We parents don’t want to yell. And when we do, we inevitably feel guilty. Plus, our kids don’t even respond well when we yell. They don’t necessarily become better listeners or more obedient children. Still, there are times when even the most level-headed parent loses his or her temper. But how can we minimize (or even stop) those shameful yelling outbursts? Because, as we all know, it doesn’t help if both the child and the parent are throwing a temper tantrum. Here are some strategies to try when your kids are pushing your buttons.
Show empathy: When your child has done something naughty and you want to scream out the consequences, let your child know that you understand how she feels before taking away all of her electronics. “This opens their minds and hearts to learn from their mistakes without blaming you,” according to Jim Fay, founder of Love and Logic. Try something like, “What a bummer” or “I know this is frustrating to you.”
Ask good questions: “Questions rather than commands can calm your child and de-escalate,” says Amie Dean of Roswell, also known as “The Behavior Queen.” A mom of three boys and former special education teacher, Dean now conducts training sessions for parents, teachers and administrators on how to reach and positively impact the most challenging students. She suggests asking questions such as, “Can you please try that again?” or “What is a solution to this problem?”
Take a time out: Time-outs aren’t just for kids. We parents need them too. It is okay to tell your kids you need a break to think things over and cool off. Then take a quick walk around the house, lie down, or hide out in your closet. Revisit the discussion with your child after you have calmed down.
Explain what you want, rather than what you don’t want: For instance, if your child is yelling and you want to yell at her to stop, try saying, “Use a calm voice” rather than saying, “Stop yelling.” This is the same strategy lifeguards use when they say “walk” instead of “don’t run.”
Get a mantra: When you feel like you’re going to lose it, take a deep breath and say a mantra that you have memorized. Try something like, “It doesn’t matter what happened. It’s how I react to what happened” or “This too shall pass.” You might even want to write it down and hang it somewhere like the refrigerator. Repeating your mantra in your head before speaking will help to squash the screaming.
Overall, “Ensure your child feels loved,” says Dean. “Teach them discipline IS love. One of my greatest mentors, Dr. Terry Alderman, who was a great principal, therapist, and father, told his sons, ‘I care more about you than what you think of me.’ It is because we love our children so much that our emotions become so intense. If we let the desired lessons drive our communication rather than the anger or frustration, the love will shine through every time.”