I always say that I am a “recovered yeller.” I used to yell a lot at my kids. I knew that I had to stop, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. That is why I started reading parenting books (and I have never stopped).
I tried to glean as much from them as I could. I looked for any tips that I could use to help me parent in a calmer way. Here are six tips to help you stop the yelling and get a hold of your anger:
1. Take Care of Yourself:
This seems too simple to even mention, but it is so critical. If we are not taking care of ourselves, (and so often we, as parents, aren’t), we are more susceptible to becoming angry. That means different things for different people, but usually we all need to get enough sleep, eat right, cultivate a hobby, and make some time to socialize. When you feel yourself getting angry, your first step might be to wonder what kind of self-care is being neglected. For myself, being tired is one of the things that triggers my anger. It is harder for me to control my temper if I have not gotten a good night’s sleep. Ditto for being hungry and not getting outside for some fresh air.
I try to keep those things in check as much as I can.
It is also helpful to let your kids know how you are feeling. At those times, I warn my kids: “Guys, I am not feeling well/tired/hungry. I don’t have a lot of patience right now. I am going to need a lot of cooperation.” They are usually pretty helpful and kind after I let them know how I am feeling.
2. Get an Anger Buddy:
Pirkei Avot says, “Acquire yourself a friend.” This is even more important when you are trying to improve any negative character trait.
To get a handle on your anger, you might want to find a friend to help you talk through your feelings. This way you have a healthy outlet. Ideally, you want someone who will validate your feelings and help you gain some perspective. You also want to make sure she or he does not let you wallow in your negative feelings but forces you to see the good in the situation.
I have one such friend and her support has been invaluable.
3. Silent Scream:
Yelling, is a really hard habit to break. There is definitely a release of stress when you yell. (Although the guilt you feel after usually cancels it out.) So instead of yelling out loud and getting everyone upset, you can relieve tension by silently screaming. It really works! Just open your mouth, as if you are going to yell, but not have anything come out. You might look a little scary, so its probably best you turn away from your kids or go into another room.
4. Muscle Tension Release:
Similarly, there is a mindfulness technique called muscle tension release. It’s actually a great activity to do along with children. You tense up your muscles by squeezing them and then release them, which in turn relaxes you. It can be very calming for both you and, even your child. You can make it into a game and guide your child to act like a robot and tense up all the muscles in their body (or different body parts, like arms, legs, face, individually) for 10-15 seconds, then tell them to imagine they are a rag doll with all loose muscles for 10-15 seconds.
You can repeat this several times. However, if you are too frustrated for games, and just trying to soothe yourself, simply squeezing your hands into fists and releasing them can help.
Another mindfulness exercise that works is visualization. The most simple and practical exercise to do, is to just imagine your happy place. Conjuring up an image of the lake where you spent your childhood summers or a pretty sunset can help you calm yourself in the heat of the moment.
One of the easiest ways to change your mood is to crank up the music. Listening to something upbeat can make you feel instantly happy while listening to some classical music can alleviate any stress that you might be feeling.
Getting a hold of our anger can be tough. These six techniques: taking care of yourself, confiding in a good friend, screaming silently, listening to music and practicing mindfulness can help.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.