If you’re a parent, you know the “I can’t help it, I’m about to yell” feeling we sometimes get faced with our children’s behavior. We don’t like to yell. We don’t want to yell. But sometimes, it just comes out. Looking for alternatives? Here are 9 ways you can try to react instead of yelling, when you feel like yelling. I’m not promising they’ll all work all of the time, but they’re worth a try!
1. Begin by noticing something positive about your child that day that can help you calm down. You can even mention that to him (I’m very happy that…), and then address the issue (but, we need to work on…)
2. Hug your child close. Believe me – it will help you AND them. Often a little love and trust is all they need to come TOWARD you instead of continuing to pull away. This can go miles in diffusing a tense situation.
3. Set clear rules in advance and follow through. If consequences have already been established, go directly to the consequence. This avoids unnecessary verbal confrontation. Make sure, as much as possible, that consequences are natural, not arbitrary.
4. Communicate with your child. Teach them how to explain how they feel. Many times kids act up because they’re feeling something inside and don’t know how to express it. We get upset because they act up. If we can help them communicate their feelings, it will be easier for both them and us to express ourselves without getting upset. Are you having a hard time communicating effectively? Try these 14 Tips and Tricks.
5. Say a prayer. Are you a person of faith? Turning to God can bring grace, strength and patience in times of trial.
6. Make it clear that you are addressing their behavior, not them. Even just reminding yourself about this can make it easier to remain firm, but calm.
7. Make sure you take care of your own needs. OK – this isn’t exactly an immediate alternative to yelling, but it’s related. We lose patience more easily when we haven’t had enough food, sleep, etc. Taking care of ourselves on a regular basis will both reduce the number of times we get upset, and make it easier to react differently when we do feel like yelling.
8. Express understanding instead of yelling. This doesn’t make the behavior acceptable, but it can help relieve tension and make your child more comfortable talking about what’s bothering them or what they did. Don’t forget what it’s like being a child. Yes, parents have a tough time, but kids have tough times too. They’re still just learning what to do with their thoughts, desires and emotions, so it’s easy for them to get overwhelmed and frustrated. If you show them that you understand how they feel and where they are coming from, it becomes easier for them to look to you for guidance.
9. Take some time out. If you don’t think you can do anything in that moment without yelling, it’s OK to hit pause for a little while. You’ll have a much more effective discussion with your child by waiting a little while and then communicating calmly than by forcing an issue through a heated interchange.
See if you can identify what most often causes you to start yelling and try to address the cause. Is it because your child speaks disrespectfully? Try these different parenting strategies when your child talks back. Do you get most upset when your child is also all worked up? Try these 10 ways to help your child calm down. Do you get riled up during power struggles? Identify strategies to avoid power struggles altogether. By identifying and working on the cause, you can greatly reduce the number of times you need to find an alternative to yelling.
Finally, apologize if you do lose patience. We’re imperfect people. The more we can avoid yelling at our kids, the better. But be that as it may, there will probably be times when we lose our patience even when we don’t mean to. In these cases, apologizing to our kids is both a way of acknowledging that we made a mistake and teaching them the importance of apologizing when they do something wrong. Apologizing does not justify your child’s behavior, but helps rectify your own. Be clear that their behavior was still unacceptable and must be amended, but that you are sorry for your own reaction as well.