How To Stop Yelling At Your Children
While being an accountant comes with its own set of unique challenges, being an accountant AND a mom can be a very difficult balancing act, both physically, mentally and emotionally. There are so many expectations placed on you professionally, often making your energy and patience dwindle considerably when you are home with your family.
When you’ve been spending so much mental energy at work, it can be tough to come home and deal with the demands of raising children while also creating a home environment that offers you a “soft place to fall” at the end of the day. I’ve yet to meet a mother that didn’t yell at her children at various times, for various reasons.
I actually know a mother who would walk around her house closing all the windows before she would yell at her children because she didn’t want the neighbors to hear. If her children saw her closing the windows, they knew that trouble was brewing.
While it’s a nice idea to never yell at your children, we also have to be realistic. The reason it’s challenging to stop yelling at your children is because it works; whatever they were doing that was bothering, frustrating or scaring you, usually stops when mom raises her voice.
After a stressful day at work, yelling at your 5 year old when they won’t put on their pajamas after you’ve asked them a dozen times, often gets the job done. You might feel bad afterwards and tell yourself that you want to stop yelling at your children and be more patient with them, but the next time bedtime rolls around and they don’t have their pajamas on again, the best of intentions often get thrown out the window in the name of peace and quiet.
Most of the moms I know and that I speak to, will say they want to stop yelling at their children and that it’s not how they want to show up as moms, especially when they’re working moms who aren’t spending 24/7 with their children. They explain that they’re good at refraining from yelling at times, but other times they revert back to yelling and don’t understand why.
The question I often hear is, “Why can’t I stop doing things I don’t want to do?” Why is it that we are sometimes very rational and logical, but at other times we’re more irrational, emotional and reactionary?
Even though your reason to stop yelling at your children might be for your own sake and to show up for your children in a way that represents who you truly want to be in their lives, another compelling reason might also be for the sake of your children. A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development showed that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children, including increased levels of anxiety, stress, depression and increase in behavioral problems.
Let me be clear that you are NOT a bad mom if you yell at your children, but you might want to consider the effects it’s having on you and on them. If you are looking to understand why yelling has become a habit for you and how to break that habit, then this episode is going to be helpful
This week I’m going to discuss the reasons why yelling can become such a powerful habit and how to begin to break the habit of yelling at your children.
The reason why yelling can become such a powerful habit
It can be challenging to sometimes look at other moms and think they’ve got it all together and that you’re just a hot mess. You may see these other moms with their children, seeming to handle the challenges of motherhood like Mary Poppins, never raising their voice or breaking a sweat, and wonder why you can’t be more like that.
The truth is that the version most of us want you to see in person or in social media, is rarely sustainable, or the reality of life with children. I bet if you were a fly on the wall in most of the homes of the working moms in your neighborhood, you’d see a mom just trying to do her best, but you’d also probably see frustration, some chaos, and some yelling.
Growing up, my mom really didn’t yell much at all, which made it even harder for me when I became a mom because I was always comparing myself to her. If I got frustrated at my son for once again using every Ace bandage in the house to tie up all the furniture and I yelled at him to stop, I would feel a pang of shame, feeling that I wasn’t living up to my mom’s parenting example or her level of patience.
Maybe you grew up in a home where there was a lot of yelling and when you became a mom you decided that you didn’t want to repeat the same behavior. Unfortunately, you may have found yourself reverting back to what’s familiar, wondering why you can’t just break the pattern you saw growing up.
Whether you yell a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter because you have a human female brain that has been coding and creating programs in the hard drive of your mind for a very long time. The autopilot part of your brain is responsible for your survival, but it also pays attention to the things that you think, feel and do regularly, memorizing them in order to be as efficient as possible.
This autopilot part of your brain is the reason you can drive the same route to work every day and not really have to think about what you’re doing. You’ve created a thought/feeling/action coded pattern in your brain so that you easily know what to do at 8 am on a Tuesday as opposed to 10 am on a Saturday.
While this autopilot is responsible for making sure you breathe and other basic survival things needed to keep you alive, it’s also always on the lookout for trouble and for physical and emotional danger. The fascinating thing is that it doesn’t know the difference between a tiger about to eat you or a child making a mess, tying up furniture with Ace bandages.
It’s also important to know that although your accountant brain is incredibly smart, it’s also constantly memorizing thinking patterns as well as emotions, making unconscious habits possible. The autopilot part of your brain wants you to do the same things you’ve always done because it’s easy and doesn’t require much effort.
Therefore, when you come home after a long day at work, wanting to relax and unwind with your family, and your children aren’t following your rules, the stress created in your brain triggers a danger signal. When that happens, the only option this part of the brain has in this seemingly “dangerous” situation is to reach for the coding from the past and do what it’s always done, or what’s worked in the past, often having you yell without even thinking about it.
This is why it can be so challenging when you would like to stop a certain behavior, like yelling, but only realize after the fact that you fell back into your habit. It’s as if you don’t even realize what you’re doing until it’s done and you start questioning yourself and maybe even beating yourself up.
The reason this happens is because the autopilot part of your brain is like the default settings on your computer, running in the background and not making itself known until there’s something that isn’t working or something you want to change. But just like with your computer, you have to manually go in and change the default setting or else it will revert back to the factory installed settings.
This default setting in your brain is created by the repetitive thought/feeling/action patterns that you didn’t even realize you were creating. It’s the reason why you may know a lot of things intellectually, but you don’t always understand why you feel the way you do, or do what you do sometimes.
On the one hand, this autopilot makes life so much easier because there’s way less energy you have to expend thinking about breathing, digesting and walking. But on the other hand, it also takes over when you’re stressed, tired or hormonal, not always choosing behaviors you would choose in the moment, if you realized you had a choice.
So in order to stop yelling at your children, you just need to become aware of and change the settings on the hard drive of your brain to give you the results you really want, rather than the results you currently have.
How to break the habit of yelling at your children
The key to understanding how to change a behavior is that your brain is naturally not on board because it resists change. Your brain’s desire for homeostasis, or stability, means it likes the default settings to stay the same because change takes effort, planning and rewiring your brain.
The key to changing a habit is recognizing that since you created the result you currently have, you can also create a new result. Your current habit of yelling didn’t just happen overnight therefore creating a new habit will take effort but once achieved, it will become unconscious, effortless and your new default setting.
The first step in changing any habit is first acknowledging the behavior, without adding a layer of self-judgment on top of it. To give yourself the best chance of changing the habit of yelling, you have to acknowledge, just to yourself if you want, that while it might be normal in this stressful world we all live in, it’s also a habit you’d actually like to change.
It’s important to know that you really don’t even have to go back into your past to try to figure out when your habit started and why. The only thing I’m going to suggest you do is decide you want to change it and look forward, not backwards.
What’s done is done; it’s not really useful to dredge up all the times you wished you hadn’t yelled or that you wished you had handled something differently. What matters is that you want to work on breaking the habit now, going forward.
So again, the autopilot part of your brain is protective when it senses danger, even if that “danger” is a child stressing you out because they won’t put on their pajamas, and it’s only concerned with what is immediate and easy. Therefore, let me be crystal clear that nothing is wrong with you if you’ve been yelling, you just have a human female brain that is doing what it’s supposed to do.
But the good news is that you also have a higher part of your female brain that knows that the long-term effects of yelling at your children may not be ideal. This part of your brain is able to observe the settings on the hard drive, uncover what is happening in the autopilot part of the brain, and then change those settings by choosing which ones work and which ones don’t.
In order to break the habit of yelling at your children, you have to be willing to take a look at the emotions driving the behavior of yelling, and the thoughts creating that emotion. Before you yell, there is always a feeling that fuels that action, and there is always a thought that creates that feeling.
So the real reason you are yelling at your children actually has nothing to do with your children, and everything to do with the thoughts and emotions that are fueling the action of yelling. This can be challenging to realize at first, but I promise you, this will be a game changer for you and your children if you allow yourself to be open to this awareness.
In order to discover the real reason you are yelling at your children and break the habit of yelling, I suggest you do this in 3 stages:
Stage 1 – After the fact – after you have yelled at your children, take a few non-judgmental minutes to look at what you were thinking and feeling prior to yelling. For example, the thought might be “I have to yell or they won’t do what I asked them to do” or “This shouldn’t be so hard”. Once you’ve uncovered the thought, you need to question how that thought makes you feel. Does it make you feel frustrated, annoyed, impatient? Give yourself some time in Stage 1 because the more you notice what you were thinking and how you were feeling, the easier it will be to move into Stage 2. Be curious in Stage 1, rather than frustrated with yourself.
Stage 2 – Redirection – now that you’ve spent some time after the fact, becoming aware of the thoughts you most often think prior to yelling, you then have the opportunity to use the higher part of your brain to question those thoughts and choose better feeling thoughts on purpose. You could choose a thought like “No matter what, I will not yell” or “This is the part where they don’t want to go to bed”. Sometimes you’ll be able to choose your redirect thought in the middle of a situation and sometimes you won’t realize it until after the fact, but as you give yourself time in Stage 2 and get better at that, you’ll find some new ways to get your children to do what you want or need them to do. Again, be open and curious in Stage 2, even when you still find yourself yelling. Give yourself some time to understand your default settings and what triggers them.
Stage 3 – New default – now that you’ve discovered the thoughts and feelings fueling the yelling, you’ve redirected your thoughts using your higher brain and choosing better thoughts on purpose, and you’ve practiced this new way of thinking, feeling and behaving, you have begun to change the default setting on the autopilot part of your brain. This is when you will notice that you rarely yell anymore because you’ve changed the patterning in your brain. Your brain’s autopilot knows that not yelling is what you do more often now.
Let me assure you that learning how to stop yelling at your children is not linear; you will find yourself going back and forth between stages 1, 2 and 3 depending on the situation, the child, your level of stress and other factors, but thankfully you now have the tool to change that behavior. Whether you do it for your sake or theirs, you can stop yelling at your children and change the autopilot part of your brain for a much easier and less bumpy flight.
- The reason it’s challenging to stop yelling at your children is because it works; whatever they were doing that was bothering, frustrating or scaring you, usually stops when mom raises her voice.
- Let me be clear that you are NOT a bad mom if you yell at your children, but you might want to consider the effects it’s having on you and on them.
- Whether you yell a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter because you have a human female brain that has been coding and creating programs in the hard drive of your mind for a very long time.
- To give yourself the best chance of changing the habit of yelling, you have to acknowledge, just to yourself if you want, that while it might be normal in this stressful world we all live in, it’s also a habit you’d actually like to change.