If you asked the average parent, “Which is easier, mornings or evenings?” The answer will most likely be “neither.” Mornings are busy, and bedtime can be a battle. Even the most patient parent gets tired and frustrated. Why won’t my kid sleep? Why are they up so late? How can I possibly pack lunches and get out the door in time for work?
Life brings us lots of lemons, and sometimes the last thing we want to make is lemonade. What we really want to do is scream, and this is where it starts. We can sometimes get frustrated and take it out on our loved ones – taking a step back, the last thing we want to do is regret every shout and holler.
Craig Dobson MS, LPCC, behavioral health therapist at Beech Acres Parenting Center, says yelling in the household is a very common issue he deals with daily amongst many families. We all go through it — it’s about making tiny changes right now to turn that yelling into talking.
“The world is a stressful place,” Dobson says, “Our work schedules, attempting to have a social life, recreation commitments, landscaping, spending time with kids, cleaning your house every once in a while … to name a few of the reasons we as a society constantly feeling overwhelming which causes us to be short-tempered with others.”
Life can certainly get the best of us — between worrying about medical bills, our children’s education and running kids to different soccer practices; life can just be plain hectic. Overtime, this stress can slowly creep up on us.
“We are constantly finding ways to try to be more efficient and effective; and a lot of times that leaves time to fill our schedule with things; and life in general is stressful,” he says. “As much as we are trying to find ways to decompress and find ways to make things in life easier, it is certainly hard to try and manage these emotions in our world today.”
How can a parent manage? First, having some awareness is one of the first things you can do. Second, is reaching out to a friend who can show you a mirror of yourself may help give you a brand new perspective on your behavior. From there, soul searching and deciding how you can manage your emotions better is the next step to learning to calmly communicate with your family.
Dobson also suggests taking time on your way home from work to decompress before you even walk through the door. In your mind you know, that once you get home, it’s dinner, kids and “go time!” Leaving your “workself” behind and allowing your “familyself” to be present with your family can make a world of a difference on how you interact with one another.
“And you’re proactive, too,” he explains. “You feel in control; when we think about yelling, a lot of it is kind of in the moment, we feel very reactive and it feels like we’re trying to put out that fire that’s happening right there. The more you can do to kind of prevent those fires from happening, and the more you can do for your own self to manage those emotions, the less likely those fires and exculations will happen between you and the kids.”
STRESS, YELLING & KIDS’ EMOTIONS
As parents, we want a strong relationship and love with our kids, and this bond we build is vital to their growth and development. Kids put their trust in us, and once that bond and trust are broken, it can cause some emotional stresses to their brains and their relationship with us.
“What is Dad so upset about” or “Is Mom/Dad mad at me for not putting my shoes away,” are examples of how a kid’s brain works in these situations — also known as “fight or flight” mode — and it’s a way for them to protect themselves. They don’t know whether to hide, or often it can become “normal” to them, according to Dobson.
“In a situation where yelling is happening daily, or several times a day, children can become desensitized to the yelling — and [they] don’t see yelling as ‘fight or flight’ — [this] causes the brain to
believe this is a normal part of the setting,” he continues.
Children need to feel safe, and once that safety blanket is pulled away, that can cause fractures to develop in their relationship with you. They may wonder when the next time their mom, dad or guardian will be upset again. They need to feel they can share their emotions with you, and a “yelling” person can easily take away that trust.
“Your brain kind of goes in this quick decision mode,” Dobson explains, “and you can’t really have a whole lot of healthy communication when there’s escalation of communication. You’re not going to have a productive conversation. That’s not really healthy for anybody in the house.”
TAKING CONTROL OF THE SITUATION
The good news is, kids are forgiving little human beings. Once the yelling is under control and comes to a halt, our kids’ trust in us can be reversed.
“Model, model, model,” says Dobson. “The first way we teach anything with children is to do the behavior ourselves.”
Our kids are constantly analyzing and watching our every move. Kids will notice, “Hey Mom, you seem a little less upset when you stepped on my Lego this time.” This won’t happen overnight, but it can happen overtime with some practice and patience.
One way to take control is to be intentional. Thinking of a phrase to set goals for yourself such as, “This morning, I’m going to work on slowing down my thoughts and speaking calmly to my children,” or, “After work, I’m going to say one nice thing to each of my kids and try to remain calm during dinnertime.”
Another way is to try and write down your intentions on a piece of paper, and carry it with you for a week or two. You will be more likely to follow through, suggests Dobson. Repeating that phrase over again can be beneficial in more ways than one, such has helping to slow down your heart rate.
“That’s going to bring more oxygen into your body, and kind of allow you to more likely make a choice than not yell on that moment and maybe try and use a normal tone of voice,” he continues.
Resolving Conflicts Without Yelling
Probably 95 percent of parents wish they can be a “better parent.” Life is crazy, and not one parent in this world is perfect. We are all trying to build more patience and just be a better parent — and our kids want us to be better, too! Here are some ways we can overcome those landmines in front of us, stop yelling and build better relationships with our kids and family.
Pen Activity: This can be a fun and successful game — whoever is involved in the disagreement or situation sits down. The person holding the pen can speak, while others patiently wait for their turn. Each person has three minutes to speak — go around at least two times until the problem is resolved. If the problem needs more “pen activity,” take a break, walk away and try, try again.
Use the Strength of Creativity: Some kids love to draw, so turn it into a productive activity — have them use a Post-it note to draw various ways they can handle a situation. According to Dobson, this activity helps children brainstorm and handle an issue all while having fun and being silly.
Write it Down: We are human, and sometimes verbalizing our thoughts and emotions can be challenging. Try writing it all down first and then sharing it with your family once you’re ready. Give Yourself a Grace Period: Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have in our lifetime, so let’s give ourselves a little grace. You will lose your temper, you will get upset. Be forgiving to yourself, move on and fix it.
Learn About Your Strengths: Recognizing our strengths can be extremely beneficial to helping us learn more about ourselves and why we are yelling in the first place. A VIA Character Strength quiz is one way of finding what our strengths are. Pick a couple of those strengths and focus on using them to lower your yelling-quota, suggests Dobson.
Be Present: Last but not least, find more ways you can be present in the moment with your family and children. Each of our situations are unique; for example, put your phone on “sleep mode” and play with your kids, or work on giving that undivided attention to your kids once you unwind after a long work day.
“This will help you enjoy the experience of parenting more, and yelling will most likely reduce,” says Dobson.