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Expert Roundup – How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids, Part 1

I wish you could follow me around for a day . . . 

If you were to do this then you would hear the same thing I hear and see everyday . . . 

It goes something like this:

“Kelly, I can’t stop yelling at my kids. I love them so much and I feel so guilty for yelling, but they don’t listen to me unless I yell. So I yell, but then I go to sleep feeling guilty promising myself not to yell the next day and wake up only to yell all day all over again. I feel like a terrible mother and I’m failing them everyday. I think there is something wrong with me.  Or I think there is something wrong with my child. Help me.”

Before I was a mom, I had over 20 years of experience working with children as a counselor, teacher, behavior specialist and a life coach so I thought this parenting gig would be easy for me to deal with difficult behavior in my children. 

I thought that if I could easily manage a class of over twenty 6 and 7 year olds, then having just two kids of my own would be a walk in the park!  

Boy was I wrong.   

I was a super calm and loving teacher and had students with special needs, down syndrome, oppositional defiant, on the spectrum, ADHD, learning delays, all sorts of diagnoses, and some with highly explosive behaviors and it was easy for me to manage the behavior with different intervention strategies. 

I never lost my cool even though I had students who threw chairs at me, who ran away from me or who even hit me. I was calm as a cucumber and got super curious and creative to help the student.

Fast forward to me as a mom and I would lose my cool if my kids would do something tame like interrupt me when I was on the phone.  

I was a bitter mom and wished my kids were easier. I was super controlling and felt like I was walking on eggshells everyday. The tension was so high in our house on a regular basis and I blamed my kids.

I was so confused and slept with mommy guilt everyday.  Once I read “The Conscious Parent” by Dr. Shefali I felt like I was hit with lightning bolt of my awakening.

I didn’t realize how of my ego was present everyday as a mom, but it was absent when I was a teacher and counselor.  The ego lives in us all and it is very fear based. It always whispers, “you’re not good enough” in the back of our mind. 

I was so afraid of messing up as a parent that I was parenting from that fear based place and ironically that is where I was “messing up.”

Our ego is a powerful driving force behind any yelling in the home. Our ego is usually at play and in full force in our most vulnerable relationships, which are usually those within our four walls in our home.  We love so big so the ego roars louder because it whispers that we have so much to lose.   

I didn’t have an ego when I was a teacher and counselor because I saw the child as having a hard time vs. giving me a hard time.

 I used to think the ego was about someone who was cocky and full of themselves, but it can also be at work in the opposite manner, where we feel such a strong sense of smallness that our ego roars its ugly head.  

The ego creates a powerful inferiority complex and unstable sense of identity, within us because of the intensity of the vulnerability we feel with our children.  We love them so deeply that it becomes like a codependent and enmeshed relationship.  That is where the entire lashing out comes from because our children “press our buttons” but essentially they are pressing on our ego.

 Once we shed and detach our ego, then the yelling dissipates. I spent so many years blaming my children for my behavior.  I needed them to behave and be happy all the time so I could feel like a good mom.  So I created sticker charts, behavior plans,  begged, pleaded, snapped and nagged because I needed them to change so I could chill out and be the mom I wanted to be.

I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be.

I would justify my behavior by thinking that if they would just comply and do what I wanted them to do then I wouldn’t have to act like a crazy lady.  I essentially was saying “they started it” or “they made me do it” which sounds silly to say out loud, but these were the whispers my ego told myself to justify my yelling, snapping and stern tones.

Then I had the eureka moment after learning about my ego that ‘’If I’m the problem then I’m the solution.”  I realized I only needed to control my side of the street to model and embody the character traits I wanted them to absorb from me.

When I’m working with parents, I aim to help them to create a powerful “why” around why they want to stop yelling altogether because as Jim Rohn says, “If the why is powerful, the how is easy.” 

Here are some reasons that parents are extremely motivated to stop yelling:

  • Detachment – Our children don’t belong to us.  They came from God, the universe, our creator or a higher power or whatever you believe, but they came through us and not actually from us.  It is as if we are babysitting  another person’s children. Just as we would never yell at our niece or nephew or if we were a coach of a soccer team, the same sentiments can be used with our own children.  This helps parents detach their ego from the behavior of the child.  We don’t have the right to yell at a child who doesn’t belong to us; just as we don’t expect teachers and coaches to yell at our children, we have to have that same insight, protectiveness and responsibility with our children.
  • Sibling Rivalry – If you have more than one child, then you’ll see the sibling rivalry decline dramatically when the yelling stops from the top down. This works because when you are working with 1 child during a frustrating moment, then the other child is unconsciously taking notes on how to handle their sibling when they are frustrating them.  If one child sees mom yelling at the child then the other child will make a mental note in their mind to do the same during the frustrating moments when they are playing together.  Kids are always in the camp of “monkey see – monkey do” so showing them first always works.
  • Respect for Authority – Many parents tell me they yell at their child because they want them to have respect for authority for when their child is  sassy, disrespectful and they want to nip it in the bud. Parents feel like the yelling will create a sense of seriousness so they won’t do the behavior again, but this is counterintuitive to the child. We can’t meet their disrespect with our disrespect. If we want our kids to have respect for authority then we have show  our children how authority should respect them first.  Then they will go out in the world and expect that from authority figures.
  • Connection – Has a boss, partner or someone at Wal-Mart, ever yelled you at?  It feels terrible inside, makes us feel small and immediately triggers our defense mechanisms. Kids are mini versions of us and have the same feelings when being yelled at.  It feels terrible, makes them feel small and immediately triggers their defense mechanisms.  Yelling breaks that magical connection with our children because they trust us less.  

The same thing happens with children where some will cower (take flight) to the yelling and lose their throbbing spirit while others will go into fight mode and are labeled as strong willed and bossy.  Essentially both versions are fighting for their throbbing spirit. 

When we have connection with our children then we will have cooperation.  

  • Blueprints for Relationships – If we want to peek into our childhoods, we can look at our adult relationships and get a pretty clear  picture of how we were treated as a child.  This is because the brain likes to recreate relational patterns. It is normal to seek familiarity from our childhood in our adult relationshjps.  If there was a lot of pain from our past then the brain will try to recreate that pain in current relationships to heal that old pain in current time.  

Sometimes the brain seeks to recreate the child/adult pattern from our childhood to heal that old pain. The yelling and “seeing red” or blacking out from anger could really be repressed anger towards our parents if we didn’t feel heard as a child and now we have an outlet for that frustration.  

This is really good information to have so we can unlink the  connections and realize we have 2 chances as a parent/child relationship. The first time we didn’t have anything to do with it, but we can break patterns as we enter the 2nd chance at the parent/child relationship. 

So the way we treat our children when they are small actually writes on the slate of their DNA and acts as their unconscious blueprint of how they should be treated in their adult relationships. 

If we are yelling at them when they are young and impressionable, then they will expect it in their romantic relationships.  Even if they don’t prefer to be yelled at it, it will feel very familiar to be yelled at when the other is frustrated with them. Or even worse they will have a trigger hair temper and become the yeller to heal the old wounds in current time.  

Conversely, if they are surrounded by love, patience, kindness and harmony then they will expect that and have the emotional literacy skills to recreate in their 4 walls when they grow up.  We get to choose how we want to show up in this parent/child relationship where we only have 940 Saturdays from birth to graduation and then they are grown and flown.

We will learn more than we can imagine if we just show up with our palms up like a good student and allow our children to teach us where we need to grow. They will teach  us more than anyone in our lives.

All we have to do is show up for class everyday.

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