Better Options Than Yelling at Your Kids When You're Angry
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (more parenting articles are available)
When I ask parents which of their behaviors they'd most like to change,
the most common response is they'd like to stop yelling at their kids. It is natural to yell when you're angry. Nobody has to teach you how to do that!
A mom told me how she found herself yelling at her son in the car. Have you ever become frustrated with your children when they are begging you for something? If so, you can probably relate to this mom's story.
Begging for Ice Cream
She was while driving her 10-year-old son to Baskin Robbins to order cake for his upcoming birthday party. Her son started pleading with her to get an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins. Mom said he couldn't have one since he had just had ice cream yesterday.
He didn't give up hope and instead kept asking her if he could please have an ice cream cone. Completely fed up, she pulled over and stepped out of the car for a few minutes explaining she needed a break from his behavior. After getting back in the car, he soon asked her again about the ice cream!
Feeling quite angry now, she yelled at him for continuing to ask after she had already told him no. By the end of her rant, he was crying. Needless to say, this wasn't exactly the pleasant outing she had envisioned.
Alternative Parenting Responses
It's hard to do your best parenting in the heat of the moment. The good news is that when you realize you haven't handled a parenting situation in the ideal way, you can reflect on what happened and figure out what you would like to do differently in the future.
Sometimes you are too close to the situation or still too upset to see any alternatives. If this is the case, it can be helpful to ask other parents for ideas. It's always easier to see choices when you're not the parent involved!
What else could this mom have done instead of yelling? Here are some possibilities:
- Repeatedly respond to each request for an ice cream cone with "What was my answer?" By using the same response, it is easier to remain calm and avoid becoming angry by arguing.
- Pull over and stop the car. Let her son know that she will be happy to continue driving just as soon as he can ride without asking for an ice cream cone.
- Give him a conditional yes: “I will be happy to buy an ice cream cone for you next Saturday if I’m not worn out from hearing you beg today.”
- State what you are going to do: “I’m feeling hassled by your begging for an ice cream cone. If you beg again, I’m going to turn around and go home.”
Ideally you are looking for a response that models both self-control and treating others with respect. You also need to be able to follow through with whatever you say you are going to do. For example, if he begs again after you said you would turn around and go home, then that’s what you need to do.
The Power of Apologizing
When you realize you've handled a parenting situation poorly, you can always apologize. Some parents are reluctant to apologize to their children fearing that it will make them appear weak. However, heart-felt apologies can actually increase children's respect for their parents.
By apologizing you are teaching that when you make mistakes you try to make amends for those mistakes. You are also modeling the process of making an apology:
- Recognizing what you have done that has hurt someone
- Expressing your regret
- Describing how you plan to handle it differently next time
While apologizing is never easy, it is an essential skill for maintaining close relationships.
When a parenting situation doesn't go quite as well as you would have liked start with apologizing. Next look for a chance to try out your new parenting response!