Help me keep my cool with my kid
January 6, 2010 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Have you successfully stopped yelling at your children? I hate myself for yelling. I am in therapy, and I'm a self-reflective person. I'm also very stressed at work, a single parent, and often overwhelmed, without a real support system. My ex-husband went back to his native Iran, re-married a local woman and does not contribute financially any more. That's another story, but the point is I don't have a lot of help. I am in therapy and work on my parenting and my deeper reasons for being frustrated, all the time. I vow to stop yelling. And then I yell again.

The thing is, I often feel as I'm a good parent. I'll handle the frustrating moments well all day -- I don't mean being a pushover, just being firm, kind, in control, having a sense of balance and humor -- in short, a grown-up. THen suddenly it's one thing too many and I just YELL at my ten-year-old. It shocks me as much as it does her when it comes, because it pops up after all my I-statements, consequences, rational approaches, etc. In short, I just lose my patience and out comes a yell. Yesterday I called her a "brat," and I've never called her a name before. Truly, this makes me despise myself.

Sometimes, I handle her more difficult behaviors very well. Then she'll do something silly (yesterday she put the hamster on the counter when I was cooking) and it's the last straw, and that's when I lose it. I think I'm actually making her behavior worse (talking back, refusing to do her chores, and procrastinating on her homework are what get to me -- though in my clear moments I know these are normal kid behaviors, and I consciously know how to handle them) -- I think I'm making them worse by unpredictably bouncing between good, calm parenting and yelling.

I want to crawl into a hole after a day like today, when I vowed not to yell and then did it anyway, several times. Again, I'm already talking about this in therapy, but I want to know if you have any quicker remedies. I feel so all alone in this -- it is not how I want to raise my wonderful kid.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
my dad had a really good solution that seemed to work well for him. he would not scold us when he was angry. he would send us to our room and when he calmed down enough to speak rationally, he'd come in and we'd have a conversation about whatever the offense was. the same went for spanking. it was slightly weird having emotionally detached punishments, but in the long run it's taught me that getting in trouble/doing something wrong doesn't have to go hand in hand with anger. it's kind of an extension of "count to ten", but with a realization that sometimes 10 just isn't enough.
posted by nadawi at 5:38 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't have any concrete solutions, not being a parent, but wanted to drop in and say don't beat yourself up, it sounds like you are doing a remarkable job in a difficult situation, and a little bit of yelling shouldn't really harm your kid. I'm sure many of us endured far worse, and came out alright. She may be more resilient than you give her credit for.

It may also not be a bad idea to *tell* your daughter some of these things (in a kid-appropriate way, of course), since at 10 she probably already has an understanding of how it feels to lose your temper, be stressed out, and say things you don't mean. You could let her know that you love her very much and that she shouldn't take it personally if you've had a bad day and snap once in awhile. It might even bring you closer, if she sees you as a human being with shortcomings like everyone else.
posted by Pomo at 5:40 PM on January 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

I have no real advice but I just want to chime in and say kudos to you. The fact that you are aware of the issue and want to change it speaks volumes.
posted by ian1977 at 5:41 PM on January 6, 2010

While I don't have any tips for not yelling, I do want to commend you for being so willing to reflect on and change your behavior. You're clearly trying very hard to be honest with yourself and I've no doubt you'll find a solution.

I'd also like to mention that my mother used to do this to me a lot when I was growing up. Sometimes I was doing something particularly annoying and sometimes I wasn't, but the fierceness of her anger always surprised me and I was utterly terrified of upsetting her for a few years despite her otherwise careful and loving parenting. At some point, my mother realized that she had a problem, and while trying to master it, started apologizing to me and explaining to me that she was willing to work on the problem every time it happened. She let me discuss everything I was feeling about her outburst and then we talked about it together. That made all of the difference. I was still hurt when she yelled at me, but I understood that there was a continuum between her good parenting days and her not-so-good parenting days and that she wasn't ping-ponging randomly between them, and it also brought us much closer.
posted by coffeeflavored at 5:51 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh. What Pomo said.
posted by coffeeflavored at 5:51 PM on January 6, 2010

A random assortment of ideas
- Focus on monitoring how you are feeling - learn to identify when you are almost at the breaking point instead of being surprised that it is one thing too many. Similarly try to find your triggers and warning signs - being tired, feeling ignored, concentrating on something else like cooking etc.
- Sometimes if she is trying your patience, it is good to let a little anger/frustration show. You don't want to go from calm, calm , calm, shouting. It is better to do calm, calm, annoyed.
- I used to warn my children "Mommy only has this much (finger and thumb almost touching) patience left. You had better not use it up or we will both be sorry." (In other words, giving them some warning I was out on the thin ice.)
- When you start to yell - don't yell at her. Yell something like "I HATE THIS. I NEED A TIME OUT" and then go lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes. Come out when you feel able to use your good parenting skills (or sooner if something is burning on the stove - but still at least walk into the bathroom, close the door and then open it and walk out again - it is symbolic for you as well as for her.

- 1-2-3 Magic is a system where you tell them what to do once (and say "1") then remind them once (and say 2) and then if they haven't stopped say "3 - time out (or other consequence) There is a book by that name that describes in more detail. The idea is to have simple predictable system that you can use even when you aren't thinking too clearly. Effectiveness varies. It works best for things you want them to stop doing (because the time out makes it stop), not so good on things you want them to do, because it is still undone after the time out.
posted by metahawk at 5:52 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

You absolutely can do this. Do you have a throwaway email address?
posted by surenoproblem at 5:52 PM on January 6, 2010

Hey, some people are yellers and some are not. Life can kick you in the teeth sometimes. It's hard.

Only one thing matters here; that your children always know you love them. Make sure they know that every single day. You will all be fine.
posted by nickjadlowe at 5:58 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, my mom snapped on me a couple of times when I know she didn't mean to. And I know that she didn't mean to because she always told me about it and obviously felt bad. It kinda made me roll my eyes about it, to be honest, but looking back that was probably the desired reaction - it kept me from taking it as a sign that I was a 'bad' kid, and also made me pay a bit more attention to her state of mind when choosing my actions. It's been a useful bit of life knowledge to realize that sometimes people get angry for no good reason, even if they're good people and wouldn't want to say or do something hurtful if they were thinking clearly.
posted by Lady Li at 6:00 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I can't remember where I read it, but a father said that if he yelled at his son he gave him a reward of some kind. His son was older, so it was extra time on his curfew. The father did not want to reward his son, so he was able to control the yelling.

I make it a habit to tell my daughter when I'm getting upset so that I'm not suddenly furious. I agree that being unpredictable and volatile is hurtful to a child so I try to say, "I'm getting really frustrated" or "That stresses me out" or other things along the way to my blowing point. This is good for me too, to notice the anger building and deal with it rather than blowing off my own feelings until I've reach a boiling point.

Also, along the lines of what Pomo says, if I yelled at my daughter I would sit down when I'm calm and apologize and tell her I made a mistake and I know it's scary when I'm yelling. I haven't yelled at her, but I've done other things I regret and I try to talk about them later.

My other immediate suggestion is to walk away and say "I need to go calm down."

Swinging between calm and yelling is really not a good thing - it's a form of violence and it makes things unsafe. You know that and are dealing with it and that's a bigger picture to keep in mind. Don't yell at yourself, is what I mean by that.

Here's where I read that thing about yelling, I think.
posted by orsonet at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a single parent I feel your pain. Amazing how much work there is to do alone, right? But still you have to parent...

I had some specific parenting advice, but after re-reading and noting others great ideas - can't you sue the mofo who skipped off? I bet that sending him a bunch of threatening legal briefs via email would do wonders for your sense of being... or give his name to a Nigerian trying to give away his millions? At very least sign him up for a bunch of bill later subscriptions...

Its pretty clear from your question - your "deeper reasons for being frustrated" are why you are yelling - yelling at your daughter is just a replacement for yelling at this absent deadbeat piece of shit "father". So solve that - whether legally or just emotionally - and I bet your yelling at your daughter will subside. Tell your therapist to earn her bucks and give you some concrete solutions. Clearly you love your daughter and are not "angry" at her beautiful self.

Best of luck - I know its tough.
posted by RajahKing at 6:08 PM on January 6, 2010

I have no advice but i just want to say thank you for being such an awesome parent. You are only human and it's ok that you occasionally get really mad at your kid.

As a data point (and no idea how useful this is but anyway) I was beaten up by my parents, yelled and called names a lot as a kid, and bullied by my older sublings -- yet I have grown up 100% normal and am a well adjusted human being ;-)

Good luck, I think you are going to be fine!
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 6:11 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah don't beat yourself up. At the same time, I think people often forget that behaviour systems for use with kids - both reward and punishment systems - are not just there for the kids; they provide a roadmap & reminder of appropriate responses for adults, too. We are none of us perfect, and it's important to have a system (however informal it may be) that highlights consistent responses you may be too stressed, too tired, too distracted, too sympathetic etc etc to remember unconscioulsy to do yourself.

This is just an example, it may help or not. 10 is getting on the older end of the scale for many behaviour systems in my book, but:

A simple "light system" (green= 5 minutes time out or whatever, orange=10 minutes, or whatever, red= you miss out on something fun, black= holy shit, buckle up) for bad behaviours... simultaneously - but independently (this is _important_; good behaviours must not be invalidated by bad behaviours and vice versa)

With a simple reward system (5 bronze = 1 silver which results in ice cream or whatever. 10 silver = one gold which equals day at beach/movies/etc)

can really help clear up ambiguities about behaviour and consequences for both parties, and also allows you to distance yourself from the emotional situation by
a) putting it in a systemic context
b) making you feel that punishment or reward is independent from your emotions, and will arrive no matter what. The punishment will in fact have better results than your outburts, so it reduces them.

Try not to call your child names. If you think she is a brat now at 10, you are in for a world of pain in about 3-4 years.

Hope this helps. I was a childcare worker for five years in a centre of over 100 kids, and regularly worked with behaviour consultants etc.
posted by smoke at 6:12 PM on January 6, 2010

When you catch yourself yelling at her, just apologize to her afterward and move on. Unless you're having a total meltdown on a daily basis, or yelling is the only way you communicate with her, your daughter will survive. I don't think having "bad" days makes someone a bad parent; rather it's the balance of bad vs. good and what you do to deal with it. Better to accept that you're human and yell, just like your daughter is human and does annoying stuff to make you yell. :-)
posted by cottonswab at 6:12 PM on January 6, 2010

I'd work with your daughter on this. Take a minute (after you've calmed down) to talk to her and say, "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I was angry and frustrated and I lost my temper, and that was the wrong way to handle the situation. I will try to do better in the future." Talking to her about it may give you something extra to think about next time you're about to snap -- but more importantly it tells her that treating people respectfully is important, even if it's difficult sometimes, and that your bad behavior is not her fault and is not a reflection on how you feel about her.

On preview, what pomo, coffeeflavored, and orsonet said.
posted by Dojie at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2010

This is definitely one of my big fears as a parent. My mother was a yeller and I have trust issues with her to this day. I also have anger management issues that I feel are mostly controlled but only mostly.

The thing that helps me the most is help. I'm very fortunate in not being a single parent as well as having grandparents within sitting distance.

I also make sure I blow off steam on a regular basis both with exercise and conversation.
posted by mearls at 6:13 PM on January 6, 2010

Give yourself a big hug right now.

-If there were a perfect mom in the world, she hasn't been found yet.
-I screamed something worse that 'brat' at my 10 year old once. And when he was about 2 I spanked his little hand so hard it left welts for about an hour. Then I cried and we went home and I made a list of non-spanking punishments that he would hate.

Time out's are excellent. Having a corner or chair for them is very effective.
My kids hated being lectured at. Sometimes it was enough just to ask, "Are we going to have to have a long talk about this?"

Metahawk's ideas are excellent for letting off steam without directing your frustration at your child.

Hang in there. You are doing great in a very hard situation.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:16 PM on January 6, 2010

The main thing to do is get a support system-- find other local single mothers (groups like single mothers by choice [even though it wasn't your first choice!] can sometimes help), move near family if possible and if it would be helpful, ask friends for help, find a babysitter to be able to give you some "me" time if possible, whatever you can do to get more supportive, helpful people into your life. The less stressed you are, the calmer both you and your child will be and the fewer occasions that spur yelling will arise. Ultimately, the best thing you can do for both yourself and your child to reduce stress is to get more supportive people into your life.

People didn't evolve raising kids with even just two parents-- we evolved with multiple adults per child in a living situation, not with a mother isolated at home away from everyone with a child. So it's not you-- you are in a situation that's objectively really difficult and you are clearly already doing a great job by even considering this.

It's like kicking drugs-- you are unlikely to avoid relapse if you decide to quit but still live in a crackhouse or don't treat underlying depression. Lack of social support makes you much more vulnerable to any stress related problem-- so doing whatever possible to improve this will help your health, your child's health and will almost certainly set the stage for other stuff to reduce yelling to be able to work.
posted by Maias at 6:38 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yep - when my son was two, I forced myself to start every sentence I said to him with 'Hi, Little Person!' took about three days and I didn't really yell at him again until he was 13 and fucking deserved it :)
posted by ersatzkat at 6:45 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

I am 35. I remember some times my parents apologized for losing control or doing or saying something unfair.

I also remember some times they didn't.

You will screw up sometimes. It's OK. Explain and apologize and hug when you do. It will make you both feel better and you'll both learn from it.
posted by fritley at 6:56 PM on January 6, 2010

I found "How to Stop the Battle With Your Child" very helpful. I still yell sometimes. But less.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:56 PM on January 6, 2010

Like others have said, you are not alone. I parent two boys -- 7 and 10. # of parents in the home, amount of money worries, etc.. -- doesn't matter -- sometimes they do aggravating things.

The parental time-out is a good idea and one my partner used.

I like to tell the boys that I am starting to get angry when I am still not really mad yet.

I also say, "I don't want to have to get my angry voice out".

Face it, part of growing up is learning limits with other people and the primary place we learn those limits is in the home. I remember when my now 22 y/o step-son was in high school -- he got mad, mom told him she was taking the keys, he said "fine, I don't care", and then was surprised that she was still hanging onto them 2 days later :). You are doing fine.
posted by elmay at 7:10 PM on January 6, 2010

I have a perfect Mom. She yelled at me when I tested natural boundaries.
posted by ovvl at 7:18 PM on January 6, 2010

You apologize and explain, right? Because that's what I wish my parents would have done, instead of treating their anger as something shameful that Must Never Be Spoken Of Again.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

--What are the trigger times/situations? Cooking, transitions, trying to get her to do something, when you're tired?

--Sit down and tell her you need extra help during those times, and ask her to come up with ideas for making things go more smoothly.

--Come up with a code word that means "I'm about to lose it, GTFO." Use it. Some parents naturally perfect a certain look, or tone of voice. You have to cultivate one naturally. It's like a warning system, so that she'll know what to expect.

--Make sure she's given a lot of positive reinforcement and that she knows what TO do. What is she supposed to do when you're cooking? What is she supposed to do when you're getting ready to go in the morning? Busy hands can't put hamsters in harm's way. ;)

--Does your fear of being angry make you suppress your irritation at her until you snap?
posted by kathrineg at 7:48 PM on January 6, 2010

You have to cultivate one naturally.

By this I mean you have to cultivate one artificially.
posted by kathrineg at 7:49 PM on January 6, 2010

You know what, you sound like a good parent who is human and loses their temper once in a while. As long as your frustration doesn't manifest in physical or emotional abuse (and volume and an occasional declaration of "brat" does not equal emotional abuse), I think you're good. Certainly, once you've calmed down, a discussion about how frustration and being upset can lead people to say and do things they don't mean, and while you are trying your best, there are times, when you might say or do things you would like to take back, would be a really positive way to turn those unfortunate, tense, but completely normal moments into a learning experience for your kids.

Also, just as a point of reference, as I entered my teen years, my Mom (who was a widow and therefore, a single parent) and I had some doozies. I can recall volume that was probably heard outside and being referred to as another b-word that is not as benign as brat, but I gave as good as I got, and my Mom and I are incredibly close. My Mom was and is an awesome parent, I have never doubted her love or support, and aspire to be as good of a parent as she has been, if I end up with children. That said, children cross the line and push boundaries, and parents have a limit and bad days. Fights happen. As long as there is a healthy reconciliation and understanding of what went down after the fact, at the end of the day, you'll be fine. The fact you are even asking about this is a testament to what a loving, thoughtful, and good parent you are.
posted by katemcd at 7:51 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I occasionally lose my cool. I have a 13, 14 and 15 yr old. When I do, I apologize. Explain that I should not have yelled and that there are far better ways to handle anger and then I discuss the issue that broke the camel's back. Do not leave it unaddressed. Ask your daughter if you can have some sort of signal that says to her you are smoking angry, but do not want to yell and scream right now.

As for the hampster, it is a silly thing and probably just her subconscious way to get your attention. I think kids would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. Let her help you when you are making dinner or doing the laundry or any of the thousand other tasks you need to do to keep a household running smoothly as a single parent.

Quite frankly, you sound like you have a good handle on it already. Being introspective and recognizing your faults while working to correct them is HUGE!

Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:21 PM on January 6, 2010

I think one of the biggest problems with yelling on a consistent basis is that it teaches the kid/s to eventually tune it out, so if there is ever a situation where you have to yell (say in an emergency) it is going to take them a lot longer to respond to the very real threat.
posted by edgeways at 8:50 PM on January 6, 2010

I'm of the mind that there's harmless, occasional yelling, and there's abusive, hurtful yelling. I think that what largely constitutes 'abusive' and 'hurtful' in this context is the sort of yelling that you'd call 'dirty fighting' in an argument with an adult -- name-calling, hitting, dredging up litanies of old hurts, starting sentences 'you always' and 'you are' instead of 'your behavior makes me feel'... Keep the differences in mind to make sure you're not being abusive or hurtful. Aside from that, I think it's good for an older child to understand that people do get angry, that adults do have limits, and that when pushed past those limits people can become angry and even yell. There's something that older child will learn along with that -- that an argument isn't the end of the world, and that it's possible to feel anger or have someone feel angry with you, and then be able to make up and go on with your lives. That's a very clumsy way of saying, sometimes I think parents do harm when they avoid showing any signs of anger around the kids. It's a fact of life that people do get angry, and it's good for an older child to learn more about handling normal levels of conflict in a safe environment with 'safe' people.
posted by 2xplor at 9:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You got a ton of good advice already, but I'll just emphasize a couple things I think are important to your question. First, I totally know that awful feeling after losing it and yelling at my child. For me, if I can de-brief with a fellow parent (or stand-in (e.g. therapist)) it really really helps me feel like I have learned from the incident and in most cases can extend the time before the next incident.

Others have already given you good advice about learning to recognize when you are about to lose it, and at least letting your daughter know that it's about to happen. At age 10, I think your daughter can understand if you tell her "I'm particularly fragile right now" and/or "I need you to stop being so contrary" or "I can't pay attention to you in the way that you seem to need right now" or even "I know usually I don't mind when you bring the hamster out while I'm making dinnner but tonight I am feeling low on patience and this is a recipe for me losing my temper".

Though your daughter will benefit from less yelling/temper-losing, it really is mostly about YOUR process, figuring out how to predict and prevent the "losing it" part. For me, this is actually the beautiful thing about being a parent--we're not "set in stone" and we really are capable of becoming better people--controlling our tempers, communicating our feelings, predicting our reactions, and talking about our needs.
posted by gubenuj at 9:25 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I also don't think you have a yelling problem. I think it's a stress management problem. Think about finding a new job. Can you extend care arrangements for your daughter so you can fit in more self-care (exercise, reading books)? Also, if it is possible to strengthen your support network by moving, consider doing that. If you're happier, you're more patient with normal kid behaviour.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:40 PM on January 6, 2010

I had to explain to my kids (12 and 11) today AGAIN, that, as embarrassing as bowel movements can be, it's much less embarrassing when said BMs don't stop up the toilet and make me have to do the plunger shuffle again. I have certainly yelled recently when dealing with this same problem a few other times ("Big BM, flush extra, during and before the paper, duh!") Next time it happens, I'll be teaching whichever kid seems right to deal with the plunger and other people's poop. Also, frowning a lot. Harrumph.

I also know they're both in a growth spurt and eating a lot and this the natural consequence.

I understand your self-frustration, but it doesn't sound like you're a terrible mom. If your kid isn't cringing from you, you're probably doing ok. Like others have said, the fact that you're asking is a good thing.

Just make sure you are consistent and that your kid knows you love her. Sounds like you're doing that. She's getting old enough to understand. Apologize when you feel it's necessary, but be the queen of your castle, too. It's a hard balance, I know. I've tended to try a low and strong voice, rather than a yelling one. I'm not perfect, though, and I occasionally curse, too, but then they know I'm really serious.

I've been a single mom and our kids are about the same age. Fairly recently remarried and that's a whole new can of worms.

If it's worth knowing, I would have yelled about the hamster in the kitchen, too. Perhaps your daughter could be told to put up the hamster, wash her hands, and then be given a dinner-related chore. My two sure do like helping with cooking and BONUS learning experience.

Please MeMail me if you want to chat or vent.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:52 AM on January 7, 2010

Great questions, shows you're a great mom. Single mom of three kids here (17, 16 and disabled 11 year old son) with deadbeat not-in-the-picture dad, no local support system, etc. I get your pain, and in a way think you have it worse than me because when it's just the 2 of you, if can be very intense. My kids can bounce off each other while I hide in another room.

To your question about the sudden BOOM, I can only tell you what I do. I know it sounds completely ridiculous, but here's an example: home from work, getting dinner ready, everybody needs a ride somewhere or something for a school project, son had bad day at school and wants to decompress, teenage daughters are angsty, basically, nobody wants to help me do anything and I tripped over three pairs of snow boots when I walked in (which are still not picked up). The cats are also starving. You get the picture.

So I make up the "Oh, I'm so completely annoyed right now" song, accompanied by ridiculous dancing. And I start singing, "I had such a great day and work, then I tripped on shoes, and the pasta looks so yummy," etc. as I perform a very awkward dance in the kitchen, complete with bad 60's moves.

It just freezes everyone. The moment passes. They all still have their needs, but it's like a reset button and now I'm laughing and even the teen gals are smirking.

It feels like the same cathartic "I have to get through this moment with some explosion of energy" but it's a lot funnier.
posted by dzaz at 2:28 AM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

If your child is 10 years old and you've never called her a name before yesterday, then you're a braver more restrained mom than I, Gunga Din.

I will be honest and say that the #1 factor in my transformation from an overwhelmed single parent who did things "by the book" until that certain snapping point after which fire began to shoot from my eyes and horrible angriness from my mouth--was getting remarried. Having another adult body present goes a long way toward short-circuiting those parenting behaviors that we're not very proud of.

Obviously, that's probably not the best reason to go out and scoop up a random life-partner post-haste. Nevertheless, it may help to *imagine* an outside adult presence when you feel yourself getting to the boiling point. For example, that your therapist is watching from across the room.

Plus, Nthing the suggestion for taking parental time-outs: give yourself permission to walk away from a situation and cool down before addressing it (even if it means shutting off the burners on the stove and letting dinner plans go cold).

I know for me this is necessary sometimes, but very difficult, because it feels like you're giving in, giving up, backing down, and "letting them get away with it." Recognize that those feelings come from a win/lose battlefield framing of the situation. It sounds like your rational, calm self understands that a battlefield parenting mentality only leads to more confrontation. When you feel your patience wearing thing, keep reminding yourself: "The goal is not to win. The goal is not to win."
posted by drlith at 5:10 AM on January 7, 2010

All I can add here is that I used to "vow" to do or not do things. The problem with that is that you reward yourself emotionally and calm yourself through vowing / promising yourself. That's the wrong focus. So I'd just suggest that you stop making promises to yourself to not yell.
posted by lorrer at 6:30 AM on January 7, 2010

I have a problem with this too. Things that help curb my yelling are:

1. Be prepared. When I'm in a rush or running late, I snap. If you're like me wake up earlier, set out clothes the night before, and allow enough time so you and your daughter don't feel rushed or pressured. Make sure your daughter knows what is expected of her. "Hampsters don't belong on kitchen counters, it's unsanitary. You can play with your hamster in these places...." I know I get the most angry when I am slacking off and not taking care of myself. Most of my stressors are in my control. (I get stressed when I don't get enough sleep. I get stressed when there isn't dinner or clean clothes. I get stressed when I'm not watching, or don't control my environment, and the kids spill bubble bath all over the floor.) Plan, prepare, and be aware. Set your household up for peace.

2. Get enough sleep and take care of yourself. Get a solid 8 hours, get some exercise on a regular basis, and do things for yourself. See your friends. Do things you enjoy. Having your own life is a great way to not care about petty things or aggravating behaviors your kid does.

3. Think before you speak. Reflect on the behavior that is making you crazy. Think about it and ask if it's worth saying anything at all. Sometimes half the stuff we complain and yell about isn't worth bringing up. Or, at least, when you reflect and take some deep breaths, you can talk to her in a calm manner. Naomi Aldort's S-A-L-V-E method is helpful for me.

4. Instead of giving your kid a time-out, give yourself a time-out. If you're overly streesed and feel like yelling -- go to another room and do some deep breathing and reflecting. Keep working on your fears. (fears of being late, fears of germs, fears of being a poor parent, fears that your daughter doesn't have a two-parent household, fears that the bills aren't going to paid, fears of what others think of you, fears that you are alone, etc.) Yelling is fear.

5. It's okay to tell your daughter how you are feeling. Let her know you are feeling grouchy or stressed, if you feel like yelling is on the horizon.

6. Always apologize after you yell and never use excuses. Balance out the yelling with more connection and peaceful times. Positive interactions should outweigh negative ones. Spend some time with her snuggling each night. Talk about your day. Always think about the most important thing when interacting with your daughter -- your relationship with your daughter. How will your behavior affect your relationship with your daughter?

It's human to yell. It's good that you are self-aware. This fact alone should curb some of the yelling. Don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing a good job.
posted by Fairchild at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the advice above to talk to your child - explain and apologize. Note to her that it does not excuse her behavior, but your yelling is also not conductive to a positive environment.

I would suggest you use the old "swear jar" technique. Every time you yell, put a dollar in the jar. Based on your financial situation, this will probably be an effective deterrent. Then make an agreement that when you can go a week without yelling you take your daughter out and do something special together.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:20 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm not sure there's a right way to parent every day. All you can do is listen, try things, and use whatever works for as long as it works. I'm sure you aren't as bad as you think. We all yell unnecessarily at our children.
My son's principal's wife wrote a great set of rules for positive discipline. I'm sending you the link, but I've never seen this specific material. She had some insanely good suggestions. The one I use often is that I give myself a time out. I go in the bathroom, and do not speak for a few moments. More often than not I end up scrutinizing my pores or putting on a lot of lip gloss to distract myself, and in a few moments I'm calmer.
Good luck. I have prayed for you.
posted by littleflowers at 6:48 PM on January 7, 2010

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