It’s been a long day, you’re exhausted, and your patience is wearing thin. Suddenly, your child does something that pushes you over the edge, and you raise your voice in the heat of the moment. Again.
Yelling at our children is a habit many parents fall into. You are not alone.
We know it’s terrible, but stopping is easier said than done.
When your child keeps pushing your button on a daily basis, how do you stay calm?
Types of yelling that must be stopped
Yelling isn’t always bad.
When your curious toddler is about to insert a crayon into the toaster, your preschooler decides to pour a box of cereal onto the living room floor, or your impetuous child attempts to launch their toy car off the balcony, raising your voice is appropriate.
This reflexive response is valuable and desired when you must promptly stop the action. There is no need to be polite in these situations.
However, if you continue to scold or yell at your child even after their bad behavior has been stopped, then yelling becomes unnecessary and might psychologically affect your child.
The types of yelling that need to stop include
- Exhaustion yelling – Raising your voice when you are stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, or frustrated.
- Anger yelling – Aggressively yell using derogatory remarks, humiliation, and verbal aggression.
Why yelling isn’t good
It makes you feel horrible
No one enjoys yelling at others in rage. When you yell, it causes you emotional distress, too.
So, one of the most compelling reasons is to prevent yourself from feeling miserable.
Why keep doing things that make you feel bad?
It doesn’t work
If yelling worked, you wouldn’t have to keep yelling repeatedly.
Why keep doing things that don’t work?
When we resort to yelling, it trains children only to pay attention when our voices are raised, and it encourages them to yell back.
Although they may not show it, yelling can frighten children causing them to enter fight-or-flight mode. They cannot learn what we try to teach when their nervous system is activated.1
So our yelling is counterproductive if we want them to learn better behavior.
It does the opposite
Parents often have valid reasons to be upset with their children.
They may want their kids to improve their grades, show good behavior, help with household chores, or adopt more positive attitudes. Yet their children resist these expectations and refuse to comply.
But studies show that being yelled at is associated with poorer academic performance2, increased externalizing behavior3, mental health issues4, strained parent-child relationships, increased drug abuse5, and diminished physical health.6
Ironically, these are the very outcomes parents believe they are preventing by yelling.
Why keep doing things that exacerbate rather than improve the situation?
It pushes our kids away
“Don’t worry. They know you love them. They still love you, too.”
These are statements parents frequently share to provide comfort. The problem is these beliefs don’t solve the problem. More importantly, these reassurances are often not accurate.
Consider this: If your boss yelled at you from time to time, would you still like or even “love” them?
When you constantly yell, a challenging child is guaranteed to develop an attitude and eventually yell back. And then you may wonder why your teenagers engage in yelling fights with you all the time. It’s not because they are teenagers. It’s because they’ve had enough.
Have trouble motivating your child? Check out: How To Motivate Kids
How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids
1. Announce your commitment
Now that you understand there is no good reason for yelling, commit to making a change and enlist your family’s support to hold you accountable.
The first step is to hold a family meeting to discuss the importance of respectful communication and ask the whole family to commit to mutual respect moving forward.
Acknowledge that you and your child will inevitably make mistakes, but you will remind one another and grow together. Foster a supportive environment so you can collectively work toward improving communication within the family.
2. Build a strong relationship
When you have a strong parent-child relationship, your child will naturally care about things that matter to you. They will be motivated to do better without being forced to or yelled at.
Building a close relationship requires prioritizing the relationship over immediate outcomes. That means your relationship, rather than grades, chores, or obedience, is the most important thing.
It doesn’t mean being permissive; it means you patiently teach your child instead of demanding immediate compliance.
“You mean I still need to teach my ten-year-old how to clean up after themselves?”
Yes, and no.
Your child likely knows the mechanics of cleaning up, but you will remind them why they need to do that and why maintaining hygiene and responsibility are important.
Remind them repeatedly.
Just like kids learning to walk or write, learning to take responsibility requires time and practice.
It takes a child’s brain a long time to rewire and learn new skills. The prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of decision-making, does not finish developing until an individual is in their mid-twenties.
When you prioritize teaching over getting immediate results, your child will realize that your good intention and love for them drive you to guide them patiently.
Exhaustion can take a toll on anyone. Many busy parents don’t have the time to prioritize self-care.
The good news is maintaining good mental health does not necessarily entail a trip to the spa or a lengthy vacation.
Getting enough sleep is the best way to calm parenting. Well-rested minds can make better choices even on a stressful day.
Practicing mindfulness, such as meditation or yoga, is also a great way to improve mental health by alleviating stress and refreshing your mind.
A mindful parent is less susceptible to stress-induced reactions because you are more aware of your own emotions and anger triggers.
Recognizing your anger or frustration as it accumulates is essential to prevent it from escalating and spiraling out of control.
4. Practice catching your anger
Visual reminders can also help you notice them.
The best reminders are the ones you will likely see, even when you are angry or yelling. It could be a bright-colored note on the wall or a particular ornament on the table.
Whenever you see the reminder throughout the day, practice pausing and assessing your emotional state to keep your anger in check. With practice, you will become more aware of your feelings and notice emotional flooding if it happens.
5. Model better ways to deal with anger
Set a good example of emotional regulation and anger management by using appropriate behavior to manage your own anger.
The next time you notice your emotions intensifying, the first thing to do is to pause and take a deep breath.
Then use a healthy way to express your frustration by naming your negative emotions out loud.
“I can sense that I’m reaching my breaking point. If I have to remind you again, I might lose control and start yelling. I know neither of us wants that. Can you please help us avoid this situation by taking care of it right now?”
Also See: Tips For Angry Parents
6. Time-out yourself
If you struggle to maintain composure, take a time-out yourself, allowing yourself the space to cool down and regroup.
Once you’ve regained your calm, return to the conversation and address the issue as a calm mom.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Is everything that makes you upset genuinely essential to your child’s upbringing?
Parents naturally want the best for their children, which can often translate into a desire for kids to do everything perfectly, even down to the most minor details. Raising healthy, happy kids requires letting go of perfection, focusing on what’s important, and finding a balance between worrying about big and small things.
8. Mistakes are okay
It takes time to break the cycle of yelling and form new habits.
If you have a bad day and end up yelling, apologize and engage in a discussion about how you can work together to prevent such incidents in the future.
This approach helps resolve the situation and fosters a healthy and open communication dynamic between you and your child.
Also See: Parenting Tips For Parents
9. Seek professional help
If you have a hard time changing the yelling habit, it is worth considering seeking help from a mental health professional, such as a clinical psychologist.
If you have triggers causing problems, therapy is a good place to help you discover and address the underlying issues. Therapists can also help you develop emotion regulation strategies and become a calmer parent in the long run.
Need Help Motivating Kids?
If you are looking for additional tips and an actual step-by-step plan, this online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
It gives you the steps you need to identify motivation issues in your child and the strategy you can apply to help your child build self-motivation and become passionate about learning.
Once you know this science-based strategy, motivating your child becomes easy and stress-free.
- 1.Goff AM. Stressors, Academic Performance, and Learned Resourcefulness in Baccalaureate Nursing Students. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. Published online January 24, 2011. doi:10.2202/1548-923x.2114
- 2.Blodgett C, Lanigan JD. The association between adverse childhood experience (ACE) and school success in elementary school children. School Psychology Quarterly. Published online March 2018:137-146. doi:10.1037/spq0000256
- 3.Wang MT, Kenny S. Longitudinal Links Between Fathers’ and Mothers’ Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents’ Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms. Child Dev. Published online September 3, 2013:908-923. doi:10.1111/cdev.12143
- 4.Teicher MH MD,PhD, Samson JA PhD, Polcari A RN,CS, McGreenery CE. Sticks, Stones, and Hurtful Words: Relative Effects of Various Forms of Childhood Maltreatment. AJP. Published online June 2006:993-1000. doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.6.993
- 5.Teicher MH, Samson JA, Sheu YS, Polcari A, McGreenery CE. Hurtful Words: Association of Exposure to Peer Verbal Abuse With Elevated Psychiatric Symptom Scores and Corpus Callosum Abnormalities. AJP. Published online December 2010:1464-1471. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10010030
- 6.Hornor G. Childhood Trauma Exposure and Toxic Stress: What the PNP Needs to Know. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Published online March 2015:191-198. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2014.09.006