I resolved to be a scream-free mom, and so far I’ve gone 88 days without screaming at my children. Yes—I’m keeping track. If you’re wondering how to stop yelling at your kids, I can tell you what’s worked for me after much trial, much error, and much, much screaming.
First, let me tell you that I have a child who, I’m convinced, finds joy in challenging me. This child prods, groans, and throws in plenty of disrespectful zingers for good measure. I should have led with this: He’s 13. But, these 5 steps to becoming a scream-free parent apply to younger children too.
I also want to come clean on the fact that while I haven’t screamed at my children for a few months, I have used words laced with grouchiness and sarcasm. But one thing at a time. I’m going to make being a scream-free mom my focus for now, and here are the steps to take to do it.
1. Understand the danger of screaming at your kids.
A scream’s high volume is not its true danger. It’s OK to yell “I love you, sweetheart!” at the top of your lungs. But most of the time, when we scream at our children, it’s because we are angry, frustrated, or bitter. Screaming shows our children that it’s OK to lose control when angry, the exact opposite of what we want to teach. (What kind of angry mom are you? Find out here.)
Screaming shows our children that it’s OK to lose control when angry, the exact opposite of what we want to teach.
2. Recognize the futility of screaming at your kids.
Parenting expert Scott Turansky said, “Yelling is really manipulation. We’re using emotional intensity to get action. The problem is that emotional intensity garbles the message. There’s power in words and yelling diminishes that power.” Turansky goes on to say that we want our children to hear this: “Obey my words.”
3. Remember your role.
This is one of the big-picture things to remember when you’re learning how to stop yelling at your kids. When things get heated between you and your child, you might feel like matching his yelling and temper tantrum with your own. Try not to. I’ll never forget when my 11-year-old daughter was giving me the silent treatment. I turned to my uncle, who happens to be a child psychologist, and offered my own response to her silence: “So I should just give her the silent treatment too, right?”
“No,” my uncle said calmly, “You’re the grown-up.” In other words, we need to be the voice of calm, reason, and maturity.
4. End it before you get angry.
When we go back and forth with our kids, letting them pull us into an argument, we are allowing the situation to escalate. Once we’ve told our children what we expect from them, and we’ve let them voice any questions or concerns they have about it, we need to be clear with them that the discussion time is over. If we keep dialoguing, we run the risk of losing our temper.
5. Have a “scream” escape plan.
Just the other night, I felt like screaming at my children. I was tired. I had PMS. They were driving me crazy. I could’ve taken a deep breath and shared my expectations with them once again, but I didn’t have it in me. “I’m going for a walk,” I said. “Dad’s upstairs if you need him.”
And with that, I escaped long enough to cool down. If you don’t have the luxury of going for a walk, at least go to a separate room, put on some headphones, or go to the bathroom. Leave before you lose it.
How do you keep yourself from screaming at your kids?