Positive parenting is a process of retraining yourself. For many of us, this includes training ourselves on how to stop yelling when we are mad.
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Probably six months after my oldest daughter was born was the first time I yelled at her. I was disgusted with myself. She knocked over my coffee while I was sitting on the ground with her. Obviously, this wasn’t intentional on her part.
I was so caught up in the spilled coffee (very similar to spilled milk, right?) that I did what for so long came naturally. And unfortunately, many of us have a history of raising our voice or yelling when we get upset.
Yelling makes the yeller feel dominant. It’s an attempt to get the other individual to be submissive. It also happens when we stub our toe, drop a piece of glassware, or when we are startled.
Sometimes those casual habits of yelling our of startlement or out of frustration follow us into motherhood. In my case, it snuck up on me. I was so ashamed and embarrassed.
I knew right then and there that I had to make a change, but it took me a long time. Changing age-long habits that feel more like reactions than choices is not an easy feat.
But, after more hours than I would like to admit searching Google for “how to parent” and “how to stop yelling at your kids”, and then all the time trying to establish the advice I had read, I came to one simple, but brilliant idea.
Granted, there was still work required, but the moment I accepted this idea as the truth, the effort came so much easier.
One Brilliant Way to Stop Yelling
I was originally going to title this post “One Simple Solution to Stop Yelling at Your Kids.” But, after thinking on it for a while, I removed the end piece because this strategy works all around.
Since really taking accountability and realizing this strategy, I have also stopped raising my voice or yelling during disputes and arguments with my husband.
It’s so simple it almost feels strange to dedicate an entire blog post to it. But, it’s profound and has changed my life forever.
The trick to stop yelling is to accept that it’s not a mindless reaction, but a choice you make.
I can see you’re mouth hanging on the floor. I know. It sounds to simple to be true. That’s why I want to dive in deeper with examples, explanations, and a step-by-step process to integrate this ideology into your life.
Choice vs. Reaction
A reaction [n]. by definition is an action or feeling experienced in response to a situation or event.
A choice [n]. is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
With this knowledge, you can compare the two to fully understand the difference.
An example of a reaction is when you drop something on your toe and your face contorts into a painful expression. Pain response is a natural reaction.
Now, if you choose to stomp and say curse words under your breath following the drop on your toe, you have made a choice. While this may seem like a natural reaction, it is in fact a choice that you made.
These types of choices, that are often confused with reactions, come from previous experiences that shape our subconscious mind. This is often the category in which yelling falls into.
Many people believe that they are yelling out of reaction and they will tell you that they did not do it on purpose. Believe them. They likely didn’t want to yell. And the choice is made in a split decision, making it even more difficult to decipher between reaction and choice.
Are you still scratching your head?
The next part is just as important. Once you understand and accept that your yelling is a choice you make and not a reaction, you have to hold yourself accountable and start making the necessary changes to rewire your subconscious mind.
Rewiring Your Subconscious
The human brain can process about 400 billion bits of information per second. But, we are only aware or conscious of about 2000 of those bits of information.
The rest is stored in our subconscious so that we can automate day-to-day tasks with ease. For example, me typing this blog post. I am making the decisions about what to write, but typing each letter to make words and hitting the space bar is pretty much on autopilot.
The same happens to our emotions and how we choose to react to specific situations. Over time, with the repetition of similar choice reactions, this too can be set to autopilot.
In the case of yelling when you are frustrated or upset, this likely comes from doing it repetitiously over a long period of time. And eventually, it feels like a natural response.
That’s not to say you aren’t ashamed or embarrassed. But it feels out of control. Like you can’t stop yelling or change that initial response. Like you are just wired that way.
But you can change it. People like Hal Elrod, the author of one of my favorite books, The Miracle Morning, have practiced affirmations, visualizations, and positive self-talk to change the way their subconscious brain thinks.
Many people have self-limiting beliefs. Maybe after yelling at your child, you tell yourself you are a bad mom or an angry mom. Or maybe you compare yourself to other moms and tell yourself that they were born to be mothers and you just weren’t.
The more frequently these self-limiting beliefs occur in your brain, the more of a chance they have in being engrained into your subconscious mind.
So, if it’s that easy to create negative thoughts and wire your brain to think negatively, a shift to mindful positive thoughts can do the same.
How to Stop Yelling by Changing Your Conscious Thoughts
Now, let’s consider all the above information and apply it to situations in which you find yourself yelling. This way, we can rewire our brain and those split-second decisions and choices.
Step 1: Acknowledge
The first step in changing anything is to acknowledge the thing you want to change and being accountable for your actions/choices. In this case, you have to be conscious of when you are yelling and why you did it.
The fact that you are reading this post on how to stop yelling at your kids tells me you have already nailed the acknowledgment part. But let’s dig deeper.
Think back to a recent time when you yelled at your child, your spouse, a family member, or a co-worker. What triggered you to yell? Try to narrow it down to something rather specific.
Did you have to ask your child to stop doing something multiple times? Did they break something or take you by surprise? Or did they bother you while you were doing something you deemed more important?
Answering these questions can help you pinpoint your trigger situations so you can be more prepared the next time.
Step 2: Prepare Yourself
A trap that many people fall into is believing it won’t happen again. Think about setting a goal to lose weight and then Friday rolls around and you go out for drinks with your girlfriends followed by fast food and dessert. You tell yourself that you won’t do it again. But a couple of weeks later, without proper preparation, you find yourself in the same situation and the same outcome.
The next step to changing your subconscious is to prepare for what’s to come. Your children will likely frustrate you again. In the time they live with you, they will probably break or lose something. They will interrupt you while you are reading or take toys out while you are cleaning.
Visualize yourself in these situations having a calm conversation with your child. Try to visualize all of your senses in the moment. What do you see, feel, hear, and even smell? Live in this situation for a few minutes.
Now, set an affirmation for yourself. Write it down and place it somewhere you will see each day. If you aren’t sure of an affirmation, you can use this one.
“I choose to speak kindly to my child(ren) and react with love rather than haste.”
The reason you place it in a spot you will see it each day is to engage in repetition. It’s positive reinforcement, and over time, each time you read it, you will be adding bits of that information to your subconscious.
The remainder of this task is to look at that affirmation as often as you can. Read it quietly, or better yet, aloud. Speak it to life.
Step 3: Create a Plan of Action
This ties into the preparation step above. Even if you think you are prepared and you have thought all the positive things, you might find yourself discouraged if you wind up in a frustrating situation without a plan of action.
Creating a plan does not have to be hard, and it can be unique to you and your parenting style. To show you how I have implemented this, I am going to share my plan of action. But, know that yours does not have to look like mine.
My Plan of Action for Situations When I Would Normally Yell
- Bite my tongue, gently. I do this because it keeps me from saying anything in the heat of the moment and I have associated the pressure of my teeth on the tip of my tongue with mindfulness. It’s a gentle reminder to think and be rational before lashing out.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose, slowly release through the mouth. As a child, I was told often to take a deep breath. I obviously brushed this off as a teenager, rolling my eyes at such a silly statement. But now, I am reinforcing it within myself because it helps to clear my mind of those negative reactions that pop in during difficult situations.
- Put a hand gently on my child’s shoulder. For me, this is yet again another gentle reminder to myself that I love my child and don’t truly want to yell at them. Sometimes we yell at our kids because, in the heat of the moment, we disconnect from being their parents because we are angry. And that’s why we yell and treat them like they are an adult we are arguing with. This touch also reassures your child that they are in safe hands and that despite consequences for their actions, you still love them.
- Decide on the first sentence you are going to say. This first sentence will guide the rest of your conversation. So, before speaking, think critically about the words you will use first.
- Speak without being condescending. Not only do you want to lower your voice and not yell when you speak to children, but you should speak to them respectfully. Sometimes, because our subconscious mind is being ignored and we are going against the grain of what we know and typically do (yell), our mind will try another tactic to try and establish dominance between you and your child. This can come in the form of being condescending, having a rude tone, etc.
- Keep it short and to the point. This is entirely dependent on the situation, but the guiding principle is to keep it short and make the point you need to make. For instance, if your child isn’t listening after asking five times, you need to address the issue and set the expectation. Don’t drag it on for 10 minutes. Kids lose focus really fast and it can turn into more of a lecture than a teaching experience.
Again, your Plan of Action may look totally different, and that’s okay. You are allowed to parent in a manner that is effective to you and your children. So, feel free to create something totally different.
The end goal is to have a checklist of things you do when the situation presents itself. I encourage you to write it down and then rehearse it mentally, that way it is there when the time comes.
Having this mental checklist of tasks that you need to do when you find yourself in a situation that you might normally yell in is also a source of accountability. You now have to check each item off your list and you will be able to think back afterward and see where you were successful and areas that you may need to work on.
Step 4: Acting in the Situation
You can’t practice this. There is no scenario type of thing that will make you better at following through with your expectations and action plan for yourself.
So, this step often needs to be done a few times to get it right. You might yell this next time, but you at least you will be more aware and prepared to acknowledge where you went wrong and how to adapt.
If someone would have told me a couple of years ago that I had to change my subconscious brain to rewire my natural reactions, I would have rolled my eyes at them.
But, I’ve applies these same principles to other areas of my life with success. Forever, I told myself I wasn’t a morning workout person, but night after night I would reaffirm that I was excited to get up and workout. And I would create an action plan for what workout I was going to do, what I was going to wear, etc.
I have been working out consistently in the morning for months now, and I truly enjoy it and look forward to it each day.
Then, I attempted to apply the same ideology to stop yelling. I’m not going to tell you I’m perfect. Sometimes the old comfort sneaks back in, but it’s very rare.
I feel like I have a deeper connection to both my girls and I feel like they respect me more now that I don’t yell at them. Yelling created fear and this idea that I was superior to them as a human. But now, we have conversations on a mutual level of respect, and the payoff on both ends has been entirely worth the work and effort.
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