Do you struggle with losing your temper and raising your voice? Learn how to stop yelling at your kids, control your anger, and stay patient.
My son felt terrified of taking a bath and wanted out. He was shrieking, clamoring over the tub’s edge, and flailing around an already-slippery tub. It was enough to push my buttons.
I didn’t have my A-game on, because if I did, I would’ve consoled him and shown much-needed empathy. I would’ve acknowledged his feelings or skipped the bath entirely.
Instead, I stood my stubborn ground and refused to let him leave the tub. I scrubbed him all over and toweled him off, both of us angry and exhausted. And when he kept resisting and crying, I yelled, “Stay in the tub!”
It was a bad night.
How to stop yelling at your kids
Stress. Loss of patience. Expecting too much of our younger children. Lack of sleep. These are the factors that make normal, sane parents lose it with their kids.
Perhaps your child threw a fit because he was jealous of the new baby. Or he kept annoying his brother even though you’d already told him to stop. And when he just about destroyed your makeup kit to “paint,” you yelled at him so much that he actually got scared.
No matter how common yelling at our kids can be, we can all agree that it’s not healthy to keep going down this pattern. We want to face the most egregious behavior and manage to stay calm (or at least, not raise our voices).
How can we better manage our frustration and see the situation from a different perspective when we feel that urge to yell and reprimand? Here’s what you can remind yourself when you’re in those situations:
1. Your child doesn’t always misbehave
At the moment, it can feel like your child never behaves. She “always” wakes up grumpy or throws a tantrum “every time” you leave the house. It feels like you have to nag her to do everything, only to regret doing so the next day.
It’s easy to draw sweeping conclusions when these moments happen, but we often do so based on rage and exhaustion. After all, she had been crying nearly every night at bedtime, or she doesn’t seem to like anything you give her to eat.
But these moments are rarer than they seem. You forget the many times she behaved at dinner and played with her siblings. You may have accepted her kindness toward others as a given, rather than an anomaly.
So, when she cries and misbehaves over everything, it can feel like she always behaves this way when she really doesn’t. Remind yourself that, however intense and emotional this moment can feel, it’s a small fraction of how she normally behaves.
Free resource: Exhausted and feeling guilty from constantly losing your temper? Even if it seems like you’ve tried just about everything, you can stop losing your temper and learn self-control.
In How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper, you’ll learn how to reflect on your triggers and make better choices. Grab your PDF below—at no cost to you. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“Hi Nina, thank you. Honestly, there are days when I feel the mom guilt eat at me in the night and think I’m the worst mom in the world and then I read one of your blogs that pertain to a situation I had earlier in the day with my preschooler and suddenly I feel better to know I’m not the only one. Yelling is my struggle right now, but thankfully I’ve found some helpful tips on how to better handle tantrums and misbehaving on your blog! Thank you!” -Andrea
2. Losing your temper in the past has never turned out well
Have you yelled so loud that your voice grew hoarse? That your child’s face transformed into one of shock and fear?
Often, remembering how terrible it felt to yell in the past can keep you from doing so again. Picturing my son’s crestfallen face or his body retreating as my anger grew made me feel horrible about having yelled. More importantly, it reminded me that yelling has never turned out well and only brought more negativity.
As reactive as yelling may be, it makes these interactions worse, not better. No child gets yelled at and thinks, Ah, now I can calm down. No—they mirror our own emotions, feel shame, or get frustrated even more. We’re no better, either. Even if we get our kids to listen, we feel a weight of guilt that doesn’t feel good.
Remind yourself that getting upset, however tempting it is to yell, doesn’t make anyone feel good in the end.
3. Take a step back
If we’re present at the moment, we can catch that quick “pause” before the anger arises. This pause allows you to pull yourself out of the crazy tornado you’re in and see the situation from a bigger picture. It’s almost like you’re watching yourself in action and can better decide the next step you should take.
When you take a step back, you can see and feel the emotions within you without reacting to them. You realize that this moment is temporary and that better days will come. You might see that your kids are tired from all the errands you’ve done or that they didn’t get enough sleep last night.
And you can remind yourself that a calm parent is more effective than a hysterical one. This simple pause can make a huge difference and turn those negative emotions around.
My son refused to leave the car and go into our home. I was alone with all three kids in the garage with no way to carry all three upstairs. I felt like blaming him for his behavior, wondering why he was always making things so difficult.
Instead, I learned my lesson and pulled him close to hug him. He crumbled in my arms, feeling safe and loved. And later, he calmed down once I sat him on my lap and sang songs. He just needed to know I was on his side.
Sometimes we need to do something so different that it jolts us out of our anger and anxiety.
Maybe your child was in a grumpy mood, but instead of yelling, you made a silly sound that made both of you laugh. While you shouldn’t laugh everything off, being silly kept you from yelling and helped you see the situation differently.
Perhaps you can sing a song to calm him down, take a deep breath, leave the room, or even wave your arms in a silly way. Once you remove yourself from your reaction, you can then hold a calmer conversation with him. You can stop the vicious cycle of getting angrier and angrier.
5. Work on the underlying issues
Your child seems to complain about everything, from refusing to use the toilet to not wanting to eat breakfast. On the surface, the issues seem to be about going to the bathroom and eating breakfast, but deeper ones hide beneath what you see.
Maybe she’s dealing with a new baby sister and doesn’t understand why life has changed so much. Or she senses you’ve been extra busy and distracted when you’re trying to work from home. She might even be tired or hungry but can’t pinpoint those reasons, causing her to act up instead.
Resolve hidden issues she may be facing to prevent misbehavior in the first place. What might be causing her to act up to begin with?
6. Your child’s behavior is developmentally appropriate
While we’re developmentally mature, we still interact with children who aren’t. They make impulsive decisions, can’t communicate as well, and resort to throwing a fit.
They don’t act up trying to make us angry. Instead, they’re handling their feelings in the only ways they can. They don’t have the tools to manage the emotions they feel. And if your child has a lot on his plate, he can feel frustrated and confused, leading to his challenging behavior.
Remind yourself that however difficult he’s behaving, this is normal child development for his age and stage. Expecting him to behave more maturely can be unrealistic when he’s not ready yet.
7. Review what went wrong
One of the most important things to do after yelling is to see what went wrong.
What triggers set you off to make you react that way in the first place? How can you replace harsh verbal discipline with more productive responses? What changes in your life can you make to avoid yelling, from waking up earlier to reducing your hours at work?
For instance, you might realize that when you’re better off skipping the bath your child is resisting than forcing one on him. That not hanging his jacket isn’t worth an epic battle. And that power struggles escalate when you feed into the draining emotions.
Similarly, what if you praise him for the times he does behave? The positive reinforcement can be all it takes to nurture the behavior you want to continue.
None of these tips are easy.
It’s harder to pause and redirect to something more productive instead of resorting to punishment and distress. (all while the kids are at their worst). Practicing any of these tactics won’t result in warm and fuzzy feelings. They even feel unnatural—who wants to keep their voice calm when the kids are acting up?
But these actions can keep you from raising your voice and even lead to a learning moment. Sure, yelling at your child can “work”: he can follow instructions, be quiet, and leave you alone. But yelling doesn’t solve the problem—it can happen again, or worse, draw a wall between you two.
Instead, use these heated situations as teachable moments. You can learn patience, respect, empathy, and emotions. And yes, that a skipped bath isn’t the end of the world if it means you avoided yelling at all.
Get more tips:
- How to Get Toddlers to Listen Without Yelling
- How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling and Losing Your Cool
- Unfair Reasons We Get Mad at Our Kids
- How to Discipline a 4 Year Old When Nothing Seems to Work
- Before You Get Angry with Your Child, Read This:
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