Yelling can be just as harmful to children as physical punishment. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. If you struggle to keep a cool head and a calm voice, Mighty Mommy's 7 tips will help you restore peace.
The way we choose to discipline our child is a personal choice based on our parenting styles. Although many parents today refrain from spanking as a form of discipline, there is still something many of us do that can be just as harmful to our children—yelling.
Why is yelling harmful?
According to a study published in the journal Child Development, yelling (defined as shouting, cursing, or insult-hurling) may be just as detrimental as physical punishment to adolescents' long-term well-being. Even in otherwise loving homes, yelling, cursing, or insults can have many of the same effects as hitting and can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem in kids.
My parents were not yellers, so in the rare instance when one of them did lose their cool, not only did it grab my attention, but I never forgot it. Remembering the impact yelling had on me when I was growing up, I felt awful whenever I grew impatient and attacked my kids verbally.
Thankfully, yelling doesn't have to be the norm. Here are seven ways to keep your voice and tone in check so you can make your interactions peaceful, not combative, the next time you lose your patience with your cherubs.
1. Parent as though someone is always watching
One of my worst parenting moments happened many years ago when I was making dinner. I asked my son to put the dog out so I could pull the ribs out of the oven without him jumping all over me. My son dutifully complied but left the door open, so the moment those ribs came onto the counter, the dog flew back and grabbed them. It was an honest mistake, but I was furious and screamed at my son and everyone else in the house.
From that night on, I decided never to embarrass my kids or myself like that again.
My yelling was terrible enough, but what I didn't realize was that a neighbor had been standing at my front door the entire time. It was horrifying, and I still shudder when I recall it all these years later.
From that night on, I decided never to embarrass my kids or myself like that again. So I began reminding myself to parent like someone was always watching. I've gotten myself into the habit of visualizing our school principal or one of my inlaws near the vicinity when I'm in a stressful situation with my kids. It helps me to remain calm and talk peacefully instead of acting out in a fit of rage.
2. Tune in to your yelling triggers
As a super busy mom of eight kids, the one thing I've learned about my parenting shortcomings is that they usually corresponded with times when my energy levels are running on empty. When I'm run-down, tired, overwhelmed, or have no extra oomph, I'm rarely at my best.
I had to program myself to offset those triggers with a new mindset, and you can do the same when circumstances are tampering with your already short fuse.
The first step in keeping yourself calm and together is to anticipate what usually sets you off. Often, a behavior pattern makes us churn and feels like nails on a chalkboard, wich ultimately sets off a yell-fest.
These pep talks became a daily habit, and I found that I tolerated the kids a lot better when I wired myself not to react emotionally.
For myself, it was the morning routine and getting my kids out the door to school on time. So one day, even before I got out of bed, I gave myself a pep talk. I reminded myself that mornings will be rough and that I shouldn't be surprised by them each day. I urged myself not to give in to frustration and to carry on with our morning routine as matter-of-factly as I could. These pep talks became a daily habit, and I found that I tolerated the kids a lot better when I wired myself not to react emotionally. Once I had established my weakest trigger moments, I could head off yelling and instead focus on engaging my kids to start the day by being organized and on task.
One of my favorite parenting gurus is Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. One of her signature recommendations when it comes to getting your yelling under control is known as Stop, Drop, and Breathe. When you start to lose control and raise your voice, remind yourself to "Stop." "Drop" what you're doing, just until you calm yourself. "Breath"—take a deep breath. Then, regroup and move forward.
3. An organized home is a peaceful home
Your home environment can be a gamechanger in helping you stay calm and in control of your outbursts. A 2010 study revealed that women who felt their homes were cluttered or full of unfinished projects were more depressed, fatigued, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than women who felt their homes were restful and restorative.
If you're living amongst clutter and chaos, no wonder your patience is limited when it comes to handling a challenging moment with one of your kids. Look for some easy tips to streamline the busiest areas in your home with my popular episode 7 Ways to Clean Up Your Family's Life.
4. Think like a teacher
The best teachers don't yell or take children's misbehavior personally. Instead, they look at challenges as learning opportunities.
Ask yourself: What does my child need to learn, and how can I teach him that?
So if your kid leaves the milk carton empty in the fridge or the wet towels all over the bathroom floor, ask yourself: What does he need to learn, and how can I teach him that? Maybe he needs a note posted on the refrigerator door to remind him about the milk. Perhaps he needs to experience the consequences of leaving the towels strewn throughout the bathroom (such as giving him an extra chore like doing laundry).
Think about ways to make the situation into a teachable moment rather than a stressful shouting match.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Say Yes to Your Kids
6. Turn your voice into a whisper
Even when you're not angry, you may find yourself yelling—"Get in the car! We're late for practice!"
If you make a softer voice a habit, you'll be less prone to yell at other times, too. When I turn the volume down and whisper to my kids, it gets their attention immediately because they know I have something important to say.
Speak to your family members only when you're in the same room whenever possible instead of yelling from room to room. Whenever possible, make eye contact, keep your request short and sweet, and ask your child to repeat your instructions back to you.
6. Be a role model
The next time you hear one of your kids yelling at their sibling or friend, take the time to listen to what he's saying. Often, kids parrot the same words we use when we yell or talk badly to them. This is a great reminder to model respectful tones and comments when you're talking to your kids, spouse, and others in your close circle because kids will repeat what they learn from you.
When you resort to screaming, you're forfeiting a piece of your authority.
And remember your role as their parent. When you resort to screaming, you're forfeiting a piece of your authority. By yelling, you lower yourself to the level of a child who doesn't know any better.
You can't gain respect from your children by shouting at them, but you can act as a responsible parent authority who is in charge of a calm, controlled manner.
7. Say you're sorry and make some changes
Finally, no matter how hard you try to remain in control and not blow a gasket, there will be times when you lose sight of your goal to keep calm and carry on. I doubt there's a parent on this planet who's never lost their cool under pressure.
When this happens, first, take a breath and forgive yourself. Next, step up and apologize to your child(ren) and anyone else who witnessed your ouburst—even the dog!
Apologies are important, but the actions that follow are even more so. Once you've apologized, make it right with your child. Changing your behavior moving forward is a great place to start. You might even tell your child that you're trying to get better control of your temper, and that you're a work in progress—you're learning, just like them!
As human beings, we’re bound to mess up and lose control sometimes. If we apologize to our kids and then focus on finding kinder, more positive ways to communicate, we’re taking a step in the right direction and setting an excellent example for them to follow.