How to Stop Yelling At Your Kids — Use These 10 Tips


Calm Parenting—most of us aspire to it, desire it, and even promise ourselves  we’re going to do it—but it’s so difficult to sustain. We know how important it  is to parent from our principles rather than from our fears, but despite our  best intentions we lose it and end up yelling at those we love the most — our  kids.

Related: Losing your temper and screaming  at your kids?

And  why? Actually for good reason. We often blame our kids for our outbursts  and  convince ourselves that it’s because they don’t listen, are  disrespectful,  sassy, or misbehave. It’s important to understand  that these are just our triggers—actions, behavior or events that push  our buttons and often make us react without thinking. Added to that, we  parents have strong  feelings when it comes to parenting; they can run the gamut  from fear, to sadness, to helplessness, and more. Parenting is a   very personal experience and our feelings can easily get in our way  of logic and wise reasoning. After all, we’re only human!

“Often  without realizing it, we are  parenting from a sense of panic, urgency and fear;  we are reacting to triggers that are continually setting off internal  alarms.”


Understand that all  feelings are natural, normal and acceptable—but all  behaviors are not. Our  challenge is to accept our feelings, but take control of  our behavior when our  strong feelings are triggered.

Triggers and Buttons

And  what triggers our feelings so strongly? We are all vulnerable to  different  emotions that can set off an alarm bell inside of us. Some of us  become easily  angered and others deeply fearful. So many hurts and  disappointments and  struggles happen as we raise our kids, and each of these  emotional experiences  forces us to confront our true selves, our “unfinished  business,” and our fears. Parenting can expose us to our own deep,  dark self—the  pretty and not so pretty— some of which we were probably hoping  to keep out of sight! These moments of awareness are painful and can get in the  way of our desire and commitment  to be calm and speak kindly  and reasonably to our kids. Of course, our explosion  leaves us feeling  more guilty and hopeless as parents—and the cycle continues.

When  the sun is shining and all is going well we feel that we have this calm  parenting thing under control. But when stress hits, buttons get pushed and   heat starts rising all logic and reason and book smarts goes out the window and   alarms start blaring.


Let’s  imagine our brains with two offices – one upstairs and one downstairs.  The  upstairs office, called THE LOGIC ROOM takes care of processing logical   information and preparing charts, systems, plans and strategies. The downstairs   office, called THE EMOTIONAL ROOM, takes in and processes our emotions. When  things are calm in the downstairs office, the upstairs office  functions well.  But if the downstairs office gets too heated, the alarms will  sound, the LOGIC  office upstairs shuts down and things go haywire in a  desperate attempt to cool  the flames. When the heat is finally lowered, the upstairs office reopens and  checks for damage, plans for repairs and creates strategies for the future.

Related: The key to better behavior? Better  problem-solving skills.

Overheated  parenting takes place frequently. Without realizing it, we are  often parenting  from a sense of panic, urgency and fear, reacting to triggers  that are  continually setting off internal alarms. Often the logical and  thoughtful part  of our brains gets shut down, while emergency crews are working  overtime.

Here’s the good news:  Knowing your own internal triggers  and recognizing, acknowledging and soothing your emotions,  will keep them  from controlling you. If you control them and keep them  calmly settled  inside you, rather than having these negative emotions spilling  outward, you will be able to parent more effectively. The best part is, you  can learn how to do this with practice.

Remember that when your emotional brain is in control, you’ll  be most likely to react by  yelling and screaming. Other forms of  reactivity can include: shutting down, distancing, ignoring, and turning a  blind eye to behavior. Responding, on  the other hand, is when you avoid saying  anything until the internal fire is out. You  can then go upstairs to  the LOGIC ROOM and think of the best way to respond to your child and the  situation.

Can  you recognize your own triggers? Typical ones for parents are feelings  of:

  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Inadequacy
  • Fear
  • Guilt

If  your child rolls his eyes at you, for example, it may trigger a  feeling of being disrespected. This may cut deeply in to  your  childhood memories of being disrespected by a parent or peers. This  feeling,  when it gets triggered, might cause your heart to race, anger to rise  and  internal heat to set off alarms, shutting down logic…and your  emotions take  over. As much as the better part of you knows your child is just  behaving as  most teenagers would—it’s not personal—your emotions  register it as personal  and threatening, and emotions get heated as a result. You  start shouting  and calling your child a spoiled brat. Why? Because  she triggered unhealed  feelings in you. If you do not know how to soothe  and heal your feelings,  you are likely to instead blame others. You still need to address the  disrespect, but once you recognize why you get so triggered, you’ll be able  to talk to your child with less emotionality.

Related: How any parent can learn to be a calm  parent.

It’s also a trigger for many parents when their kids don’t listen. Maybe  this makes you feel disregarded.  This floods you with the many  painful times in your life others disregarded  you, especially your mom when  your older brother was around, for example. Your emotions cause  the LOGIC  OFFICE to temporarily shut down while emergency vehicles rush out  with alarms  wailing to cool down the raging fire. Despite  your best intentions, you yell,  shout and hurl irrational punishments at your  child for not listening to you.  He might not have had any idea what he was about to  set off in you.

Understand  that your intense feelings and emotions don’t make you bad,  hopeless or  inadequate—they make you human. But as humans, we have control over  our  feelings and a responsibility to respond maturely and rationally to our  intense  emotions. Although challenging, it is possible. It helps to  have compassion for yourself. You can even think of it as an  imaginary  compassionate friend sitting on your shoulder at all times. He or she  needs to  remind you that it is a tough journey to get from yelling to calm, or  from a  reaction to a thoughtful response. This friend needs to cheer you on  throughout  your journey. (Of course, actual compassionate friends can also help,  but find  ways to rely on yourself as well.)

What  will this change in your path require?

  1. Educate  the logical, thoughtful  part of your brain. Read articles (like the ones found here on Empowering Parents) that teach and remind  you why it is important to  stay calm and not lose your cool with your children. Stop, pause, and think  before responding,  always.
  2. You can’t “make” others act a  certain way so you can feel okay. Keep  in mind that we have  a tendency to want others to think and act the way we want them to think   and act when we get anxious, particularly our children. This is called the  “herding” instinct; it makes us feel calmer when others act in ways that  fit  our needs. When we can’t get others  to “be” the way we need them to be, we  get more anxious and start shouting at  them in our attempt to “herd” them.  Know that this is a natural tendency that occurs in all of  us, and prepare  for it to happen when you get triggered. Stop, pause and  recognize that you  can’t yell your way to calm or get calm through someone  else. Find ways to  soothe yourself through calming music, quiet walks, and self-care. The truth is,  yelling at others and jumping on their back will only cause more   stress.
  3. Know  your triggers.  Recognize your triggers. Pay attention to which of your child’s  behaviors gets  the heat rising in you. Check your body signals that indicates  your heat  rising. Are your shoulders tense? Throat tight? Are your words  defensive? See  if there is a pattern. Write all of this down.
  4. Ask  yourself why these behaviors  upset you so much. Write your thoughts down. Look  to your past and  look to your fears of the future. What does it trigger from  your past? What  fears does it trigger of the future? Ask yourself if your child’s  behavior make  you feel unsure of myself? Helpless? Out of control? Scared? Overwhelmed?  Why?  What can you do about these feelings? Are they rational or irrational?  Write  down what can you do to help soothe yourself when you feel any of these   triggered emotions.
  5. Know what’s at stake.  Remind  yourself that angry interactions can often negatively impact your  influence with your child. Influence  will only come from a child wanting to be  led by you. Use your compassionate  friend that sits on your shoulder to help  you calm down the deep emotions that  get triggered. You will want to settle  these emotions within yourself so  they don’t spill outside of yourself onto  others.Keep  in mind the following ways to soothe and settle your  difficult emotions:
  6. Have realistic  expectations: Keep  your expectations of yourself and parenting  realistic and reasonable. Give yourself  permission to be imperfect and  recognize the inevitability of being inadequate  at the job of parenting. If you  have difficulty reminding yourself, speak to  the compassionate friend that sits  on your shoulder. She can remind you of  these truths and help you keep a  perspective. Also get support from friends and  family that love  you.
  7. Heal your wounds. Heal   the wounds of your past by learning your family history or seeking out   professional help. Finish the unfinished business of the past so it does not   repeat itself in the present. Get your adult relationships and personal life in   order so you don’t rely on your kids to fill the void. Look at it this  way: if you need this from your kids, your sense of worth will be up  to them. You will be vulnerable to them and  therefore easily  triggered.
  8. Avoid power struggles.  Be  careful not get hooked in to a pattern of negative interactions with  your child when you  get triggered. Don’t react to her reactivity and get caught  in a battle of  wills. Hold on to yourself and your realistic expectations of  yourself and your  child. Stay focused on your child’s strengths  instead.
  9. Stop futurizing. If  you  are a big worrier, you probably carry lots of scary mental images of your kid’s   outcome in your head. Images of disaster, what will happen if they venture out  by themselves,  failure, catastrophes befalling them. Some part of you probably   falsely believes that if you worry  and “futurize” you will prevent these  things from  happening. Not true. Try and overdose your mind with visions of  happy, safe outcomes for  your children. When these negative images get in your  head, replace them with an  opposite image. Work on this. Do the same thing with  negative thoughts that  pop into your head; replace them with an opposite, more  realistic thought.
  10. Release  your stress through  exercise. Try walking, yoga, prayer, meditation. Practice mindfulness.  Relax your body when you feel yourself tensing your shoulders. Take deep   breaths and close your eyes. Notice your breath without changing it.   Acknowledge all thoughts that come into your head and then return to your  breathing.  Don’t judge yourself — just notice your mind has wandered and  bring it back to  focus. Do this 15 minutes a day and you will notice more  calm.

Related: How to give fail-proof consequences to  oppositional, defiant kids.

Our  kids’ behaviors can trigger unhealed wounds in us. We don’t like the  feeling their actions and words  brings up in us sometimes,  and we don’t know how to soothe our wounds, so we blame, yell,  scream, and  criticize the person who triggered it in us. Blame helps us  momentarily to feel  calmer but resolves nothing. So next time you are triggered,  pause before  reacting, lower your heat by gaining perspective, then decide the  best way to  respond to your child. Spend time in the LOGIC OFFICE. Think about how  to  approach your child so that she will learn something from her misbehavior,  but  that your relationship will remain intact. For example, if you are triggered  by  disrespect, then once you have calmed yourself down you might discuss with  her  why disrespect is not acceptable and what she can expect to happen when she   acts that way again.

Calm  Parenting does not have to be a far off dream, but it  does require serious  commitment and practice. Parenting is serious business,  and because we love our  children, parenting becomes a very emotional experience  which triggers our deepest  and most vulnerable emotions. Be kind to yourself on  this journey


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