“Anyone just get overwhelmed? I don’t know what to do, nothing is working and today I lost my cool. I screamed and cried and had to walk away to keep me from yelling more”
Yelling Mom Blog Post Series
When I read quotes like this from struggling moms I just want to reach out through the screen and give them a big hug. Motherhood is hard. Parenting is hard. It is a long journey of very beautiful moments and moments of pain and frustration.
I don’t think I have ever been physically hurt as I have my kids. I can’t even count the number of times I have been bonked on the nose, poked in the eye, or had something dropped on my toe. And always at the worst time! And this is just physical pain… I haven’t even begin to talk about the emotional pain or amount of patience that comes with mothering.
Unfortunately for many mothers when we get triggered or our buttons pushed, we yell. It feels like it just happens. Like we aren’t in control.
So the big question today is, how do I get my kids to listen without having to yell?
When I struggled with postpartum anxiety, rage was one of the symptoms that greatly affected my motherhood. I learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t working for me and that it was actually triggering negative behaviours in my kids.
I am still working on undoing the damage that was done during those years. But, I also know there is hope. I have learned tools and strategies that help me to stop yelling at my child.
Mama, I know that we can make changes and that any damage done can be healed.
I don’t want you to have to go through what I went through for years so I have decided to write a mini blog post series so I can inform you and offer you tools and strategies to help you be the best mom you can be.
The Series will cover:
- Can yelling at my child be harmful?
- Is yelling at my child effective parenting?
- How do I stop yelling at my child and how do I repair my relationship with my child after yelling?
- How do I get my kids to listen without yelling?
There is no shame in yelling. When we know better and have the right tools we can do better. We have the privilege of raising the next generation and with that comes the responsibility and opportunity to raise a generation who is skilled at emotion regulation and responds with kindness and compassion.
3 Strategies To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Having To Yell
#1. Understand why they are acting that way
I believe that children are naturally good. If this is true, it means that children don’t actually WANT to express themselves through bad behavior. Which also means that children are exhibiting bad behaviour for 3 reasons:
A) they are in yuck or
B) they are missing a skill. Let me explain those a little further or
C) They have an unmet need.
Your child is in yuck
When a child’s little brain/body feels threatened (and threatened could be anything from a physical threats, to the threat of vulnerability or an unmet expectation/need) their stress response system is triggered and they have a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. I like to call this their yuck.
Now something that is important to know is that yuck (or stress response) follows a bell curve. Imagine being triggers on the bottom left as it rises up to the peak (max behaviour/emotions) and slowly goes back down to calm on the bottom right. Each child in yuck needs to follow this curve in order to get out of yuck.
The good thing is that yuck is temporary. It is also important for us moms to know that we can also go into yuck and our comments and reactions can keep kids elevated in the yuck peak.
Your child is missing a skill
There are these things called executive functioning skills. We master these skills at different ages and life stages. Some examples of these skills are time management, doing a task that’s boring or we don’t want to do, task initiation, follow through etc.
Children will often exhibit bad behaviour or appear to not have listened to us when in fact they are actually missing one of these executive functioning skills. For example: you have asked your child 3 times to please clean their room. And each time you check on them they haven’t listened. They haven’t even started! They are just sitting on their floor playing.
In this scenario there may be a couple executive functioning skills missing.
1) They may not have the task initiation skill and therefore don’t know how to solve the messy room problem, to break it down into manageable steps, or even where to begin.
And 2) they don’t feel like cleaning their room and don’t know how to do something they don’t feel like doing.
This means us as parents need to help teach them those skills. For example maybe you say to your child, “man it looks like you are struggling to clean your room. What is one thing we can start with that is easy to put away?” And let them take it from there.
Your child has an unmet need
Children do not have the skills or even brain functioning to manage their big emotions and communicate their needs effectively. The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for those tasks doesn’t even fully develop until the age of 25. This is partly why young children go into yuck so easily. For example, if a child is tired, hungry, bored, or feeling disconnected they may not be able to express those needs and just feel really iky – resulting in a meltdown.
This is why when we are talking about positive parenting one of the first questions we want to ask ourselves is why this behaviour, why now? What does my child need or feel?
By asking these questions you may be able to prevent many future meltdowns or at least help your child travel the yuck curve faster.
#2. Set firm and clear boundaries
This one is really short, sweet and simple but not easy! This is probably one of the hardest and most effective parenting strategies – being consistent! Showing your children that you mean what you say. And doing it in a kind and respectful way.
Be consistent, be clear, be firm, be lighthearted, and be respectful. Oh ya and don’t try to set firm boundaries in a yuck moment – that never turns out well. Instead set firm boundaries ahead of time, when all parties are calm and cool as a cucumber.
#3. Learning how to respond in the moment
I can tell you right away what not to do! Don’t address the negative behaviour in the moment when your child is in yuck. You need to allow them to travel the yuck curve.
Want to know an interesting fact… when your child is in yuck (fight, flight, or freeze) the thinking and language part of their brain actually shuts off, goes off-line. This means they likely don’t have control over the behavior or their response. There is no sense yelling at or nagging at a child in yuck whose brain is actually off-line.
Allow your child to travel the yuck curve. As the parent, in the moment, it is your job to show your children that you are calm and grounded and can handle their big emotions. They sure can’t and feel really vulnerable and uncomfortable with these big feelings. So, in order to feel secure they need to know and trust that you can handle these big emotions they are feeling.
When we go into yuck and respond out of anger, hurt, and frustration we are likely not in alignment with our parenting values.
A Big Parenting Secret
If you are in the right mindset you will be able to stay out of yuck and not be sucked into their yuck or behaviour. You will experience such a freedom and sense of peace in your parenting.
Five Mindset shift tips
- Understand that their behaviour is evidence of yuck or an underlying need. They are not doing this on purpose (despite what it may feel like)
- Your child is not actually against you and their behaviour is not an attack on you.
- They will test your boundaries. That is part of their development and survival mechanism. Funny fact: kids will spend more time putting effort into finding loopholes in your parenting than they will on a task you’ve asked them to do that they don’t want to do.
4. Use affirmations. It really helps to find some good affirmations for anger and parenting to help you get through those stressful and challenging moments.
- I can handle my child’s big emotions.
- I am calm and light hearted and faced with yuck.
- I am a yuck detective and can figure out what my child needs or is trying to communicate.
- I am resilient and strong
5. Lastly, remember it too shall pass.
Mama, you are doing a great job. Parenting is hard and takes a lot of work and patience. Mothering requires us to really learn how to manage our emotions and be a better version of ourselves. Be patient with yourself and learn into self-compassion when things get hard.
Sarah Reckman (@thewholehearted.mom)
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