Do you ever yell at your children? Even a little bit? You can be honest with me. Listen, no one wants to admit to yelling at kids.
But let’s face it. It happens. At least, to most of us.
True, there are a few unicorn moms who seem to be able to handle parenting with more ease and grace than most of us. But as for the rest of us?
Sometimes, yelling at kids is something that even the best parents do.
I’ve Yelled. And It Feels Horrible.
Note: When I say “yelling,” I’m not talking about name-calling and tearing down a child.
That’s not the same as yelling and raising your voice to get their attention or because you momentarily lose your temper.
Going into a rage and/or belittling a child is verbal abuse. That’s completely different and NOT okay.
What I’m talking about is yelling at kids when they push you over the edge. Or when your emotions are already high and they do that one thing.
Or they are being defiant. Or make a really bad choice.
Sometimes you yell because you just need to get their attention and they won’t listen.
That’s what I’m talking about when I say “yelling at kids.”
If you’ve yelled and then felt horrible about it, spending days or weeks beating yourself up, I’m here to tell you that You Are Okay.
You’re not “ruining your child’s life.” They won’t necessarily need years of therapy if you yell once in a while.
But when you do slip up, there are some things you can do after you yell at your child to make it better and move forward in a healthier way.
Why Do Moms Yell at Their Kids?
I’m not sure who would seriously ask this question. Surely, anyone who is a mom or has been a mom or has known a mom can understand why a mom would yell at her kids.
Sometimes, they’re just stinkers. They don’t listen. Or they fight and argue. They do exactly the thing their mom told them 87 times NOT to do.
But a lot of the time, it’s because a mom has reached her limit. Her boiling point. Her max.
She’s stressed. Anxious. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. And then, she drops her basket.
Can Yelling at a Child Be Harmful?
While it won’t ruin their life if they get yelled at once in while, some research indicates that yelling at kids can lead to aggression.
Yelling at your kids makes them feel scared, anxious, and possibly insecure.
And more often than not it’s ineffective. Because yelling leads to fear rather than respect.
Speaking from experience and coming from an environment where there was a lot of yelling, I can confirm the above.
All of the yelling and screaming I witnessed essentially created a lot of anxiety and fear for me as a child. It didn’t improve anything. It didn’t motivate me to do the things I was being yelled at for, like washing dishes or cleaning the house.
All it did was make me want to go hide.
And in turn, the yelling and screaming I witnessed became my normal. So I had to unlearn those patterns as an adult so that I could have healthy relationships.
If a child grows up in a yelling household, there’s a good chance they will grow up to be yellers.
Yelling sucks. But we still do it.
Yelling at Your Kids Teaches Them to Yell
Sometimes, the anger that results in our yelling at kids is valid. There is nothing more frustrating than telling your child for the 48th time that the paper scraps, glitter tubes, and empty water bottles under her bed are NOT ACCEPTABLE.
But notice I said the anger was valid. Not the yelling.
Anger is a normal human emotion and all of us feel it. So are frustration, overwhelm, anxiety, or whatever emotions push your buttons.
But how we manage our emotions teaches our children how to manage theirs.
If we can’t manage our own emotions in a rational and healthy manner, how can we expect them to manage theirs?
And then, when they get mad and express their frustration and anger by yelling, they get in trouble.
It’s a bit of a double standard, if you think about it.
If we are going to expect our kids to manage their emotions, then we’ve got to try and lead by example. We need to manage our own emotions first.
Over the years, I have practiced being very mindful of my emotional state when I’m frustrated. And it hasn’t come easy.
But I’ve been trying. So when I get upset and I hear my voice rising and my tone changing, I can usually catch myself.
But I still fall short.
And once in awhile, I still yell.
What to Do After You’ve Yelled at Your Child
Yelling at your kids feels rotten, like I said before. But if you do, here are some things you can do:
Calm Yourself Down
Take. A. Breath.
It sounds so easy, right?
Like most things, it’s easier said than done. But, if you can, just try to catch yourself as you feel your emotions rising.
And then breathe. Deeply. Again. And again.
Leave the room if you have to.
Tell your child that you need a minute, or ten. Then get some space.
Sit outside. Go to your room and put yourself in your own timeout.
Get a drink of water. Anything to give you a few minutes for your anger or frustration to subside.
Allow Your Child to Calm Down
When we yell at our kids, they get worked up. They feel scared, anxious, and even angry.
They need to calm down, too. Give them that space.
Allow them time to calm down. Let them go through the same process.
Maybe they need a walk, or to get some fresh air or just time to let their emotions come down.
You can sit together and calm down, or calm down in separate spaces. But give them the opportunity to let their emotions subside! Even it it takes longer for them than it takes you.
Apologize for Yelling
I am big on this one. It’s one thing as a parent that I pride myself on. I always apologize. Always.
Regardless of what caused the frustration or conflict, if I yell, I say “I’m sorry.”
Being frustrated and angry is okay. Yelling is not.
So I say “I’m sorry.” And I mean it.
Just because our kids are little people doesn’t mean they don’t deserve an apology.
They learn how to behave by watching us.
So by apologizing to them when we make mistakes, they learn the value of apologizing when they are wrong.
Explain Why You Yelled
Listen. These are little people with the same feelings and emotions that we have.
But here is one big difference: their perception is much more limited. They don’t easily understand the “why” behind us losing our temper.
Make it age-appropriate, but give them an explanation of what is going on. Did you have a bad day at work? Say so.
Worried about a family member? Explain that.
I believe that letting them know there are other things that contributed to your emotions can help them to realize that they aren’t “bad.”
And even if they were being bad, explain to them how sometimes, moms and dads lose their temper and yell.
Explain that it’s not the best way to communicate, but that you will try to do better.
And then, try to do better!
Validate Their Feelings
When I was growing up, I remember feeling angry and hurt a lot.
There were a lot of blow-ups. But there were rarely, if ever, any apologies. And when the fight or yelling episode was over, we were expected to put a smile on our faces and move on.
We didn’t get to process our feelings. Our sadness and anger were never validated.
But they should have been validated. Because our feelings of sadness and hurt from being yelled at were normal and justified.
As a result, I always try and remember that experience and validate my daughter’s feelings if I yell.
If you yell at your kids, they are going to have some feelings about it. Validate those feelings that they have.
Connect With Your Kids
Like I said, yelling at kids feels awful. But if you do, work on connection. Did you know it takes five positive experiences to counter one negative one?
We need to make sure we are having these positive experiences to connect and repair.
These positive things don’t have to be extravagant. They can simply be hugs, smiles, compliments, and “I love you’s.” Spending time together. Talking about how you feel. Taking walks.
You are not the only parent who has yelled at your kids.
You are not a terrible parent if you slip up.
Remember, we are human. Parents are human. Anger is a human emotion.
Give yourself grace. Forgive yourself. Try to do better.
If you struggle with yelling, seek help through a professional. Explore the practice of mindfulness. Work on yourself, your anger management, and your communication skills.
Know you are not perfect. No on is perfect. So when you slip up, remember to breathe, apologize, connect, and then do better next time.
It’s really all you can do.
Related: How to Raise a Strong Daughter
Related: When Mom Guilt Gets the Best of Us