There are so many reasons we yell at our kids.
Yelling at kids is done for many reasons. Sometimes we yell as a means of getting our point across because the 12 times I calmly asked my child to pick their clothes up off the floor, it was met with avoidance and a sudden case of “my ears forgot how to hear”. So, naturally we result to an instinctual response of yelling because our parents did the same thing to us growing up and we remember the jolt of “what just happened” and “ooh I think I broke mom” which was quickly followed by my doing what I was told to do in the first place.
Then, there are other moments when we yell out of fear. Fear for our children, our spouse, or anyone that we care deeply for. There may be many reason’s why we yell and regardless of the reason, we hope whoever is listening will hear the concern, or my sense of urgency, or my irritation and just listen.
Unfortunately, rather engaging the ability to hear and listen to what is being said, we are activating the listeners survival responses. You have probably heard of the fight, flight, or freeze response. The flight, fight, or freeze response is often seen as something that happens when we are overwhelmed and it’s our brains automatic reflex to protect or make sure they are safe.
I can understand how the word “safe” may surprise you a bit. How can our yelling make someone feel unsafe? Look at it like this, at some point we just want the yelling to stop. So, what is the fastest way to make it stop so that we can feel ok again? I can access your triggers via the invisible easy button plastered on your forehead (fight), or I can stare at you while repeating the words “yes”, “I understand”, or “OK” while not actually hearing a single word you said (freeze), or I can physically walk away(flight).
How can we avoid these responses? Here are 3 super easy-ish tips to deescalate a potentially volatile situation. Remember to pause, reduce tone and intensity, and self care.
3 Tips to Avoid Yelling at Your Kids
Number 1: Mindfully Pause
Basically, check your emotions at the door. If you are having a bad day chances are that when you come home, you are bringing all of that emotional baggage with you so when someone doesn’t do what you asked them to do or maybe takes to long to get something done, that is a recipe for intense conversations at an elevated tone. These are the moments when you start arguing about one thing, and then someone brings up another thing, and then you forget about what you were arguing about in the first place. Remember this phrase “Is it about the nail”. Check out the attached video “It’s not about the nail” and the next time you have the urge to yell, ask yourself what this is really about and take a break. So, before you get started walk away from the situation for 15 to 20 minutes and then decide if this is a conversation worth having or if it’s a battle you don’t need to have. As an added bonus, did you know you can choose to take a pause in the middle of an argument? Of course, it’s never too late to take a break. Talk to your loved ones and establish a code word to use when a time out is needed and make sure to agree on a time limit for the pause.
Number 2: Reduce the tone and intensity
Remember that one time when you were at work and the co-worker or boss you couldn’t stand was talking stupid to you and in your head you’re asking yourself if that person is crazy or wondering if they “understand that I am not the one”. Well, in those moments you may be trying to count to ten in your head and reminding yourself to just calm down, so that you don’t lose your job today. Well, try the same approach when you have the urge to yell. Count to ten in your head while taking deep breaths, while relaxing your muscles, and try to think about smiling just a little. Now don’t pull out the creepy, “I’m bout to take you out smile”, I mean the little non-condescending grin as if your thinking of something cute. When you speak, try and use the same tone you would when talking to friend who is having a tough day. Even when verbalizing your frustration, irritation, or disappointment you can do so in a calm tone. This is a mutually beneficial action that will help the listener actually listen and also keep your blood pressure down.
Number 3: Self-Care
What is self-care? It’s the thing we forget to do because we are providers and caretakers of the physical and emotional wellbeing of others while neglecting our personal needs. Self-care does not mean you have to go away for a week to Hawaii. Self-care can mean getting a manicure, your hair done, going to the doctor annually for your physical, going for a walk, or even taking a long shower or bath. This is an intentional action that is intended to help reduce some of the stress or tension you may be experiencing. Self-care will help manage the leaks. You know those moment’s when you thought you were ok and then all the sudden your not ok. Those are what I call leaks, leaks are the small moments that turn into big moments without your permission.
It’s ok to not make a complicated dinner once and a while and pull out a frozen pizza. It’s ok to remind your children that you love them and ask for a few minutes of downtime before the barrage of questions begin. It’s ok to put yourself first because if you don’t do it, who will?
In conclusion, there is a reason I said these steps where easy-ish. Because in theory they are very easy steps, yet in practice it can be very difficult. Remember that sustainable change happens over time and with practice. Pick one thing to focus on and work on it, and when you make a mistake remember that it is expected for you to make a mistake. That’s the beauty of learning new things, we take errors made in the past and turn them into opportunities for success in the future. You are doing the best that you can and that is all anyone can ever ask you to do.
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Written by: Nytasha Thomas, MSW, ASW