Juggling work, school, and family has never been easy, but these days—as we're still working from home and have almost zero alone time to decompress—parenting feels like running a marathon on a hamster wheel. Which can make you want to scream, or at least yell, especially when your kids seem incapable of listening. But yelling always makes you feel worse, and it doesn't even seem to work. So, we scoured the web and chatted with other parents to get some easy-to-follow, actually actionable tips that will help you stop yelling at your kids, even when sorely provoked.
These tips will help you relax, take a beat, and see things from a different perspective. And remember, you're not alone! Every parent we've ever met has yelled at their kids at some point; if you want to commiserate, meet us on our Facebook page to chat about all the challenges of parenting. Sometimes it's just nice to commiserate and feel seen.
1. Remember, your kids are new to the world
It might seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment it's easy to forget: Little kids are still in the process of learning everything. I mean, we've been here a lot longer than our kids, and the world can still feel pretty overwhelming. So we can't expect them to behave well all the time when they're pretty new to the world. Expect that you'll have to repeat the same command a million times before getting the desired result. Just giving yourself this tiny reminder sometimes can help decrease the frustration you feel when you're telling them to pick up their shoes for the 945th time today.
2. Don't sweat the small stuff
Spilling juice on a brand new tablecloth, getting dirty right after getting dressed, breaking something valuable ... all super frustrating things in the moment. But stop and assign these problems the value they actually have. In the grand scheme of things, how important is a broken object? Or dirty clothes? Bingo—utterly unimportant.
Little kids, even when they're 4 or 5 years old, are still mastering coordination, and the very act of gripping is a complex activity that needs a lot of practice. So next time—because there will be many next times—just breathe in and remind yourself that they are not doing it on purpose. Their intention is not to wreak havoc, they simply don't know how to do things right yet.
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Happy kid, happy parents. Photo by the author
3. Treat kids with respect
Don't play the “because I say so" card. Instead, try connecting with kids to dissolve the friction. Be concise and treat them like a peer. One concrete thing you can do is start with a nickname you have. This puts kids in a receptive mode, as opposed to simply telling them to do what you say, which puts kids (or anyone!) in a less collaborative, more combatitive mood. Let kids know that you're a team and you need them to be onboard.
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Try a whisper, instead of a shout. Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels
4. Get close
When your kids are misbehaving and all you want to do is put an end to the mayhem, yelling might seem like the fastest and most effective resource you have. But flip that instinct on it's head and try this: Whisper in their little ears. That moment of sweet physical contact will soften any situation. By whispering, you'll really get their attention as they will thoroughly focus on what you're telling them, and that reconnection will disperse any negativity in the room. Plus, I will take any excuse to kiss my little girl's cheek, so try ending it on that note.
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Try and model behavior you want to see. (Because you will see it!) Photo courtesy of Barbara Olsen, Pexels
5. Kids are great mimics, and you'll see your own behavior in them.
Kids learn by example, absorbing and reflecting everything they see in you—which means they will likely respond to a situation in the exact same way you do. If you don't want your kids to yell at each other, try not to yell at them! Give yourself a second to think about the example you want to set, and picture your words and tone coming out of your kiddo then next time they're upset. That just might help you pump the breaks next time you're tempted to burst.
6. Employ warnings that include (gentle) reminders of consequences
If you sense a potentially difficult situation coming your way, take a moment to remind your kids that you don't want to yell or get and you need their help. Remind them that there will be consequences if they continue misbehaving—and if the talk doesn't work, follow through immediately with the consequence. For example, “no screen time" is my go-to, and it's way more effective than raising my voice.
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One of my triggers is getting bugged when I'm working. Photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto, Pexels
7. Know thyself, and thy triggers!
Recognize what makes you blow up, so you can be prepared when you come face to face with the situation again. Self-awareness leads to self control Think about the times you've yelled at your kids, what happened: What triggered it? Design a plan on how to handle it. I usually tend to burst when I'm trying to focus on work and my child shows up demanding things. So I've found it helpful to create a schedule and plan ahead by preparing fun activities that will keep my child-focused and entertained while I get my work done, so then I can later spend uninterrupted time with her. This minimizes disturbances and only takes a little effort to organize.
A break can be as small as a minute or as big as a bubble bath. Photo courtesy of cottonbro, Pexels
8. Take a "Time Out" for yourself
When you start feeling that fire building up inside of you, take a minute's break and walk away from the scene. Go to the bathroom, count to 10, repeat a mantra, or do whatever you need to do to calm down. Take a moment to breathe and think about how you want to respond. Take all the time you need, and then explain it to your kids when you come back. Let them know that walking away didn't mean you were ignoring them, it meant that you were upset and you needed a minute to calm down, but now you're ready to talk with them. Repeat as often as needed!
9. Let your kids know you're trying not to yell
Make it a family affair to put a stop to shouting. Call a family meeting at a time when no one is upset. Talk to your whole family and tell them that your goal is for everyone in the family to stop yelling, and by saying it out loud you are asking for their help. You can support each other with tips on staying calm, whenever needed. Be each other's mentors. Plus, kids will love to remind you when you're about to slip—you can come up with a funny word they can say when they think you're going to lose your cool. That little face looking at you and saying something like "Spongebob mama!" is a great way to diffuse tension and make everyone laugh.
Your kids will be your biggest cheerleaders. Photo by the author
10. Practice—and then practice some more
Remember your own mom telling you that "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again?" No one said this was going to be easy. You won't get it right every time. Tell your kids that parents make mistakes, too. Own it, and apologize. Remember how we talked about them being little mimics? They'll mimic this, too. Then dust yourself off and try again. It's a work in progress, and you'll do better next time.