Practice Patient Parenting

How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids.

Updated January 2020.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all lost patience and yelled at our kids. In my January 2013 column on parenting resolutions, 10 of the 24 people who responded listed “more patience and less yelling” as the behavior they most needed to change.

Yelling is not an effective discipline tool and, in fact, works against getting kids to cooperate. Yelling makes kids feel that you, as the parent, are not in control, which erodes their sense of security and can cause them to act out even more.

But simply deciding “I’m not going to yell” or “I’m going to be more patient” is not enough. For this resolution to work, you need to get to the bottom of why you are losing your cool. Here are some of the most common reasons parents explode:

1. You are expecting too much from your child for his or her age.

It is very important to understand the developmental stages of childhood. Learn what’s normal for your child’s age by checking out books or web articles on child development. My favorite books are the slim paperbacks by Ilg and Ames published by the Gesell Institute that cover a different age group per book, such as “Your Six-Year-Old,” “Your Seven-Year-Old,” etc.

2. You have no discipline plan.

Often parents yell (and spank) because they don’t know what else to do. Without a plan in place, they fall back on how they were disciplined. If you find yourself yelling, “How many times have I told you…!” you can be assured that it is time to initiate a discipline plan. With an age-appropriate plan in place, you no longer have to raise your voice. You can even show a bit of empathy. “Wow, that’s too bad you jumped on the couch again. It’s really tough having to stay home instead of going to Matthew’s house to play today.” No idea how to create a discipline plan? Consider taking a parenting class or checking a parenting book out of the library. Two of my favorites are Love and Logic by Cline and Fay and Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey.

3. You are HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

When you find yourself about to explode, remember to HALT and ask yourself, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired?”

  • Hungry: If low blood sugar has you shaking, don’t mistake it for frustration with your kids. Stop and make yourself a high protein snack. If you find you frequently “don’t have time to eat,” re-evaluate your schedule. Your children deserve a parent who isn’t run ragged from poor nutrition.
  • Angry: Displaced anger can erode our patience with children. If an early morning spat with your spouse, or an upset with a co-worker has you on edge, take time to work through your anger so it doesn’t leak out onto your children.
  • Lonely: Being a parent can be lonely business—especially for stay-at-home moms and dads. If you find yourself frequently frustrated with your kids, it may be that you just need some friend time. Consider joining a playgroup, becoming involved with a church or synagogue that has a children’s program, strike up a conversation with another parent at the park, or plan a playdate for your child that includes coffee with your child’s friend’s parent. If you’re looking for a mom’s group or adult/kid activities, look in TulsaKids’ calendar. Nothing can ease the journey of parenting more than friends who are on the same journey!
  • Tired: Parents need rest. If you aren’t getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep at night, your children may be the ones to suffer. Lack of sleep has been proven to shorten our ability to tolerate noise, confusion, and chaos—otherwise known as being a parent!You have a difficult child. Some children are simply more difficult to parent than others. If you have a child with ADD, ADHD, sensory issues or other behavioral or physical problems, don’t try to go it alone. Seek help from a child psychologist, therapist and/or join a support group. Learn what others have done to cope with a challenging child.

4. You and your child have conflicting personalities.

If your child is an exuberant extrovert and you are an introspective introvert, you may find yourself losing patience with the mayhem. But having a different personality from your child doesn’t have to mean conflict. Dr. Robert Hudson, a clinical professor at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa, specializes in temperament assessment and helping parents work with their children, not against them. Janet Penley, in her book Motherstyles, helps mothers understand how to thrive in parenting whatever your (and your child’s) personality may be. For more on temperament, visit temperament.com.

5. You are depressed.

One hallmark of depression is irritability. If, in addition to having a short fuse with your children, you also find little enjoyment in life, are low energy and are just feeling down, talk to your doctor. It may be that you have an underlying health problem such as hypothyroidism, or could benefit from a few sessions of talk therapy or a medication to get you back on track and enjoying your kids again.

Resource: The Orange Rhino Challenge

Created by a stay-at-home mother of four boys under the age of five, The Orange Rhino Challenge website has an abundance of information on how to stop the yelling and start enjoying your children.

Here are 15 of the 100 things The Orange Rhino recommends doing instead of yelling:

  • Start talking jibberish. Makes kids stop pummeling each other and laugh.
  • Start blowing bubbles. Reminds me of my childhood and that I should CHILL OUT.
  • Laugh. Even if you don’t want to. Laughter is good for the soul!
  • Do Jumping Jacks. Releases positive chemicals, or something like that.
  • Start the Hokey Pokey. Silliness can snap anyone out of it.
  • Pretend to have laryngitis. Silence works wonders.
  • Play hide ‘n seek. You hide. They seek. For a LONG time.
  • Speak in a robot voice. Makes kids stop and look at you and wonder, “Who is she?!”
  • Open up the freezer and put head in. Cools me down and makes kids laugh!
  • Yell into a closet. Clothes don’t have feelings!
  • Open a window and breathe in fresh air.
  • Use aromatherapy lotion on hands…instead of slamming a door in frustration.
  • Say, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” It’s hard to yell when you realize how much you love them.
  • Pull out family photo album. Takes everyone to a happy, smiley place.
  • Turn the lights off. The shock factor stops kids in their tracks and adds calmness.

For more great ideas, or to take The Orange Rhino Challenge go to their website.


Categories: Parenting