Sometimes our kids push our buttons. Sometimes (most times?) we’re exhausted. Sometimes the demands of parenting exceed our capacity to cope. And sometimes, as a result, we scream at our kids. And as you have probably learnt, yelling doesn’t help anyone. It makes us feel terrible, and our children are likely to yell back, cry, or stare at us wide eyed thinking that we’ve totally ‘lost it’ this time. What it doesn’t do is make our children suddenly stop the behaviour that is undesirable and act more appropriately.
- Take a few steps back and take some deep breaths.
- If the children are safe and your emotions are still running strong, leave the room and let your anger subside.
- Don’t dwell on what’s happened. Forgive yourself and go to your child. You can turn this into a valuable lesson for both of you.
- Apologise. Something like: “Hey, sweetheart, I’m so sorry I yelled at you. That was pretty scary, huh?” or “I got very angry and didn’t use my words the way I should have. I’m sorry.”
- Ask your child: “Instead of yelling, what could I do next time when I’m feeling angry?” Brainstorm better alternatives with your child. Ideas might include: taking deep breaths, hitting a pillow, walking away, counting to 10.
- When everyone is calm, discuss with your child the reason for your anger. Having this conversation when emotions are more settled will result in a more rational, production discussion.
So, after your flip out you can actually model to your child the following things:
- How to calm yourself when angry.
- How to apologise and acknowledge that your behaviour wasn’t the best.
- How to problem solve and generate appropriate alternatives to yelling that your child may apply themselves when they are feeling angry.
We are all human and don’t always parent the way we imagined we would pre-kids. But demonstrating how we can make mistakes and learn from them is a valuable life skill for our little cherubs.
Jessica Cleary is the mother of two young children and psychologist at Hopscotch and Harmony, a child and family psychology practice in Melbourne’s west specialising in educational, emotional and developmental issues.