How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

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.

How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

I was having a bad day.

The kids were whining about whose turn it was to use the blue truck. I felt my body about to burst, and the next thing I knew, I was yelling at them to knock it off. Of course, I felt guilty for setting a bad example, and it didn’t help when I later overheard one of them yelling the same way to his siblings.

At some point, we’ve all yelled at our kids. Maybe we’ve been home alone with them and they’re being loud and obnoxious, or we can’t seem to get them to listen. We came home from an exhausting day and had little patience to deal with much else.

We might even think, I know yelling is terrible, but it gets the job done. My kids learn to behave when I yell. And I can’t seem to control it.

At first glance, yelling does seem to work. Our kids are shocked into submission, and they know we “mean business.”

But at what cost?

I’ve since learned that getting kids to obey through coercion and punishment leads to short-term results. Instead, we should raise them to want to behave, and not because we’re going to yell. We tarnish our relationship from mutual respect to one with fear and anger.

How to stop yelling at your kids

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. You want to be able to face the worst of your child’s behavior and still manage to stay calm (or at least, not raise your voice).

How can we better manage our frustration and see things from a different perspective when we feel that urge to yell?

The good news is, we can stop yelling. We won’t be able to cut it out entirely—we’re human, after all. But we can reduce it by a wide margin.

You’re not doomed to raising your voice as a way to discipline or get through to your kids. You can respond calmly, even when you’re having a bad day or if you’ve always yelled. Take a look at the tips below. As one parent said:

“Hi! I just want to say thank you for the content you are putting out. This post really spoke to me and made me feel better knowing that I’m not alone in what I am going through both personally and as a mom, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel for all areas I want and need improvement in. I am excited to start implementing the things I have already learned, tonight. I will definitely be keeping your website on my favorites page, so I can refer back to it whenever I need help. Thank you!!” -Midori Kitamura

1. Find your triggers

When we yell, we’re actually reacting. Our kids did something to push our buttons or the culmination of a stressful day builds up and we erupt. We don’t yell on purpose or wake up in the morning and say, “Today, I’m going to yell and scream at my kids when they misbehave.”

We yell because of habit.

Think about your daily habits. You get out of bed and look for your slippers. You use the same hand to turn the light switch on in the bathroom. And you reach for your face soap and always turn the hot water faucet on. You do all this without thinking—they’re habits.

Where do triggers fit in?

You’ve picked up triggers that lead to these habits. The alarm is your cue to wake up and find your slippers. Going to the bathroom makes you automatically turn on the light. Reaching for your face soap leads you to turn the hot water faucet on.

The same happens when we react to our kids. Throughout the day, we’re bombarded with triggers, and some are bad enough to set us off.

Each parent has her own set. Some of mine are:

  • Whining
  • Getting upset over petty things
  • Fighting
  • Spilling a cup of water all over the table
  • Being loud
  • Interrupting me when I’m doing something else
  • Repeating myself over and over
  • Having a bad day

How to Stop Kids from Fighting

Free resource: Exhausted and feeling guilty from constantly losing your cool with your child? Even if it seems like you’ve tried just about everything, you can stop—if you start from the inside out and change from within.

In How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper, you can learn what to do when you feel that rush of anger. Join my newsletter and grab your PDF below—at no cost to you. As one parent said:

“I really enjoyed reading the ‘How to Stop Losing Your Temper’ PDF. It was just what I needed to read to rethink how to approach my son’s tantrums.” -Annick Lombard

How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper

2. Define your typical response

Think about the last time you’ve lost your temper in a big way. What set you off? What were the kids doing that made you mad? Which circumstances of the day made you feel angry?

If you can’t think of any from the past, be aware of potential behaviors or circumstances moving forward.

Once you’ve identified your triggers, define your typical response. How do you react when those triggers happen? Do you yell? Say something sarcastic? Drag their arm? Slam the door?

These are the knee-jerk reactions to your triggers. They’re the hot water faucet to your face soap—the actions that seem to happen out of nowhere, all on their own.

3. Pause between the trigger and response

Being aware of your triggers is important because it allows you to insert a pause between the trigger and your habit. Only by being aware can you then choose to replace them.

If we’re present at the moment, we can catch ourselves before the anger rises. This break allows you to pull yourself out of the wild 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.

It can be something as simple (even silly) as saying the trigger out loud. If you spot your child whining, say, “You’re whining.” Or “You’re fighting over the same toy.”

Others close their eyes, hold their breath, or think of a motivational word or two like stay calm. It’s enough to stop you from reacting and help you find an alternative.

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 an angry one. This simple act can make a huge difference and turn those negative emotions around.

Get more tips on how to handle your toddler whining.

Toddler Whining

4. Find an alternative response

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The key to stopping yourself from yelling is to replace those old habits and emotional reactions with new ones. You see, it’s not about hoping that the triggers can stop so much as finding better ways to respond to them. Because the triggers will happen, no doubt. Your kids will whine, fight, yell, all that.

But instead of yelling, you can replace it with a more positive behavior.

To ingrain your new habits even further, define ahead of time what you plan to do when the triggers happen. It’s like having an emergency plan long before you need one.

You might tell yourself that you’ll walk away or go to your room for 60 seconds to calm down. You can remember a fond memory, or tell your child you’re mad (in a calm way).

When you spot the trigger and pause, you can then insert the alternative in place of your old habit of yelling. As Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit:

“Once you’ve figured out your habit loop—you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself—you can begin to shift the behavior. You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue, and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving.”

5. Pivot

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—and it only took two minutes of my time.

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, or leave the room. Once you remove yourself from your reaction, you can then hold a calmer conversation with him and stop the vicious cycle of getting angrier and angrier.

6. 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 he’s dealing with a new baby sister and doesn’t understand why life has changed so much. Or he senses that you’ve been extra busy and distracted when you’re trying to work from home. He might even be tired or hungry but can’t pinpoint those reasons, causing him to act up instead.

Resolve hidden issues he may be facing to prevent misbehavior in the first place. What might be causing him to act up to begin with?

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 as easy to waking up earlier to harder ones like reducing your hours at work?

For instance, you might realize that 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? Positive reinforcement can be all it takes to nurture the good behavior you want to continue.

4 reminders to talk yourself out of yelling

We all react to habits, not just in parenting but in all parts of our lives. We’re not stuck yelling at our kids, but sometimes we’re pulled to yell in the thick of the moment.

What can you tell yourself when you’re about to explode? Take a look at these reminders to keep you focused:

1. Remember that your child doesn’t always misbehave

In 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. Because 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 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.

How to Deal with a Child That Cries Over Everything

2. 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 yet. 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.

3. Yelling 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?

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.

Get out-of-the-box tips on anger management for moms.

Anger Management for Moms

4. It’s okay to start over

Yelling can spiral us down into even more terrible habits. After losing our tempers, we’re impatient and doubt the rest of the day can get any better.

But we can wipe the slate clean and start over, even after a terrible episode. One moment in the day doesn’t have to color the rest of it. That moment can even reset your day—use it as an opportunity to draw your child in, rather than push her away.

In fact, tell her, “Let’s start over” as a way to change direction. It’s never too late to turn a bad parenting day around. Don’t allow yelling to stand in your way of moving forward and starting over again.

Read 6 ideas to pull yourself out of a bad parenting day.

Bad Parenting Day


None of these tips are easy.

It’s harder to pause and redirect to something more productive instead of resorting to punishment and distress. 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 might 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, and empathy. And yes, even when the kids are whining over a blue truck.

Get more tips:

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How to Finally Stop Losing Your Temper

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  1. I find parenting a 5 year old and 10 month old stressful at times, especially my five year old. I’ll stay calm for the most part and try to be consistent with discipline but some days she pushes the boundaries to a point I loose my cool and yell! I feel terrible after I do this and know it’s not helpful but wonder what I’m doing wrong as I can ask her to do the same things over and over, I’m sick of hearing myself on repeat. What might your advice be?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It can definitely be stressful when your child repeatedly doesn’t do what you need them to do. One thing that has helped me was to simplify the instructions and make sure that I know they’re listening to me. That way, there’s no confusion about what needs to be done. If she doesn’t listen regardless, one thing you can try is to give yourself a pause before you explode, either by saying something to yourself, walking away for a few minutes, anything to stop you from outright yelling. Even if it’s not “ideal,” it’s still better than losing your temper, and will help you think clearly about what to do next.

  2. I have a hard time standing my ground as “mom”. I am so soft hearted where I just can’t say “No!” I’ve struggled with my 3 year old telling me no or simply showing her I am the boss. She has had a lot of anger for a 3 year old. She would yell/kick or hit at me for simple diaper changes or anything she didn’t want to do was god awful to get done.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It can feel tempting to oblige our kids rather than hold our ground, especially when they throw a fit and it feels easier to give in. One thing that helps me stay the course and be consistent is I ask myself whether this is hurting or helping them. Does being lenient all the time help them in the long run, or would I be doing them a disservice by not giving them the boundaries they need?

      That said, I believe it’s absolutely possible to balance both being firm and being kind. We can have high expectations and show compassion. Being consistent with showing empathy. It doesn’t mean we have to be “mean” to be firm. In fact, I think kids will listen to us more when we show that we have their best interests at heart, and that we truly are showing compassion for them (even as we hold our ground).

      Hang in there, mama <3