Updated: Jul 11
When my daughter was younger, she got so frustrated because she wanted to do something I wouldn't let her do. I continued to say "no" and she continued to protest and fall apart. Finally, when tensions had escalated to a level I could not handle... guess what I did? Yup - I started to full-out lose it; "You better knock it off and CALM DOWN RIGHT NOW!" As you might guess, this did not help the situation or her to help calm her down.
In this Naptime Nugget, I talk about how to stop the yelling, whether that is your own yelling or your child's. I also walk through different strategies to get you child to stop yelling and manage these tense moments to avoid unhelpful and regretful behavior.
*After all, if we want young children and teenagers to act in ways that are useful and helpful when they are upset, we need to do it!
Think back to a time when you were getting upset. How did you handle it? Were you able to use your words and work through it, or did you yell (or even fight the strong impulse to yell)? If you were able to work through a difficult time without raising your voice then that is a great skill you have acquired! However, if you did find your self yelling, we have some useful tips for you:
1) Set a clear goal - "I will not yell at my child." In order for kids or adults to have more self-control, it is helpful to set a specific goal. As humans, we tend to go a bit past the limit we have set, of course, we are not perfect. With a very lax and fuzzy goal, it is much more difficult to monitor our impulse and we end up yelling more.
"I will yell when I need to." = Yelling A LOT
"I will only yell when/if my kids are really pushing it." = You will yell less but still have a tendency to yell more than you would like and find yourself yelling a fair amount.
"I will not yell at my children ever." = It is likely I will find myself yelling a small amount.
It is true that, I will do better at avoiding unhelpful yelling if the goal is clear. It does also help to back up my goal with the facts. When I yell, especially when I am out of control, I teach my child to do it too. Furthermore, I teach them that they can choose friends and partners who treat them the same. It is up to me to model the behaviors I value. A strong goal will help.
2. Decide what you will do instead. When our stress threshold is hit, and stress hormone is pumping through our bodies, it is likely we will yell, threaten a consequence we cannot follow through on, and other unhelpful reactions. A replacement behavior (and a plan to use it) will help us stop the impulse. What will you do instead of yell? Make a plan of action! Decide, when I am getting very angry, I will...
*Say how I feel - "I am very angry right now, my feelings want to bubble over! I am going to walk and breathe."
*Squeeze my hands together and shake then loosely.
*Run cold water over my hands or rub calming lotion
*Get a drink of water
(Or, all of the above.) After any one of these, you will be less likely to yell.
3. In that stressful moment, give your brain a chance to catch up with a "Pause"
Pause first, then act. Take a pause or a break in-between the time when the aggravation level starts to block your most rational thinking and you are about to "flip your lid" and yell. It is important to give yourself at least 10 seconds to breathe and think before you respond. During that break think about, do the thing you identified in #2 that will help bring your thinking brain back online.
Now that we have helped ourselves calm down, what can we do to help children calm down in these stressful situations?
Figure out what helps them to calm. What can they do when they are so excited or upset that they just feel like they have to yell. Laugh, turn on some music and move, what will help?!
Model it and call it out. Model the response you want the child to have and say, out loud, how you are feeling so that they will be able to fully understand how you are feeling and what someone might do with that feeling. Tell them "I am feeling so tense right now, I need to shake it out or take a deep breath to calm down."
Make a list. Make a list of feelings and how you want to respond to them. Do this with your child (3yo+) and post it on the fridge or somewhere everyone can see it. This will help remind the child and you how to respond in different situations.
Setting a goal to avoid yelling is great. However, we are all human and will slip up from time to time. Set your goal clearly, making a commitment and maybe even a family rule around yelling. It will help everyone learn to set important limits and stick to them. After a bit of practice, this will become easier and easier (though, I admit, I have been practicing for years and still have "those" days!) It is important to think about what response you want to have and to give yourself a pause so you can better take action in a planned way (with less regrets). When you feel yourself getting worked up, take a moment to go "fetch" your rational brain and recall the appropriate response you want to have. When you show this kind of restraint, you will show your children an important skill and help them yell less in the future.
For more on helping children master their own stressful moments and helpful resources to teach children to breathe instead of act out, visit this blog: https://www.thriving-together.com/post/naptime-nugget-11-helping-children-master-stressful-moments
*10 Tips to Stop Yelling - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201302/10-steps-stop-yelling
*Five ways to stop a screaming match with your child or teen - https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/trapped-in-a-screaming-match-with-your-child-5-ways-to-get-out-now/
*Are there cultures who do not yell? Can "gentle parenting" teach children the limits they need to behave well? Read on, if interested...