Kindness begins in our homes and in our own hearts. Yelling sometimes happens, but yet there is nearly always another way to handle situations rather than yelling at our children. Yelling often reflects our own inability to control our own frustration, or fears, or the helplessness and frustration we can feel if the child is repeating the same behaviors over and over despite every boundary.
This is the time of year when there are many “stop yelling” challenges or promises of so-many-days-to-stop-yelling. I guess there can be merit in kick -starting something and bringing it to the forefront, but just like “diets” and “working out”, one has to choose to make this a lifestyle, a consistent habit, a way to approach things for all time, not just for a designated period. This is because how we respond to our children matters. It really does. We will not be perfect, but we can make not yelling the absolute standard we are trying for, and replace that with connection to our children.
To stop yelling, there has to be a commitment that yelling is just NOT the way to handle things. There typically is not much productive communication with yelling. Usually that is just the end stage when everything has “gone beyond” where the parent wanted it to be. It is the last resort, the last car of the train. The other piece needed in this quest is the forgiveness of oneself and the grace to keep to that ideal when things don’t go as we want and we make a mistake. Parenting involves grace. And trying again. And trying harder.
With small children ages 9 and under, you can replace yelling with these things:
Rhythm. There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog. Rhythm is discipline. Rhythm helps you set boundaries, make decisions, lets children know what is to come so they can relax and be secure in that. Rhythm is your friend, yet few parents in this day and age seem to view it that way. I promise that rhythm will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your parenting. It will help you not yell out of frustration or feeling overwhelmed!
Talk in pictures to your child, and use physical movement with your pictures and rhymes embedded in your rhythm of the day.
Inner work for yourself. Getting up before the others in your house, or catching quiet time after lunch, so you can recharge mentally and emotionally is really important. Having small children can be a great time for hands-on growing in patience.
Commitment to your own health (and not perfection in outside things). I find many times mothers are yelling, because quite honestly, they are not getting any help from their spouse or partner. They are not sleeping enough, they are trying to do way too much with tiny children about. This is not a race, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In the world of Waldorf, there are jokes about how everything has to be organically grown and processed by hand and all this. Yes, in a classroom, with a team, with beautiful things that have been made over a span of twenty years, this is possible. It may not be possible at home with four tiny children under the age of six. Be easy with yourself. Listen to your own voice. What is most important for you? What is MOST important for your child? You are not a bad mother!
Calm. Can you keep things calm, especially for the 7-9 year old? They don’t need a million classes or a million places to be. That is just stressful for everyone! They need time in nature, time to freely and deeply play, and time to just be. Can you give them that?
Have a plan for the bad moments. When everyone is yelling and screaming, what is your plan? When you are trying to get dinner on the table, what is your plan? What triggers you the most and what can your response be instead of yelling?
If you cannot find a compassionate response to your child, what does it take for you to get to that compassionate response? Can you delay talking about things? A boundary can be the most compassionate thing that needs to happen, but can you be calm in setting the boundary? That is the key.
For children ages 9 to teens:
Space. Children this age can still be on top of you and chattering. Sometimes we just need space. A walk. A bath alone. Ask for help. Ask for space. Check your own health. I still find many mothers with children of this age (who may also have little ones still) can be very depleted health-wise, which impacts how they feel toward chattering and mess and everything else! What are your thyroid and hormone levels? Your Vitamin D levels? Are you sleeping? What are doing for yourself? It becomes vitally important to re-discover pieces of yourself if you lost this along the way with younger children.
A rhythm of how to do things, including cleaning up. Yes, it takes work to get to that point, but I find one reason mothers of children this age yell is that the children create a trail of mess from building forts or legos or skateboard ramps …and leave a trail of half finished projects every which way that somehow ends up the sole responsibility of the mother to clean up . Everyone can clean up, everyone can pitch in, and it is okay to set boundaries on where mess will take place. In the family, we all work together.
Opening the outside world. Some yelling for parents for this age group seems to happen in regards to pushing boundaries about the “outside world” over and over and over…especially for those ages ten to twelve (and I think girls more than boys? Boy moms, please comment!). Decide ahead of time — Yes or no? Decide how important it is for you to keep things low-key in this age -range, and why and how you will do that. What are the boundaries? What is the balance between child activities and family activities or adult-alone activities? If you open things more widely now, what will the “openings” be in the teen years? Decide things now. Older children of 11-12 and through the teenaged years may not feel like they fit in anywhere, and it is your job to hold steady.
Inner work for you. What are the values of your family? What does your child really need at this age? What is most essential? How are you walking the walk for what you most want to see in your children? Rhythm is an essential key to reflecting what is most important in your family – if it is important, but no time goes to it in the rhythm of the day or week, then it is a great sign for re-alignment.
Younger Teens (ages 13-15):
Communication in conflict. The number one reason parents write to me about yelling at their children in this age range is how teens immaturely try to communicate when they are in conflict (ie, talking back, trying to use “logic” but they don’t really have stellar logic yet, etc). Teens need help knowing how to resolve conflict, how to apologize – the parts of an apology, how to be an effective communicator. It takes time to develop these skills, and the neurobiology of the brain needs to catch up.
Anger. Teens often get angry with their parents and feel misunderstood. How will you handle the anger of your teen? Does this call forth triggers for you that cause you to yell? How can you turn anger on both the sides of you and your child into communication?
Responsibility and Accountability. Teen are often headed into a phase where things “count”. Grades may count for college, projects count towards grades, etc. Time management skills are still being learned, and parents often are yelling when everything is down to the wire for projects or things. Pressure can make everyone feel snappy. How can you diffuse this?
Rhythm and physical movement are still really important for the teenaged years. This can really decrease stress, decrease anger on all sides, and lead to reduced frustration.
I would love to hear your best tips for not yelling. Please share and help all the other mothers out there.
Yelling is all about me. It is really never about my kids. It is about me understanding temperament and development and laying the proper boundaries. It is about me having my inner work in a good place. It is about me asking for help when I need to. It is all about me. Their behavior is a bigger reflection on what I allow them to be exposed to or do than it is ever on them.
Such a great topic!
Hoping you would chime in, Melisa! I totally agree with you.
Hello dear Carrie, i’m french so sorry about my “english”. I read you since a long time. Your posts are always great. It cames always when i need it. It’s like we’re connected in our life. You are a very good consulting in parenting, Thanks for us and for our children.
I just like to saw more photos about you and your environnement it will be great, but it’s not necessary, your words are so powerful.
Sometimes, it’s not Mom yelling. It’s Dad. We’ve got rhythm, outdoor time, purposeful work, closeness, but his patience is so short. I have read many “stop yelling” posts targeted at mothers, but can’t find much for dads. It creates a lot of stress for everyone.
It is very hard, because of course we cannot control the behavior of another. However, we can communicate, we can talk about child development, we can do our best to model other alternative methods of communication, guiding and discipline. Sometimes men are under stress from work and truly seem unhappy at home. Perhaps they are unhappy with themselves. Talking about that can be hard, but important. I wonder if any of the things in this post would apply to men: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2013/02/15/why-do-i-yell-at-my-children-so-much/
I will keep thinking on it.
This is very pertinent in our lives right now. I have a very determined and feisty son , beautiful with his Ascendant in Aries. At times we have dreadful screaming and yelling matches that leave us both stressed, unhappy, scared and afterward the guilt sets in for me. For a few days now I have been refraining from yelling. It’s been better for us. I want to show this to my husband who at times, has a very hot temper. This has been an inspirational article. Thank you . Blessings. Melissa
Hi Melissa Rose,
Thank you for commenting. That is so hard, and I know it is not the peaceful energy you want your home to have. I wonder if this back post could be helpful to you: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/08/09/angry-yell-cry-repeat/. I have many back posts on anger if you search using the search engine or from “family” in the header on the blog, click and then hit “Anger” (yes, I have written so much about it, it has its own section!). There was also a book we covered chapter by chapter called “Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma” which might be a good read.
I do feel at a loss on this sometimes because I’m a single parent with no family. I only have one child but it simply seems impossible some days. What tips would you give to those who have little to no support?
I hope to write a post on this soon…I think when you are a single parent, you must work hard to build community to help you. Look to make connections with other single mothers so you can trade child care. It is more important than ever that you take care of yourself in whatever capacity that means for you, because it is important for your family. Rhythm and an early bedtime and rest time after lunch is also helpful – carving out time for yourself. And I think that inner work to find an attitude of joy in doing this is a necessity. Some days are just hard and challenging, but there should still be days that are joyful. I will keep thinking for you. Also, the notes from the chapter in this book, “Love and Anger” might be helpful to you: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/11/love-and-anger-the-parental-dilemma-chapter-five-going-it-alone/
Carrie is so right! I was a single mom of three for a time and it seemed so lonely. My ex was not a good place for them to be so I could never call upon him when I needed help. I found one friend… it took time to cultivate the relationship. I found her at LLL, she was a leader and had the same parenting I did. After a while we started trading off so we each had some breaks. It was hard work. It took a ton of meditating and searching to find just that one friend but it was so worth it.
Hugs. Don’t forget to really take care of your single self. Be open to love, you don’t have to be on this path forever.
You say “I only have one child….”. This sounds as if you believe it should be easy/you should be able to do this because there is ONLY one. But having just one child is often very intense. Even with 2 parents, it is exhausting. When the friends go home, it is just you, to be everything for your child AND keep the home going on your own. How can you attend to your child and everything else at the same time? True, more children means more laundry, more vegetables to chop, more dishes to wash etc etc, physically exhausting yes. But only one child is often mentally and emotionally exhausting. There are no other children to play with, which would at least create some space for you, for your thoughts…
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Forgive yourself when you get it wrong (we all do). We are often angry because we feel unheard, which means we feel unvalued. Listening and being really present for our child or ourself changes that. We value ourself/the other person enough to stop and hear them. The dishes can wait.
Thank you for your wisdom. You must be a follower of Kim John Payne and “Simplicity Parenting” and “Soul of Discipline”?… Staying calm and centered in our parenting is a worthy quest. I am a mother of a 8 1/2 year old, a marriage and family therapist, and wife to a Waldorf educator… reading your posts are so refreshing and a valuable reminder. Thank you.
This post really has me thinking. I think the source of uncontrolled frustration definitely comes from my lack of time to myself. My husband is hardly home; it is not by choice, as he has gone back to grad school and is working to support our family, but it is so hard. Also nap times, or the after lunch rest time, is a huge problem for us, and it has been since my older son (now close to 5) was 2. My daughter has taken after him is not wanting to nap, so I have to lay with her for an hour to get her to sleep. I can’t rest while she is wiggling during this time. I have done this pattern for 3 or four years(between the two children), and I think claiming that time for myself would give me the break I desperately need to feel refreshed for part 2 of the day. She won’t rest by herself (she is only 2.5, is that even possible?). I have tried every rest inducing rhythm and dietary change and outside time… But reading this post got me thinking of the joy that some mid-day me-time would bring!
Yelling has been on my mind a great deal lately. Every time I do it I feel horrible and spend days feeling guilty and vowing to never do it again. Sometimes if I take a moment to reflect on why I want to yell right before I do it, I can usually stop myself. It is always my problem that creates the yelling: too little sleep, hunger, trying to do too much at once. That last one is huge for me and it always happens at the end of the day where I am trying to make dinner, clean up the house before my husband gets home, nurse a baby and keep a preschooler busy. Lately I have tried to get dinner mostly done in the early part of the day as well as the dishes, so this has been helping.
Yelling also makes me think that my mom must have yelled an awful lot around me when I was small. This was recently confirmed by my dad. Her mother yelled more than her (confirmed by my mom). All I know is that I don’t want to pass this behavior on to my children. How sad that my legacy to my children could be my yelling. I think I will use that as my reminder to find a better way.
This is the same for me. My grandmother yelled much more than my mother (not just yelling, but condescending nagging), my mom yelled frequently and loudly at me, and now it is a conscious and constant struggle for me to break this pattern. But how incredible to break such a long chain of behavior!
Dear Carrie, I just have a further question about your article. You mention the idea of the importance of rhythm. I am not familiar the Waldorf concepts. Could you please explain what you mean by techniques involving rhythm please?
Sure, Melissa Rose. Rhythm is essentially the flow to your day; it is not really a schedule as the times are flexible but the flow goes on. It is meant for families to draw strength from and not feel constricted by it. In Waldorf, with small children, we assign work to each day of the week (like bread baking on Thursdays or ironing on Tuesdays) and we do it together with care and singing and setting up the environment in a particularly beautiful way. We may have verses or songs that go with these activities. There are also rhythms around specific activities, such as before meals or at bedtime. And yes, the mealtimes and bedtimes are kept at more specific times . The point is that the child will know what day of the work it is by the activity that is going on in the home that day. There are so many back posts on rhythm on this blog, if you want to take a peak, just put rhythm into the search engine and see all the interesting things that come up!
Sleep, mama, sleep
Oh, let your rest be deep
Be always like the lamb, so mild
Take care of your wild and blessed child
Sleep, mama, sleep
Sleep, mama, sleep
Or else the grumpies creep
To do your best
Lie down and rest
Sleep, mama, sleep
Sleep, mama, sleep
This is the single best remedy for yelling. For me. My capacity to handle whatever is going on is seriously diminished by lack of sleep. My husband has the ability to be a nice person, even when he is sleep deprived. I don’t. What mother doesn’t struggle with wanting to get just a little bit more done before bed? Or one more episode? Or one more chapter? Or falling prey to the torture of falling asleep with your child and waking up five hours later…without enough sleep but wide awake, knowing that this is the only time you’re going to have to yourself for another whole day, and so you get up, and stay up and don’t go back to sleep. And, well, the next day is not such a good one.
Sleep, mama, sleep.
Beautiful and oh so true! Go to bed, mothers!