I wish I could say I was one of those moms that never yells at her kids. Sitting here typing in a quiet house while my kids are at preschool, it feels very attainable to just not yell anymore, like I could simply decide to be done with it. In fact, when I think of the most recent times I’ve yelled, it’s kind of embarrassing to realize I was so set off by a child that I, a fully grown adult, lost control of my emotions. In this calm reflective moment, I can think of ten better ways I could have handled it.
Why was it so hard to just not yell in that moment though? Maybe it’s my personality, my upbringing, my own humanity. For whatever reason, it’s really hard sometimes to keep my cool when my kids are disrespectful or disobedient. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s probably never going to come easy to me. I’m not going to wake up and be Mrs. Duggar with a sing songy voice and the patience of a saint; I’m always going to have to make an active choice to keep my cool when I feel that anger rising.
I look at yelling a little like an addiction or a bad habit. If you want to quit something you have to have a plan ready for when temptation strikes. What is a mom to do in the heat of the moment, when her kids are driving her crazy, her hormones are revving, and she feels the urge to yell? First, realize that not every frustrating situation with our kids needs an immediate response. If no one is in imminent danger, take five and try one of the methods below to rechannel those emotions. It it’s still needed, address the situation with your child from a calmer state of mind, or just let it go and move on with your day.
Shake It Off
Turn on some upbeat music with words you know and put that urge to yell into song. Sing loudly and passionately and let your body move with the music. Your kids might join you, or laugh at you, or cry at your feet. It’s cool. You’re not doing this to impress them or to change their mood (though you might pull off the latter). This is for you.
Headphones + Podcast + Warm Water
I know this is oddly specific, but I’m telling you, this combination works wonders. Put on your headphones and pipe in a podcast directly into your ears while you wash dishes or just let warm water run over your hands. Any podcast will do, but I like listening to encouraging parenting podcasts, like Coffee + Crumbs or God-Centered Mom, during those particular moments. Within ten minutes, you’ll have a clean sink and feel equipped to handle life with a little more ease.
Pledge Your Allegiance
This might sound strange, but yelling at little people whose brains aren’t even fully developed yet is strange too, so don’t knock it until you try it. When the kids are driving you nuts and you feel the steam rising, imagine that steam is an American Flag. Now turn and place your hand on your heart and say the Pledge of the Allegiance. It’s hard to be all pouty and mean when you’re being patriotic. Plus, if you do this often enough, your kids will learn the pledge. Congratulations, you were going to yell and now you’re practically a homeschooling mom.
Chant Positive Affirmations
Sometimes you feel like you physically need the release of a good yell. You can go scream into a pillow. That’s fine, and can be effective, but you can also channel that yell into a chant of positive affirmations. Loudly and proudly chant “I am in control of my emotions,” “I respect my kids. I respect myself,” “I am exactly the mom my kids need.” I keep a hand-written copy of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 on my wall that I wrote out one day when my oldest and I were having a particularly rough day. Sometimes I just chant the first two attributes of love. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is kind,” over and over until the feeling passes.
Chew On It
Grab a crunchy snack, a piece of gum, or a cup of crushed ice and go to town. It’s hard to yell if your mouth is full and it will solve the problem of any misdirected hangry outbursts.
Read a Sappy Kids Book
Try being mad at your kids after reading Love You Forever or Let Me Hold You Longer. It’s impossible.
Catch a Bubble
Yes, this is exactly what we tell school children when we need them to be quiet. And sometimes the basics work just as well for adults. Take a deep breath. Hold it until the count of five. Then slowly, slowly release the air. Repeat until the desire to yell has passed.
Put on Lipstick
Sometimes we just need a little self-care to change our mood. Shower, change your clothes, or just put on a little mascara and lipstick. Love yourself well so you can love others well.
Do you have a sandbox? Gather the kids and go build a sandcastle or let the kids bury your feet. No sandbox (or sandbox therapy was a messy affair)? Put the kids in the bathtub and sit on the edge and soak your feet as they play. Hand them a foot scrub brush and offer to be their customer at their spa.
Chop and Knead
It’s never too early to start dinner prep. Go chop an onion or dice a carrot or segment an orange, concentrating on making nice even knife cuts. There is something therapeutic about the rhythmic cutting up of vegetables. Or if baking is more your thing, make some bread dough and skip the fancy kneading machine. Work out your aggression on a ball of dough. Home made play dough is a good one too if the thought of play dough messes doesn’t make you want to scream.
These are just a few of the many things you can do instead of yelling. Try these, or make a list of your own. And if you do yell, don’t beat yourself up. Ask for forgiveness and do better next time.