Family, Kids & Relationships

Coach yourself to stop yelling at your kids in 6 steps

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Almost every parent will lose their temper with their kids from time to time. If you have a difficult time regulating your emotions during frustrating moments, it can be easy to slip into the habit of yelling to get your point across.

However, resorting to raising your voice when you get upset with your kids can undermine your efforts to create a safe, healthy environment at home where your kids can effectively learn how to process their own big emotions. Yelling will only serve to escalate an already tense or emotional situation. 

If you’d like to learn how to stop yelling at your kids, here are six steps you can follow to coach yourself out of the habit —

Step 1: Know your triggers

The first thing to do is to identify your triggers. Keep in mind, the trigger for your anger may not actually be what you find yourself yelling about. Understanding what makes you angry in the first place is the first step in heading that anger off before it gets out of control. When you recognize the things that stress you out and make you more likely to yell, you can take simple steps to eliminate them as much as possible. 

For example, if the kids always fight in the car on the way home from school, you can bring a distraction or crunchy snack to school pick-up to keep them occupied. Or, if messes make you feel overwhelmed, you can get a “clutter basket” for each member of your house to put their clutter into, so you don’t have to look at it and they can easily find everything to put away.


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Step 2: Know where you are on the anger scale

Ever wondered why calm-down strategies don’t always seem to work? If “take a deep breath” sounds unrealistic, it could be that you’re trying those techniques when you’re already too far up the anger scale. Study the chart below to learn about the different levels of anger and suggestions for coping and calming strategies at each one.


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The strategies increase in intensity as your anger increases, so a strategy like counting to 10 might not work to calm you down if you’re at level 4 or 5 on the scale. If you sometimes don’t notice that you’re getting near your limit until it’s too late, this scale can help you increase your awareness of your emotions before you get to the boiling point. 

Step 3: Check on your anger level throughout the day

Do you have a tough time noticing you’re getting angry until it’s too late? Parents often try to push their emotions and stressors aside in the interest of getting things done. Unfortunately, those feelings are all still there, building up throughout the day. 

It’s so much easier to calm down when you notice your temper rising before you’re too far up the anger scale. Checking in with yourself throughout the day can help you make sure those little irritations and stressors aren’t piling up while you’re busy paying attention to everything else.

One simple way to do that is to leave physical reminders around your house and other spaces you spend time in. They could be construction paper hearts, post-it notes, bright ribbon bows — anything you’ll notice as you go about your day. Focus especially on putting your reminders in places where you know you tend to be most stressed out.

Whenever you see one, take just a second to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. If your muscles are tense, relax them. If you’re frustrated, pause for some deep breaths. If you’re annoyed with all the chaotic noise in the house, name it and turn down the TV or step outside to regain some calm. 


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Step 4: Learn some calming strategies 

Depending on where you are on the anger scale, it can be difficult to think of calming strategies in the heat of the moment. That’s why it’s important to study up on different types of emotional regulation techniques when you’re feeling calm and collected. 

Learning a diverse assortment of calming strategies can help you access the most appropriate technique for your anger level in an emotional moment. For example, it may be unhelpful to count to 10 when you’re at a 4 or 5 on the anger scale, but using deep breathing techniques and taking some space for yourself might help you move through those big feelings without yelling.

Different techniques work for different people, so try a few things to see what works best for you. Consult the list below for several simple and unique calming strategies to try out the next time you feel tempted to yell —

  • Give yourself a hug
  • Rip up paper or blow a balloon
  • Focus on tapping your hands, left and right, repeatedly
  • Whisper or sing the next thing you say
  • Hum or make a long “shh” sound
  • Say how you feel out loud
  • Pretend you’re being filmed
  • Imagine yourself in a faraway place
  • Think of three things you’re grateful for


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Step 5: Practice other ways to get your kids to listen

One of the most common reasons parents yell is because their kids aren’t listening. It can be really frustrating when your kids ignore you when you talk or don’t do what you ask them to do. Yelling can start to feel like the only way to get your kids to listen. 

One way parents can regain control of the situation is to acknowledge that at least part of the problem might be how you speak to your kids in the first place. Instead of resorting to raising your voice, it can be more helpful to try these tips when talking to your children —

  • Get their attention: Say their name and pause for eye contact, gently squeeze their shoulder, etc.
  • Be unexpected: Whisper or sing your request, play a silly sound on your phone, flip the lights off and on, etc.
  • Give them power: Give them control over minor things like what they wear.
  • Check for understanding: Ask them to repeat what you just said, or say, “If you’re not sure about what I said or what I meant, I’m happy to explain.”
  • Assume the best: Thank them in advance for doing a task, or ask what their plan is to get it done. 
  • Consider timing: You can say, “I can see you’re busy right now; will there be a break in a few minutes when we can talk?”


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Step 6: Reinforce your collection of calm-down strategies 

You can never have too many calming strategies in your back pocket! Adding more quick, simple calming techniques to your growing list can give you lots of options when your temper starts to rise. 

Depending on where you are and what you’re doing, some strategies might be more convenient or applicable than others, so having a long list of calming techniques at your disposal will increase the likelihood that you have one to use when you need it the most. Here’s a list of some more simple calming techniques for parents —

  • Tense and relax your muscles
  • Color or doodle
  • Blow bubbles
  • Have a good cry
  • Smell a calming scent, like lavender
  • Smile before you speak
  • Make silly faces with your kids
  • Press your palms together firmly for 10 seconds
  • Jump up and down
  • Close your eyes
  • Chew gum

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