Monday, November 4, 2013

Why You Yell At Your Kids and Ways to Stop

No one wants to yell at their kids. No one wakes up in the morning and says "Great!  Another day, another opportunity to yell".      

Yelling at kids is about a release of tension...your tension.  You are having thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are causing frustration, self doubt, and maybe even anger.  These are normal feelings that come with regular, everyday parenting.  It is normal to feel frustrated when you have asked nicely three times and the little person you are talking to ignores you.  It makes sense that you are angry when you are watching one of your children hit the other.  Of course you are going to doubt yourself when you watch your child do the very thing you said not to.   

Those feelings matter. They count.

However, if you read anything about parenting these days, everything is so kid-centric.  It's like they forgot about the parents in the parenting discussions.  You rarely read that it's ok to be angry.  Instead you hear reminders about being grateful.  No one ever really gives you permission to dislike your kids every once in a while.  Instead, you are quickly reminded that you "dislike their behavior".  Instead of screaming, you are encouraged to be mindful.

This is all good advice but it exists without a context.  The underlying message that parents often receive, or hear, is that they shouldn't be frustrated.  They just need to understand their kids better.  They are told that being grateful can replace anger.  You are cajoled into thinking that sleep deprivation is the reason why you might be more impatient.

All of that is very kumbaya.  It's also incredibly unrealistic.

As parents, as people, as grown up kids, you feel things.  You think things.  Sometimes those thoughts and feelings aren't about light and gratitude.  Sometimes they are dark, scary, and vulnerable.  You have to give yourself permission to have and express those thoughts.  It's in the squashing them--in denying and ignoring them--that we create the perfect storm.  We deny angry, upset, and resentful feelings. We tell ourselves we shouldn't feel that way. After all, "they are just kids" or "this is what kids are supposed to do".  We pretend those thoughts and feelings aren't there.  We shove them down and out to the side.  They build and they build and they build.

Then, WHAM!  One child makes one mistake, doesn't listen, or just gets on your last nerve and suddenly you are yelling.  For you, it may feel like it has come out of nowhere but in reality, it has come from the storage chest of dark feelings.
The key to not yelling at your kids is to give yourself permission to matter.

Give your feelings time, space, and attention.  Release your thoughts and feelings from the storage chest at neutral times so that you are not ready to explode at the drop of the hat.  Whatever helps you counts...exercise, talking to friends, therapy,  hobbies, etc.  Making time for you to release those feelings in a planful way will quickly reduce the number of times you yell.  They will serve as tension reducers and you will have more patience because you will have made room for patience to enter the picture.    

Yelling at anyone is often about regaining control. We feel out of control of a situation and we yell as a misguided attempt to regain control.  What this means is that you haven't lost control when you're yelling.  You have a feeling of losing control that leads to yelling.  That is your window to do something catch yourself feeling the loss of control and again, allowing yourself to do something about it.    

If you are in a moment of frustration with your child and you are distracted by thoughts of what others are going to think of you, worries about being a "bad parent", or fears that are fatalistic in nature, you are thinking about the wrong things. These thoughts fuel the control monster that tells you that you have to win this argument, get your child to follow directions, etc. 

When it becomes more about your control than the child's behavior, you have already lost the battle. 

Yelling is what comes next as you impulsively seek to reduce your tension. Yelling is your fear talking.  Yelling is your worry about losing or compromising your influence in your child's life.  Yelling is about a "now or never" mentality where you irrationally see every moment as more crucial than it actually is.

The key here is to take it down a notch.  If it is literally life or death, yell first and ask questions later.

For everything else, allow yourself a second to think things through, to regroup.  Pace a few steps.  Take a few deep breaths.  Challenge yourself to slow down. Yes, cleaning the playroom is important and your child must learn to follow that direction. In the big picture, that room does not have to be cleaned right now, in this moment.  You can let it go for a second while you calm down and get yourself in a place to get back to it.

The sense of urgency--the need for it to be now--the fear of losing control. Those are thinking errors and those beliefs are why you are yelling more than you'd like.

If you give yourself the two seconds necessary to challenge that thinking and to make a plan for when you'll reduce that tension, you won't feel the need for yelling.

So much about coping better is planning better. 

Kids are 24 hour need machines. It's easy to scoff at the idea of taking time for yourself "to deal with your feelings" when you are surrounded by demanding needs and competing schedules.  However, if you do take the time to plan, to cope and deal, you will find that you do everything better.  You'll be more mindful. Gratefulness will find its way to you.  You'll have an easier time finding your breath and you won't feel driven to impulsively lose it by yelling.

See, parents, you need to parent. The only way you can do that without yelling is to take care of yourself. 
Taking care of the parent takes care of the kid.

Look, this stuff isn't easy and yes, it can be so much easier said than done but it is possible.  I have a lot of tools and tricks in my tool bag to help.  Getting help and fighting the notion that the "perfect parent would just know what to do" is a great way to take care of yourself and a great way to become a better parent. 

Give me a call or send me an email and let's get started.

Until next time,

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