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I yelled at them. Now what?

If I told you that I *felt* like yelling at them, I am sure I would be overwhelmed with suggestions that I go for a walk (how, when there's no other adult in the house?) or take a yoga class (with what money?) or go for a run (see item #1) or soak in a bubble bath (at 5pm when I need to get dinner on the table?) or find a friend (see item #1) or get a pedicure (is that a good use of my $20?)....  There are lots of suggestions, I know.  But, you know what?  Sometimes, none of those suggestions work, for one reason or another.  Sometimes, it's just too late.  Sometimes, I end up really friggin strung out.  And, I yell at them.

Yup.  I yell.  I scream, actually.  I am certain the neighbors hear us.  And, sometimes, they scream back at me.  And, me at them.  And so on and so forth.

So, now what?  I've yelled at them for not helping me when I need help, scolded at them for not listening to me when all they're "supposed" to do is listen, made them cry while I cry myself.  It is this awful heap of a household from 6 to 7pm when children are dirty, hungry, tear-stained.  While I regret all the yelling, I can't say that I could actually help it.  What do I do: take a breather, come back, and pretend nothing's happened?  Say "I'm sorry" and move on?  Tell them, "well, next time you should just listen to me!"?  Now that I've yelled at them, now what?


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Wait until you and they are calm and talk about it with them. Apologize for yelling, tell them how you were feeling, invite them to help problem solve how you all can handle the situation differently next time. Don't be overwhelmed by guilt, it isn't productive. Don't judge yourself too harshly.

Oh my, do I feel you today. I actually *didn't* yell at my son today, but I really, really wanted to. And I actually did a few days ago. Naptime is usually what triggers me. Am I the only one who feels totally, beyond enraged at the sight of my 3 yo, jumping gleefully in his crib, smiling at me with the smile that children only smile when they know they are really, really pissing you off?

When I do yell, I try to apologize afterware, genuinely and without strings attached. And tell him I love him. The only way I can salvage the situation is to tell myself that it's a teachable moment: Everyone loses it sometimes and a simple, genuine apology is the best way to make it right.

Yep. Apologize time. And tell them, honestly, how you felt while you were yelling and being yelled at.

The thought has crossed my mind that my son needs to learn that, "uh oh. Momma is really mad. Don't mess with momma" voice. And how will he learn if I don't voice it?

All moms and dads are allowed to blow up every once in a while. While I generally don't apologize for it, I do try to talk to him afterward to tell him how frustrated I was. I'm not sure he gets it yet, but some day he will.

The first four commenters said everything I would have said. Every person needs to be able to feel heard and sometimes in the middle of all the chaos the screams just come out.
Boy do I know how you feel.
And oh my gosh - SJ - it is a relief to find that someone else has mental breakdowns at naptime. Naptime and dinner time really test my limits.
When we have both taken a few breaths, I tell him I love him and that I was frustrated or angry and why. We try to talk about how we each could have made it different. (But not always - he's only 4 but sometimes acts like 14)
I make sure to give lots of hugs and kisses and maybe a few tickles or nose rubs so that we can laugh and reconnect positively. I need that as much as he does I think.

Don't know that I have any grand advice, just grateful that I am not the only Mom losing my cool from time to time.....
Don't beat yourself up. We can only do our best, and that just has to be good enough.

Last weekend, as I was sick as a dog, alone while husband was away for work, I yelled so loudly at my daughter, while she was having one of her "diva moments": screaming at me, not listening and freaking out. And it all took place on the deck. I was sure that CPS would show up at any moment after the neighbors had called them. It went so far into the anger and frustration and impatience that I locked her out of the house (in full view) for at least 1 entire minute. And truth be told, I also grabbed her arm, roughly. Too roughly really. After we had both calmed down I apologized and apologized and so did she and I explained how it feels when she flips out and stops listening.
I felt horrible. So guilty. I continued to apologize until bed time.
I confessed to our babysitter about it a few days later and the sitter said "all she told me about that situation was how much fun she had playing outside in the mud."
Lesson: my loss of control and yelling didn't even stay in her memory.
One really bad moment of parenting does NOT undo 10,000 really good moments of parenting. And its good for kids to know that mom has a breaking point. They don't get to push and push and get away with it. There are times when kids need to see that their parents are human, they get angry, sad, happy, silly, frustrated, sorry...just like they do.

I tell them that mom needs a time out and I go in my room or the bathroom and take a few deep breaths and hold it until my heart rate slows down and I feel a little better, then I can deal with everything better.
When you're in a calm moment, try to look objectively at the worst part of the day to think it through and see if there's anything you can do to make it smoother- like have 6-7 be play dough playtime, or a little tv show for peace's sake while you finish dinner? Maybe snacks with protein at 5:30 so there's not the big pre-dinner low blood sugar frenzy? I know for me, sometimes the littlest things have made the biggest difference, what's hard is having the time/calm/perspective to figure out what those changes are.
One more silly thing- I put a "Happy mix" on my ipod and sometimes even a small dose of my favorite tunes wearing headphones is all it takes to snap me out of that overwhelmed feeling. For a cheaper version, the occasional use of ear plugs for $ 1.29 from Walmart works wonders.
You are definitely not alone!

Love the honesty here... mine are 6 and 2 and I feel myself fighting back the yelling in the morning, trying to get everyone out of the house, with a healthy breakfast, coats, lunch boxes, backpacks, homework and still be on time for school (and to think it is May and I still struggle with this!). It works best when I try to verbalize how I'm feeling before the yelling starts. Something like, "Mom is feeling like we are going to be late and that is upsetting me, can you help?" Or, I walk into a room without kids and take several deep breaths and count to ten while reminding myself that I can get through whatever melt down or tantrum or lack of listening that is frustrating the hell out of me without yelling. Dinner time is also hard, and again I try to take deep breaths, pour a glass of wine, text or call a friend... just knowing I'm not alone in all of this is helpful! And when the yelling happens, I agree with what everyone else has written: Apologize, come up with a plan to deal with it better next time and stick to it... sometimes kids come up with some good ideas (the 6 y-o anyway!) Truth is, mom's have a hell of a job, and kids can really help their job be easier... only problem is, we need to teach them how to do that!

thank you for admitting this. I yell....sometimes a lot more than I actually think I do. I think apologizing is the best and most normal thing you can do. nobody wants to be raised by a perfect mother. perfect mother's create lots of therapy appointments. if children don't see emotions, then they don't know how to express them and sometimes yelling is the only expression that fits the problem.

Oh lordy have I been there on many occasions. It is a relief to know I'm not the only one! Sometimes it does take a time out for all involved to cool down, take a few deep breaths, and then talk about it after the heat of the moment has passed. My kids are pretty good about taking their own kind of time outs in their rooms with books when I need them to. Sometimes it is me in my bedroom taking a few minutes. Whatever it takes, then talk about it after. You can do it!

it's never too late to say sorry, and it goes a long way (hmm, sometimes adults forget this with each other, too!). when i feel myself approaching that edge i let my son know how i'm feeling, and i'm not shy about letting my emotion come through in my voice BEFORE i'm yelling so that he knows i am genuinely upset. and i tell him very clearly what i need him to do: go in another room and find something to do by himself for a little while so that i can ____ (finish dinner, my work, take a breather, whatever it is). then once that is achieved i tell him with hugs and my words how much i appreciate his help. fortunately, all this really seems to work with us most of the time.

This is timely. This is definitely I have been struggling with. Most times I am able to not yell and take a break before I do - but there are definitely times I don't and regret it. I always apologize and try to learn from it - what could I have done different? But I also think we are all human. I struggle with my anger. But its interesting - my husband and I were talking about this the other day. In his family, emotions were completely suppressed and he says his father never raised his voice to them, ever (which I believe knowing the man). My hubby says he hopes to be like this too. But I have to say - his dad, while a truly good person is also one of the stiffest, emotionless people I've ever met. No matter what in all the years we've been together there has been this formality to our relationship with him - it has never felt "real" to me, very surface....and this is because of his lack of emotion. So great, he never yelled....but he never showed affection either. My parents were both screamers....I'm am not emotionally damaged from it and I also knew they loved me, and I could talk to them openly, laugh. cry, etc.....they taught me were are all human, flaws and all - even moms and dads. I'd take that over the ice king any day. ps for the record my hub is affectionate - but definitely struggles with expressing emotions....wonder why??

One thing I have established with my son (and am now working on with my daughter as she gets older and into more mischief) is that even when I am mad, and/or I yell, I still love him. It seemed to be a big fear that when I was angry I withdrew my love and I wanted him to know that that is not the case. It seems to help, and he’ll double check on occasion. Now he tells me when he is upset with me that he still loves me.
But yeah, it happens. We get to the end of whatever length of rope we possess that day. I like the time out idea, for parents, that is.

I am a yeller. I just am. I usually have one outburst and then we apologize and move on with a promise that we will ALL try harder and a hug and a kiss.

The worst for me is the few days a week I pick mine up from daycare before naptime and they have a fit about taking their nap. Makes me nuts, that little time I have on their nap days are crucial in me making any attempt at house keeping, and dang it I need that time!

I love the honesty too. I think guilt tripping your kids is worse than yelling. I have managed to get a handle on the yelling, my oldest is 10, but still working on not sliding into those sneeky guilt trips.

It's a loaded topic!
I remember what it felt like to have a parent yelling at me. It felt intimidating and scary and like they didn't love me. It made me turn off from them, shut down.

I guess I would try to look at why you lose it and yell. You might be *wired* to do it; you may experience a release of stress based on your past, when you yell. Or, you may feel overwhelmed and that you don't know how to handle the situation and the best thing you come up with to shut it down so you can move on is to yell. IT might be a good idea to take a parenting class to give yourself some other tools, in this case. You might just give yourself some time to think about why you feel like yelling at your kids if you don't yell at others when you're angry. It's a hard train of thought to follow.

I'm not saying that I have a superior method, but when I feel anger swell in me, to be honest, despite having angry, yelling, hitting parents myself, I feel sick at the thought of yelling at or hitting my child. I recognize that the anger is a deep emotional reaction in myself, and is not caused by my son. Making him feel as bad as I felt as a child is not something I can do, and that grounds me and connects me with him again, to help see how to respond to what's happening.

Don't beat yourself up.. you are only human. Everyone does it one time or another. I completely relate to it, and know how you feel. I do apologize "after" the fact, and regret not being able to control myself... but, then again, I keep reminding myself, I am only human and I am not perfect. And truth be told, they drive me nuts sometimes!

I know a wonderful man who has three lovely grown kids. Every time I've asked him for advice on how to have a child who turned out as well as his, he's said one thing only: don't be fake. If you act like someone you're not, they'll be able to tell. One part of that, I think, is giving kids a reasonably honest emotional reaction to their behavior. How will they learn not to be irritating if their parents won't show irritation?

I agree with anon, let's not be fake. Let's not put the unfair perfection pressure on ourselves. I am not saying be the raving lunatic you may feel like sometimes, but if you are overcome, they need to see that once in awhile. Mom's not a robot...
And, I usually don't apologize, but I do say in a calmed "nicer" voice... "even when I am angry, even really angry, I still love you and that that will never change, no matter you do."
I am reading a book called "Transforming Your Difficult Child, The Nurtured Heart Approach" and it's really resonating. I felt like I needed some tools to hopefully lessen the occurrences of incidences that seem to incite blow-ups on both sides.
This is the hardest job, by far I have ever had. It straight knocks me out on some days. You are not alone in this!

What a great and honest post! My husband is out of the house most evenings, so I do dinner/bathtime/bedtimes solo most of the time. My daughters are 4 and 2, and most evenings we're in our rhythm, but there are times that it's pure chaos. With my kids, they get more upset if I go into another room to cool off than if I yell, calm down, and then explain myself. I think they're afraid when I hide my emotions from them.

Of course, as a parent I never like feeling out of control, but I spend nearly every moment with my girls. I think it's healthy for them to see that I, like them, get upset. Emotions are very hard to control and sometimes we all lose it. Then we calm down, explain ourselves, and move on.

I love the honesty too. Being fake and never loosing it can't be right. Let's not be fake, AND let's try to make our authentic selves better. And let's be honest too about how we feel when our "worst self" pops up around our kids. It's bound to happen, being around them 24-7, but let's give them a window into our struggle too.

For me, when I lose it, I really really really try to make sure I am yelling things like "I am so frustrated" or "I wish you would listen to me" or something that expresses how I feel rather than something hurtful or name-calling... My kids seem to get the point that I am frustrated or at the end of my rope and that it isn't that I think any less of them. I have heard some parents yell some really awful things at their kids and think it isn't so much the yelling that's bad as the choice of words. I also apologize after I have calmed down, but give a reason why I lost it and how they can help me.

Sometimes it is just really really hard to be a mom. While I doubt anyone would advocate yelling all the time, even if you never yelled at your kids it is no guarantee that they will grow up and like you.


Gottman in WA did research on couples but also with parents and children and found that as long as the ratio of positive to negative interactions is about 4:1 you are probably in good shape. Nobody is perfect and for most of us the ratio is probably a lot better than 4:1.


Hang in there.

I love this post and agree with everyone who has said something along the lines of "I'm glad I'm not the only one!" I remember when my son was about 2, I flipped out from lack of sleep and huge mess in the living room; I yelled and ended up sitting on the floor in tears. He came over and gently put his arm around me and said "It's ok." So sweet, and even though he was probably simply modeling behavior from us, it made me think that on some level he "gets it." I think explaining how you felt goes a long way. Good luck, and don't forget to take some self-care time.

You know what? I don't think yelling is all that bad. As long as it's not ALL the time. I am certainly guilty of it myself and sometimes it is the only thing that stops whatever my 3 and a half year old is doing. We talk about it afterward and discuss how we both had a "meltdown". We tell each other that we love each other and we go on from there. I have heard my daughter say "I need to listen the first time so that mommy doesn't have to yell." And she does listen the first time, most of the time. I don't want to yell on a regular basis, and I don't. However, once in a while it really has an impact and I don't necessarily think it is negative.

I also feel horrible when I yell or lose my cool, or grab an arm too roughly. Like many others, I also apologize once calmed down--I don't apologize for getting angry, but for the yelling, the poor expression of my anger. I recently read one of the Love and Logic books and that has helped me see that I need to manipulate the situation so that it works for me, as well as for the kids. I've had a lot of success lately keeping calm by giving the kids choices that work for me (if they don't choose one of the options, I choose for them): Rather than "quit bothering your sister," something like "mama needs to make dinner right now. Do you want to do playdough in the kitchen with me or play with your trains?"
Sometimes if we're all grumpy and things are headed towards meltdowns, I'll separate us all into separate rooms with a quiet activity for 5 or 10 min. That seems to reset our moods a bit and gives me a chance to take a breath before I lose it, do something for me for a minute, and figure out something we can all do together happily when we come back together.
Good luck and lots of patience to us all!

Not that she's the paragon of parenting or anything, but I have always held on to this quote by Reese Witherspoon, "If you're not yelling, you are not spending enough time with your kids."

Being descended from a long-line of people from Queens, NY (the yelling capital of the world--the people there yell as a form of talking), DH and I are just loud. I mean, real loud. And with three kids, sometimes we need to yell just to be heard.

As far as yelling in anger, I've noticed if I raise my voice/yell at my oldest child, he'll step to right away. My second is so much more sensitive, and if I slightly raise my voice he shuts down. So we have this situation where I feel like I yell at the older one more than the other. (Although, to be fair, it is not just in this aspect that they are treated differently. They are different people who are motivated by different things.)

Like another poster mentioned, I do try to yell things like, "If this room isn't cleaned up soon, I'm gonna really lose it" as opposed to something like, "You lazy kid, why can't you do anything right?"

I really hate to admit it, but when I get extremely frustrated and feel "out of control" I will yell from time to time. I agree with what everyone is saying about showing our children our authentic selves and I too explain that "even if I'm angry I still love you and that is never going to change." Many, many times I have to apologize to my boys for losing my temper. Rosemary, I too think it's important to look at why we yell. When I was little both my mom and dad yelled. After my Dad left us my Mom kind of snapped and she was constantly stressed out(understandably so) and would yell at us all the time. I went to therapy for seven years when I was in my 20's and single and that helped me realize where my anger came from but therapy or not I still yell. I have to try to remember they are just little kids and I have to take lots of deep breaths during the day.

In some ways, I think having the occasional meltdown myself actually makes me a *better* parent. It helps me to be more sympathetic when my daughter loses her cool. Likewise, I think it does the same for her; it lets her see that there's not something wrong with her not being able to keep it all together all of the time, but it's a learning process that *all* of us have to go through. No one is perfect at all times, and that's an important lesson for both of us.

Many of us can empathize with the yelling, me included. It's an important part of the journey to ask why we're yelling and how to get help. I really liked Rosemary's post. As for what to do 'in the moment', you could ask yourself how you'd feel if THIS was the memory they imprint of you as a parent (not to guilt trip yourself but to make yourself more aware of the situation)? I know I can certainly remember many of my parent's 'worst' moments and they'd be happy if I forgot them. For me, removing myself from the situation almost never works because my child fears I'm abandoning her (which has never happened--must just be a primal fear of hers) and sticks to me like glue which never helps. So I've had to learn to take a time-out with forced (at first) relaxing (mindful) breaths or even 'fake' smiling (which can trick our brains into feeling better even when we don't) to ride through the moment right in her presence--hard.

I'm actually reading some books on coping with Anger. Thich Nhat Hanh recommends looking in a mirror when you're angry to become aware of how you look. Might as well know what face you're showing your kid(s) and remembering how horrible it looks might be a good deterrent.

One thing I've realized is whenever I've felt like I'm losing it and yell about something and then look back in retrospect--it was NEVER worth it. I wish I could just reserve the yelling for the immediate dangers (kid in street with speeding car coming!) which fortunately are rare. Sometimes, thinking that my neighbor CAN hear me is a good deterrent. Maybe open the windows more now that the weather is nice or even pretend that you're on video or something. Anything that brings awareness might make you search harder for an alternative. Read books to find alternatives.

I always try to make a genuine apology if I lose my cool. When I'm having a good moment ;-) I try to talk about how I'm working to not yell. One time, my child actually mentioned that she'd noticed I hadn't been yelling as much! I still have a lot of work to do though but I can totally commiserate with your experience.

IT's all been said, but I want to add THANK YOU to the person who started this conversation. Parents don't seem to talk about this and I have been there and it's just nice to hear others are human, too. You seem to have a handle on this and are strong enough to post it, so congrats--you're doing better than you may think!

I agree with everything said; and also thank everyone for talking about the giraffe in the room of parenting.
I occasionally yell. I am not proud, but I am not ashamed. I do not think it is immoral to yell at our children. As equipped as I am with many tools, books, education, and self-care sometimes I do feel that yelling is what is left, and it is okay. Parenting is an intense relationship. People yell. I do not think it wise to hide things from children that are a good lesson; getting mad in a healthy manner and recovering is a vital life lesson.
When I yell I try to stop as soon as I start, I do not name call, I do not guilt trip. I try to yell what I need or what is pertinent to the situation. I also have breast feed, co-slept, carried my child close to me in a sling despite my own chiropractic health, attachment parented, stayed home, fed my child well. I have been and continue to be a mindful parent.
My parents yelled, they were not abusive or anger addicts. But, sometimes they yelled. I had a wonderful childhood, and continue to have a wonderful, close relationship with my parents. Looking back, I can see how we pushed my parents to their outer limits and that yelling was sometimes a part of discipline and a way to bring us in line.
I do not think that it is healthy to harbor so much guilt and strive for so much perfection, it sets us up for misery. We do the best we can, and that is good enough. We strive to do better, that is more than enough. Our children are lucky, and we are blessed.

Almost two months later... I keep meaning to take back how I said, I usually don't apologize. I absolutely offer an apology when one is needed.
It's been buggin' me...

Hmmm...thanks for bumping this up on Facebook. I was really surprised at the responses. I'm the dissenting voice here, I guess. I don't yell. The one or two times I've even remotely raised my voice in anger my children have cried. It really messed me up. I don't have any special techniques...no yoga, no internal conversations, no breathers...just a rule that I won't talk my children in a way that intimidates them like that. I honestly don't think it's okay. If I'm in a place where I feel I need to yell, I know the problem is mine (disorganization, poor planning on MY part). I agree with the post above that discusses how scary it is when you're a kid and your parent yells. I wouldn't underestimate the damage it can cause, especially when it's on a regular basis. This is coming from the daughter of a major yeller. I loathed it as a child and still do now.

I hate that special moments are either preceded or followed by yelling makes me cry every time I have a hard time believing those who say they don't yell ever at their children we all sin and fall short of the glory of God my biggest fear is that I will never get past this point with my children I hope I can be one of those unbelievable parents whondont yell I have 4 under four one in utero and I am sick with heartburn and contractions I homeschool and my husbandbworks long hours I'm convinced my neighbors think I'm crazy and my children will disown me oh I pray the Lord cleanse all of us. I hate it when the kids say I want daddy or that I am mean oh I want to be a better mommy.

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