and think what you really want to say.
Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful?
These 4 questions help me say something as constructive as possible when my child is triggering me.
Even if I am raising my voice, I can still say what I need to say and apologise soon after if it’s come across as a bit strong.
Thinking about what you want to say is super important – it will help you keep your cool.
Ask yourself what your child needs? They are not having a meltdown for no reason. Something has triggered them.
Does he need space to vent? Does she need a hug? Is he hungry? Is she tired?
Ask yourself these questions before reacting, and then choose the right response..
5. Give your child a chance to explain
It’s easy to react to a child’s behaviour without knowing why.
But if you want to get through to your child, give him a chance to explain himself.
You don’t have to agree with his behavior, but you can listen to him and show that you’re willing to understand his perspective.
Try to understand where he is coming from and what he’s feeling.
You can ask:
“Why did you do that?”
“I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
And most importantly, “What do you want me to do to help?”
Yes, even doing this with a very young child (pre talking) is possible, as the asking the question will take you out of the angry fight or flight mode into calm, focused mode.
Always attempt to switch your perspective around to focus on your child’s needs. Are they not being understood and this is why they’re behaving in that way?
Are they hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Overstimulated? Need a hug?
6. Take a step or two back
When you’re yelling, you’re not in control.
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and lose your perspective.
So instead, step back.
Literally! Leave the room. Take a moment to yourself. If you need to scream into a pillow, do.
Take some deep breaths and focus first and foremost on calming down. Take a walk outside if you need to.
It’s much easier to respond calmly when you take a break and then return to revisit the situation with a strong head.
7. Practise, practise, practise
Understand that times of anger will always happen – it’s part of being a human being.
Your child’s behavior will upset you from time to time, they are learning too, and what’s important to know is that you can be angry but not yell.
Harsh verbal discipline doesn’t need to happen, even if you are so angry you’re about to burst.
This is where practice comes in.
The first step, in the heat of the moment, is to practise those deep breaths. Repeat deep breathing on a daily basis for best results.
The more you practise putting a pause in between the trigger and angry response, the easier and more natural a better reaction will be for you going forward.
8. Be open to letting your child be your teacher
I’ve found motherhood to be the biggest eye-opener into my character.
Sometimes I am who I want to be – a calm and focused mother who loves her children immensely, and at others, I’m cranky and irritable, which is not who I like to be.
I use the things that trigger me to understand myself better. I ask myself, “Why do I do that?’
Sometimes, I really don’t know and that cements it even more for me that I certainly don’t want to shout at my kids when I can’t even understand why I want to in the first place!
- To rid yourself of any pent-up anger, try journaling. My book on the topic will take you through a journaling course in a few days, so you can feel the benefits.
- Next time your child upsets you, try deep breaths first and foremost. Your negative emotions won’t disappear instantly, but it *should* stop you from going into that automatic fight or flight response.
- Be honest with your children and apologise if you do shout. Explain to them why you shouted and why you’re sorry. Doing this will help you understand your behaviour, them understand you, and how to improve in the future.
- Enrol your entire family in your quest to stop yelling. Make sure everyone knows you’re trying and may need support or alone time to vent in private.
- Consider the reasons you yell as a sign that your needs are not being met. Here is a list of suggestions which may help.
- Ultimately, if you are concerned about how much you’re yelling despite trying these suggestions, get professional help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and certainly will be better for your children in the long run.
Calm Parents Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham
The Conscious Parent by Dr Shefali
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