Even the best parents have off moments. When I’m feeling frazzled, the volume on everything gets turned up and I often find myself yelling. Recently, I made a goal to solve problems more gracefully. That means keeping my tone of voice civil. In case you, too, want to keep calm in the midst of family conflict, here are eight ways to stop yelling.
Prepare for the day
Having calm moments in the morning helps me keep calm throughout the day. At the very least, I say a prayer to thank God for the opportunity to be a parent and ask for help and guidance. If I have more time, I try to read uplifting words and meditate. After this preparation, I feel prepared to deal with difficult moments as they occur.
When I’m busy with my own tasks, I don’t like to be interrupted to solve petty differences with my children. Unfortunately, refereeing is part of a parent’s job description. Being flexible and putting my children first helps ward off any feelings of frustration which lead to yelling. I also try to schedule my day so I have periods of time where I can focus on things I need to do, like when the older children are at school, and my youngest daughter takes her nap.
Just like you, children are not perfect. They will spill their drinks (daily, if you’re my daughter), wake up the sleeping baby, get toothpaste all over the sink you just cleaned, and refuse to eat. The best parenting advice I ever heard is that you can’t force children to eat, fall sleep or use the bathroom. They have to decide to do these things for themselves. When parents turn responsibility over to children and accept their limitations, they see things more logically. Some of the Love and Logic parenting methods have helped me stay engaged in positive ways as I help my children take responsibility for their actions.
Take a deep breath
Taking deep breaths causes reactions in your body that calm you down. When you start to feel upset, try slowing your breathing down and count in your head as you consciously breathe in and out. WebMD offers detailed explanations on how to try this technique. If nothing else, taking a moment to focus on breathing will cause you to pause. You might find your anger has left, and you can deal with the situation rationally. If not, try the next tip.
When my son got too big to escort to his room for a timeout, I learned it was time for me to take my own. Rather than engage in yelling and arguing, I walk to my room and shut the door, informing my children that “Mom needs a little timeout.” If my daughter and I disagree on what constitutes a clean room and I feel my anger levels elevating over dirty socks under the bed, I try to disengage until I feel more in control. Arguments and tantrums don’t need to travel from room to room. Physically leaving the site of the argument ends it immediately.
Use a code phrase
One brave mother coined the phrase “orange rhino” as a way for her children to inform her she was yelling or about to yell. You can read more about her plan to stop yelling for an entire year at theorangerhino.com.Consider making up your own phrase and discuss how to implement its use within your family.
Watch your body language
As I become frustrated, my movements get bigger and more aggressive. If I recognize the physical and physiological changes my body makes, I can better control them. Folding your arms, releasing tension in your shoulders and back, and crouching down as if to comfort a child are all ways to send yourself a “calm down” signal.
If you feel like yelling, whisper instead. Children will notice the change in tone, and be forced to pay attention. A calm, even tone often has the same result. You might even try whispering “I don’t want to yell, but I need you to listen, so I am going to whisper, instead.”
There are times when it is perfectly fine to yell. One example would be to keep a child safe from danger. But for the most part, yelling doesn’t contribute to a peaceful home. Try one of these methods out and see how kind voices can make everyone happier.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.