Breaking the habit of yelling at your children isn’t easy. Here are 11 strategies I used on my journey how to stop yelling at my kids.
It was an almost daily scene in my house. I asked my 7-year-old to do something, he said no and before I knew it, the noise level in my house went from 0 to 10. There was crying, yelling, slamming doors, words spoken by both of us that were not meant. My daughter would be forgotten but scared and crying off to the side. It would escalate quickly but would take a good hour to bring everyone’s emotions back down.
My son and I were in a power struggle for years that I tried to solve with yelling. I didn’t know any different. I didn’t even know I was doing it until it was too late.
Ready to Quit Yelling
If you are a single parent, you can’t have that other parent step in and tap you on the shoulder and say, “whoa calm down, let me take over.” You don’t have another adult there to notice your other child is scared and needs to be comforted and taken away from the craziness. Sometimes when you have a particularly strong-willed child you cannot see past what is happening in that minute and you act purely on your emotions.
There are enough stressors of being a single parent. Often, we make the mistake of taking our frustrations out on our children. I think all parents are guilty of this at one time or another – single or married. However, single parents often come home from work and do not have anyone to vent to. Unknowingly, our kids can get the raw end of the deal sometimes. Plus, they sure do know how to push our buttons!
The yelling at my house had reached an almost daily occurrence. It seemed to be the only way I knew how to communicate. I had a feisty child who wasn’t having any of that. And thank God for him! At the time, I saw him as defiant but now I see he was refining me in areas I needed to be refined.
If you are seeing this habit in yourself that you cannot seem to break, below are the strategies I used to break years of yelling. Yelling is not something you can simply replace with another “habit”. It is too ingrained in many of us. We grew up being yelled at and it is our emotional response.
How to Stop Yelling at Children ~ 11 Strategies
- Keep the process of changing in the forefront of your mind by engaging your mind on the subject. I do this by reading books and articles on the subject. The more content I am soaking in on the behavior I want to emulate, the more likely I am to do so.
- Use an app. The book Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!: A 30-Day Guide That Includes: – 100 Alternatives to … Steps to Follow – Honest Stories to Inspire also has a free app that lets you track how many days you went without yelling. You can set goals and journal your yelling trigger points within the app. I involved my children on my goals. I tried on my own and as a single mom realized rather quickly I needed accountability even if it was from my children. More than once my children would say through red faces and tears streaming down their faces “orange rhino, mom.”
- Spend more time with your children. Honestly, when you are yelling and fighting with your kids this is the last thing you want to do. But if they are rebelling or being disrespectful it is usually because they are craving more of your time. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the case because my son acted like he wanted nothing to do with me so I followed suit and we fought all the time. However, the biggest decline in the yelling in my house is due to spending 10 minutes alone with him each day.
- Review your day. It’s going to take time. Especially if yelling is second nature to you, then stopping the behavior will take time and work but the rewards are so worth it! Each night before sleeping, either write it down or mentally, review when you yelled. How could you have reacted differently?
- Enlist help. As a single parent, we can’t simply shut our bedroom door and come back out when we have calmed down. Some of the fighting was so intense in my house, I had to call my mom or my trusted neighbor over. Just having another person in the house would help break up the dynamic. Neither I or my child would dare yell or say those things with someone else in the house. It allowed me to take a break in my room.
- Let things go. This was the biggest thing for me. I can’t tell you how many times I would start a sentence then stop it. I still do this when I realize I don’t really care. We are going to be late to things, they aren’t going to bathe daily, they aren’t going to eat everything I make which means they may not eat dinner. It is not worth a 2-hour scream fest.
- Figure out patterns. When are you yelling? Is it when the kids come home from school or when you come home from work? These are times everyone needs time to just decompress and nothing should be expected out of anyone. Kids are “on” all day at school, give them some space when they come home. Is it right before bedtime or in the morning before school? Maybe you need to prepare a routine and lay out clothes or have standard meals.
- Fresh air. As a single parent, I was never able to take 5 minutes to myself to calm down. If I went to my bedroom to calm down, my children would follow me, yelling at me. But if I went outside, they would still follow, but sometimes the yelling would quit. The change of scenery helped.
- Remind yourself that it’s your child’s job to act like a child right now. If he’s making annoying sounds, testing the waters by what feels like disrespect, being lazy while in fact playing, all of this is his job as a kid. The book “Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, How to Say No” has a great section about this. It helps to shift your thinking.
- Pray! God wants to help with this. It is His desire that you live in harmony with your children, building them up.
- Give yourself grace, forgive yourself. Changing this habit of yelling is so incredibly hard. You will backslide. A lot. But you are trying. You got this mama!
What I’ve Learned About Myself to Quit Yelling at My Children
Phases versus Behavior
I laugh to myself when I hear new parents say something is a “phase”. Honestly, people telling me that issues were just a phase was some of the worst advice I ever received. It didn’t give me comfort, it gave me false hope. Most of my children’s issues were not phases, but behavior that evolved and I’m still dealing with.
Sleeping – twelve years later my kids still have nights where they cannot fall asleep or one ends up in my bed.
Temper Tantrums – we don’t call them this anymore, but the “difficult behavior” is still there, it evolved. I never said, “Yep, the temper tantrums are over, thank goodness she’s 3 now.”
What I’ve had to do is relearn my reactions to their behavior.
If I make a huge deal about my children falling asleep perfectly in their own beds at a certain time each night then it adds stress for all of us. I used to literally yell at my children to go to sleep. I have no idea how I thought that would work.
All logic goes out the window when you are working off emotions. When I get upset, then a child cries, it would take forever for them to fall asleep. If I handle it calmly then they fall asleep so much faster.
When difficult behavior arises, I must check my reaction first. Some days I want to react immediately because I have outside stressors and I feel like I cannot deal with a child being disrespectful. And I still mess up. But each time I do, I either recognize it immediately and ask my child to forgive me or if not appropriate in that setting, I ask myself later how could I have reacted differently?
You’ve Got This!
Making the concentrated effort to change is the first step. Giving yourself grace is always the second.
Single Parenting Resources
This article is part of a seven-month series, Secrets of a Successful Life by Single Mom Bloggers. This month, the topic was parenting. Please head on over here and check out the other blog posts and the rest of the series!