How Can I Stop Yelling at My Kids?

Article at-a-glance

  • Staying calm when you really just want to scream can be difficult but can be done.
  • Understanding your child’s perspective and validating their feelings goes a long way in diffusing a situation.
  • Removing yourself from the situation or redirecting your child are great ways to keep screaming at bay.

When your kiddos are misbehaving and you feel you have reached the end of your rope, have no fear; there are techniques to help you survive. Here are six proven methods to try.

React calmly – just breathe!

Picture this! You are in a situation with your child and you are ready to scream, but you don’t want to. As you approach your child in the act of misbehavior, try this method. Exhale and gently move your kiddo away from the situation. According to Cheryl Erwin, a licensed family therapist and coauthor of Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, “You need to be calm so that you are not adding more anger and irritability.” Then, get your youngster to chill by taking deep breaths with you. You will need this calm scenario in order to talk about his/her behavior later. Trying to keep your cool isn’t easy – but you are the adult and remember kids will role-play. Screaming and yelling only make matters worse.

With older kids, you can say,  “I am too upset to address this matter now. Give me a 5-minute break to cool down.” This practice models a good method your children can use to calm down.

Just say this!

Sometimes saying too much confuses children and makes matters worse. Stick with one-line statements instead. “There is a limit to how much verbiage developing brains can process,” says Joan Ershler, Ph.D., director of early childhood, University of Wisconsin. “What you mean to say can get lost in a sea of words, so short and simple works best.” Here are a few one-liners to try.

  • “I know it’s hard!” – Soothe a child having big emotions. A sincere frowning face and a pat on the shoulder helps to validate difficult feelings.
  • “I love you too much to argue” – End the behavior issue and discuss the situation calmly and with compassion.
  • “I can’t understand you when you use that voice” – Instead of whining, children need to talk normally to carry a soothing discussion. Praise her for making a good choice to be calm.
  • “How do we ask?” – Help your kiddo to remember the rules of behavior with a tranquil question.
  • “Try again!” – Children can cooperate if they feel they have some control over a situation of unwanted behavior. Suggest they “try again” or “let’s have a redo.”
  • “What did I say?” – Say this phrase calmly, do not scold. Ask your youngster to repeat what you said to her. This is a good way to remind the child of what she is supposed to be doing.

Let them make choices

Give your child a little “declaration of independence” by letting him make choices. This exercise lets kids practice decision-making. Choosing between two foods, two activities, or even two movies helps children feel more grown up and in control of their world. Talk about making good choices – hopefully; this will become second nature as they grow up.

Teach empathy

Are you empathetic? Understanding empathy helps children become responsible and self-disciplined. Your role as a parent should be more like a coach and mentor, not a powerful dispenser of justice. Experts say, “The key to raising caring kids is to see the world through their eyes.” Being empathetic doesn’t mean that you are letting your kids off the hook simply because you understand why they misbehave. It is allowing the kiddos to experience the natural outcome of their choices. For example, if your child refuses to gather her dirty laundry for you – let it go! The next day when her favorite shirt is not clean, you can empathize with her, but her consequence may be wearing something not to her liking. From then on, she may cooperate with laundry day without the nagging reminders.

Give yourself a timeout

Too often we forget that the easiest way to diffuse a situation is to remove ourselves from it. This isn’t always an option, but if your child is safe, find a quiet place to take a ten minute break to meditate, breathe deeply, journal, or read a book. When your blood pressure feels like it’s approaching normal again, you can go back and meet the challenge with more patience.

Manage meltdowns with glitter jars

Children sometimes get overwhelmed by their feelings and impossible to have a reasonable discussion. You want her to stop the screaming and to learn to self-soothe.  Try getting crafty with this glitter jar approach – it is an object to mesmerize a child, just in the same way adults meditate.

  • Pour a thin layer of glitter (up to three colors) into the bottom of a clean jar (preferably a plastic one).
  • Fill the jar with water and seal the lid with glue.
  • Shake the jar. Discuss how the glitter roars around the jar, just like when people’s minds get upset. The clean water represents peace.

So, when we shake the glitter it may be when we have awful feelings. As the glitter settles down – so does our agitation and we begin to feel better. Most kids are mesmerized by watching a glitter jar in action and become relaxed.

These are only a few of the many methods of attaining a harmonious relationship with your child. Talk to your pediatrician if you need further help.



Reviewed on August 6, 2019 by: Michael P. Fullmer, D.O.
Michael P. Fullmer, D.O.
Board-certified Pediatrician

Dr. Fullmer is a lover of the outdoors who enjoys working with preschoolers and has a special interest in cardiology and in kids with special needs. Language: English

Spanish Fork Office
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