We’ve all done it. Scared the neighbours with the deafening roar: “I’ve told you 15 times to PUT YOUR SHOES ON!” And if you’re anything like me, it happens with alarming regularity – at 8.30am, when we need to leave the house or we’ll definitely be late.
Of course, I’m not talking to the neighbours. But it’s at that precise moment that my children decide they simply must go and find the book that’s been missing in action from the library for the past three weeks, or that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear blue fluffy Cinderella shoes to school assembly. Cue the person I never wanted to become: Shouty Mum.
The question of how to avoid barking or nagging at the little people in your life is something that bothers most parents. But there are tactics you can use.
Reddit user iyellatmykids posted about the conundrum online, admitting: “I don’t know how to handle my kids so all I do is yell at them... and I’d like to stop doing that. Help needed.”
The parent, who studies and works full-time, explained that their children, who are seven and three, generally behave well – but “don’t listen often”. “They’ll get into little spats because the three-year-old wants her way but the seven-year-old won’t share so they’ll start going back and forth, and that’s when I’ll step in and start yelling,” the parent admitted. “Sometimes, I lose my s**t and scream.”
They added: “I don’t know why but I can’t for the life of me step back, take a breath, and remember they’re kids. I find myself yelling at my oldest more than my youngest. I don’t want to keep doing this – it’s not fair to hold them to an adult standard – but I cannot stop myself.”
The parent received an outpouring of advice on how to keep their cool. Here are five of the most popular:
1. Save Shouting For Important Things
User Esc_ape_artist praised being honest about the bad times. “You’re already partway there by realising what you’re doing, knowing it’s not good, and wanting to fix it,” they wrote. “Start working on yelling less... save the yelling for important things, like not running into traffic or reaching for something on a hot stove. There’s a much better chance they’re going to listen to you then.”
It’s not easy breaking bad habits – but if you can, say sorry every time. “I’ve been doing this,” wrote user DiabolicallyRandom. “Apologising is as much for me as it is for them. It reminds me I’m not being okay.” Callingartemis agreed. “I have a friend who did this. She was a Yeller. She talked to them about wanting to do things differently and that she was trying and that she isn’t perfect but she’s going to keep trying. And when she messed up she apologised and her kids really started to respect her in a new way.”
3. Turn It Into A Game
“What if you tried having a conversation and explain the new way of life that you would like to develop?” suggested parent the0thermother. “And if they catch you yelling everyone needs to point at you and jump up and down – or something silly – this will make them feel that they are involved in the process and maybe you can grab their attention by them calling you out.”
4. Be Consistent
It doesn’t matter what the outcome is, people cautioned, as long as you stick to it. “Make sure there’s discipline at the other end and stick to it. If you’re already yelling, you’ve lost that part of the battle,” wrote Esc_ape_artist. “The kids will learn that mum/dad aren’t joking when they calmly ask them to do something, especially when the countdown starts. Fail to comply and discipline is calmly applied. Don’t argue. Don’t engage with the tantrum. Don’t help it escalate. Don’t give in. It will work. It will take time.”
5. Distract Them
The parent also asked how to handle a situation that led to a lot of shouting: having to ask 20 times for the kids to stop doing something. Parent HauntedLemonZest empathised with their plight. “I yelled a lot,” they wrote. “I came to the realisation that I was burnt out. I’ve realised that my kids have more outbursts when I’m yelling. If I stay calm and distract them when they’re starting to fight or argue, usually that will be all that’s required. I also use time out, and place them in separate rooms. Time out is to give me five minutes of peace so I don’t lose my s**t. I still yell, but it’s getting less and less.”