Yes, I admit it: sometimes I yell at my toddler. I should know better. I have a background in child psychology and can recite, by heart, all the studies and books that talk about the bad effects of yelling on self-esteem and family relationships.
But parents are human too. Sometimes our temper snaps and we yell, because we’re tired and worn out, or because all the discipline tips—time-outs, consistent rules, reward system—don’t seem to be working on our child. Here are some parenting tips on how to deal with those situations, without yelling. (I’ll remember them too, next time I run into a similar scenario.
Parenting tip # 1: Choose your battles.
Be aware of your own moods and limits. If you’re tired or emotionally drained, avoid situations that will create tantrums (your child’s and yours). For example, if you’re feeling upset about something, postpone the trip to the supermarket where you know your toddler will get whiny. Why ask for trouble?
And as one parent put it, ‘Moms need time-outs too.’ Time-outs in a quiet place allow toddlers to calm down and think about what they’ve done. If you’re edgy, then call a 20-minute timeout for yourself. Take a long, hot shower. Listen to classical music. Do whatever it takes to lift your mood.
Parenting tip # 2: Accept that kids are different.
One of the reasons we lose our tempers is that we are just so frustrated! A child won’t behave the way we expect him to. A rule or tip doesn’t work as well as we had hoped. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ we want to scream. Or, ‘what’s wrong with ME? Why does this work for other parents and not for me?’
Nothing is wrong… it’s just that kids are different. Parents are different. Home environments are different. Part of parenting is learning about our kids and learning about ourselves in the process. ‘What works for us?’
Parenting tip # 3: Set realistic expectations
Sometimes we forget that kids are kids. They forget things. They don’t understand all the words you say. For example, when you say, ‘Don’t make a mess!’ they don’t realize that splashing in the tub is making a mess—they think it’s playing. (After all, you let them do that in the pool.) Keep your rules concrete and tell them what you specifically want them to do. ‘Put away your toys. Wipe the bathroom floor if you get it wet.’
Parenting tip # 4: Plan ahead.
Anticipate the things that could go wrong. Does your child tend to get fussy and bored when you visit relatives? Then bring a coloring book so she can keep busy. Or does she tend do dawdle when you do errands? Allot more time to get things done, or give her an incentive to move faster: ‘If we finish getting groceries by 3 pm, we’ll have time to go to the playground.’ (You can start planning right now, with this article on how to prevent supermarket tantrums.)
Parenting tip # 5: Say sorry.
Parents are human, as I said. And children are remarkably resilient and forgiving. Just say sorry so they know that yelling isn’t right, and that this is not the way you want things to be. ‘I’m sorry I lost my temper. Next time Mommy will use a nicer voice.’ Also assure your kids that you love them even when you are angry. One episode of yelling isn’t going to matter much if, as a whole, you have a loving relationship with your child, and a healthy way of communicating.
Also, be sure to get angry about a specific action, and not attack an aspect of their personality. Don’t say, ‘You’re such a slob!’ Say, ‘Pick up your clothes from the floor.’
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