Does this ring any bells? “What do you think you’re doing? I’ve told you a thousand times not to use marker on the rug! You’re driving me crazy!!” Because we’re all human, sometimes parents yell at their kids. But if yelling is your usual response to frustration, anger, or defiance, then it’s time to take a step back and try some new strategies that can help you respond more calmly. It doesn’t mean you’ll be a pushover or never get angry; it’s just a more positive approach to managing your temper and communicating with your children. Start by trying some of these tips.
Tip #1: Take a physical step back.
When you’re really angry, it can be easy to get locked in a shouting match with your child. Instead, try taking a few steps away from your child, silently counting to 10, and taking a deep breath. It’s like giving yourself a mini timeout to calm down and regain control. If there’s another reliable adult present, ask him or her to step in and leave the room to break the cycle.
Tip #2: Explain why you’re angry.
From preschool age on, instead of yelling, try sitting down with your child and calmly explaining why what they’re doing is making you upset in language that’s appropriate for your child’s age. Maybe you have a headache and his running around the kitchen is making it worse. Maybe you feel like you’ve explained the rules for homework before TV a million times. And don’t just make it a one-sided conversation. After you explain what’s going on from your perspective, ask your child what he thinks he or she can do to make the situation better and come up with a solution together.
Tip #3: Try a whisper, not a scream.
With younger kids, part of the reason most parents get angry and frustrated is that their children don’t seem to listen to a thing they say. That’s doubly true when the message is shouted in frustration. Kids just tune that out. If you whisper, they have to work harder to hear what you’re saying and they’re more engaged, which means you stand a better chance of getting your message across.
Tip #4: Get some perspective.
Your preschooler spilled juice all over the kitchen floor. Your 13-year-old lost his expensive calculator. Again. Your 7-year-old called her brother a name. These are all frustrating things that could make you angry, but take a beat and think about what’s really going on. None of these things are life-threatening. None will change the course of history. None will even probably be remembered in a few days. And that’s exactly why they’re not worth yelling about.
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