I hear you, not literally 🙂 , but I hear you. Parenting is hard. Life is busy and stressful and sometimes we yell at our children or spouse and hurt the people we love. We don’t do it on purpose and we feel guilty afterwards. We want to be good models for our children. We pray, try to have more patience and things get better for a little while, but before we know it we’re back into the same pattern.
Why do we yell? There are many reasons why. Sometimes we lose it because that is how we were parented; our parents yelled at us, so when we get frustrated we raise our voice. We just automatically go there. Some of us are parenting children from hard places or children who have special needs. These kids can have extreme difficulty regulating their own emotions and our homes are filled with chaos, constant temper tantrums and aggression. We’re exhausted, so we yell.
Maybe our parenting style is more reactive than intentional. We respond out of frustration to misbehavior rather than planning ahead and trying to anticipate problems. Perhaps we are controlling, not giving our children the gradual freedom they need to grow into adulthood. One way to try to elicit control is through shouting. Fear and worry can also cause moms to go over the edge and scream.
To figure out the reason, it is important to look back, gather clues and track our responses, so we can make an action plan.
It’s also helpful to understand what is going on in our brain when we get triggered, upset and lose control. God created us with both emotion and logic. The seat of our emotions is the limbic system- a set of structures that are located deep within the brain. When we get upset, the amygdala, the part of our limbic system known for processing and expressing strong emotions, takes over and dictates our response. The logical, more rational structure of the brain is known as the pre-frontal cortex. It helps us have thoughtful, calm responses, but is not accessible when the amygdala hijacks our response and takes over.
So what is a parent to do? Do we just sit back, let our emotions take over, and shout at the ones we love? No, fortunately, there is hope and there are solutions! Here are a few:
- Keep track of when you lose it. Write down in a notebook what happened prior. What were you thinking and feeling? If you can figure out why you are yelling, you can take steps to stop. Do you just need to learn a new habit? Do you need to build your skills so you are parenting from a proactive, intentional place rather than a place of reactivity? If you are parenting a child from a hard place, do you need education to understand why they have such difficulty regulating themselves and do you need tools on how to help them regulate?
- When you start to get frustrated, angry and yell, stop and name your feeling. Tell yourself I am feeling ________________. Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry and author of several parenting books, has coined the phrase “name it to tame it”. He says that just naming the feeling is activating the logical portion of the brain and calms the intense emotion so we can settle, think and respond rather than just react.
- Learn mindfulness. Some Christians are skeptical of mindfulness, because they equate this term with the Eastern Buddhist concept of emptying your mind. God created us body, soul and spirit and the type of mindfulness I teach, uses simple, practical exercises to gain awareness of what is happening in the here and now. Learning to be present, aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations and taking a few deep breaths are simple, practical ways to care and calm the bodies that God has given us.
Learning to break the habit of yelling is not always easy, but it is possible, especially with assistance. Our brains are moldable and flexible and can learn new habits at any age. If you need help trying to figure out what is causing you to yell and would like to learn intentional parenting strategies or mindfulness, try parent coaching and contact me today! I’ll be right here, just give me a holler at email@example.com.