This past week, I wrote this post about an incident I witnessed in the grocery store in which a mother yelled at her child because he touched a box of cereal. The whole scene grieved me deeply. I too have yelled at my kids or said things I shouldn’t have said.
Immediately after I published the post, I began receiving e-mail messages and comments saying, “I am that mother. Help me.”
I was amazed at the honesty in those messages, and the common threads that ran through them. Each mother felt guilty, helpless, overwhelmed, ashamed, and at a loss as to how to stop the cycle of yelling in her home.
I promised to put together a list and some resources to help. If you would like to be the person who stops the cycle of verbal abuse in your home, please read on for some practical ways to make a start.
25 Tips for Moms Who Yell
- Focus on your heart.
The Bible tells us, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Ugly words indicate a heart in need of repair.
Spend time in God’s Word every single day, mending your heart. Fill it with good things so good things flow out of your mouth. If possible, get up before your children so you have time to read and meditate without distraction.
- Memorize (and believe!) 2 Peter 1:3.
This verse says, “His divine power [the same power that raised Christ from the dead!] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”
This includes the ability to keep from yelling at our children. When you are tempted to yell at your children, ask yourself, “What resource does God have available to me right now that I’m failing to use?”
- Confess the truth of your condition out loud.
Say, “I am a mom who yells at her children.”
Satan loves to keep us cowering in the dark. Do not give him the power of guilt and shame. Bring your sin into the light where God can begin to heal you and restore your relationships with your children.
Gather your children around you and tell them you are sorry. Tell them you have been wrong. Perhaps you have trained them to speak ugly words back to you. Repent of the fact that you have been actively passing your sin on to them.
Pray out loud and with your children, if possible, so they can hear you interceding for yourself and for your family before God. Any time you are tempted to yell, stop and pray. Be honest about it. Say, “Kids, I am really tempted to yell right now so I’m going to stop and pray for God’s strength.” You will be amazed at what that transparency does for your relationship with God and your children.
- Be legalistic.
You heard me. Don’t give yourself wiggle-room. Don’t accept excuses from yourself. If you mess up and yell, repent, but don’t justify yourself or downplay your actions. Own them, and strive to do better the next day, with God’s help.
- Seek accountability.
Find at least one adult with whom you can share your struggle. If you are married to a good and godly man, allow him to shepherd you in this area. If not, seek out your mother, sister, pastor, godly friend—anyone who has the spiritual discernment to help you deal with your sin.
- Check-in daily.
Do not wait for your accountability partner to ask you how things are going. It is not his job to manage this sin for you, nor should you use his lack of follow-up as an excuse to cower in the shadows again. You brought this sin into the light. Keep it there. Make it a habit to tell your accountability partner about your progress before he asks.
- Keep short accounts.
At the end of each day, do a self-analysis. Repent when you need to repent, and praise God for any growth you see.
- Seek outside evaluation.
Sometimes, we need to hear ourselves the way others hear us. Your kids can help with the instant replay. Ask them, “How did I do today? Did you hear me sounding angry?” Getting their feedback will help you maintain an honest perspective on yourself. Asking them for it will help them feel safe with you as you work through your struggle.
- Learn your triggers.
Become a student of yourself. What makes you want to yell?
Take note of times of day, dietary triggers (I feel more emotionally unstable when I eat sugar, for example), repeating circumstances (PMS, anyone?), or any other patterns in your life that have led up to you losing it in the past or present. Keeping track of these things can help you be prepared to face or avoid them.
If you notice that you yell when it’s time to get the kids ready to leave the house, plan for it. Get up a little earlier, put clothes out, have the oatmeal in the crock pot the night before, actually dress the dawdling child yourself, even if he’s in fourth grade, for heaven’s sake–do whatever it takes to keep your cool.
- Always give the person in the room priority (FYI: children are people).
This means your child gets priority over Facebook, the text conversation you’re having, or even the phone that’s ringing. You will be less frustrated with your child if he does not have to come up with ways to make himself your priority.
- Look at your child when he talks to you.
Put down your phone, close your screen, and give him your full attention. Do not think, “My child is interrupting me.” Think, “This (other less-important thing ) is interrupting my child.”
Sometimes, you will be in the middle of something that cannot be paused while your child talks. In that case, ask your child to wait but honor her waiting by getting to a stopping point as soon as possible.
Often, we tell our children to wait but then forget about them. We do not stop our task as soon as possible, or we do not stop at all and only half-listen while they speak. Then we become frustrated when our children continue to pester and annoy because they never really felt heard and we didn’t really listen.
Let them feel heard first, and you will be less frustrated later.
- Say please, and say it first.
Putting please at the beginning of any demand turns it into a request, and requests are much harder to yell and much more pleasant to hear. Which would you rather hear? Come here! or, Please come here.
Your children are no different. Please sounds nicer to them, too.
A good rule of thumb is to speak to your children with the same respect and courtesy you would speak to any adult. If you wouldn’t say it to your neighbor, don’t say it to your child.
- Train your children.
Giving your children healthy boundaries and realistic rules and then consistently enforcing them is one of the ways you raise successful adults. It’s also one of the ways you rear enjoyable children.
If your children have habits or behaviors that irritate or frustrate you, consider whether or not those behaviors can be altered. Some behaviors cannot, based on the child’s ability and/or nature, but many can. Accept the quirks you can’t change and lovingly work on the ones you can.
- Do not use yelling in place of necessary discipline.
This one’s in here just for me. I am most tempted to yell when I am avoiding disciplining a child like I know I should. I warn. I warn some more. I lecture. But too often, I do not actually dole out the consequences the child has earned for the behavior he has chosen until I am at the point of frustration.
That’s too late.
In order to avoid yelling, I need to discipline my children immediately and dispassionately whenever it is necessary. If I am lazy about it, or if I warn and wait, I am tempting myself to yell. All of that can be avoided if I just parent like I’m supposed to the first time.
- Carry your words with your feet, not with your volume.
In other words, whenever possible, go to your child and speak to him in a reasonable tone. Do not shout out blanket threats and commands just because you do not want to get up and take care of a situation, or because you don’t want to take the time to figure out what is actually going on. That’s lazy parenting, and in the end, it will cost you a close relationship with your child.
- Similarly, use your hands to redirect behaviors instead of your mouth.
This works especially well with little ones. Rather than yelling, “Put that down! Put that down! I said, ‘Put that down!’” go and remove the object from the child’s hands. It really is that simple.
Another great diffuser is a hug. When you feel like yelling, stop and hug your child. Hold on to that kid until you both remember that you’re not enemies.
- Dwell on the good.
Think about all the great things about your child. Write them down and slip a note under your child’s door. Speak them out loud, and let your child eavesdrop. Or, say them around the dinner table and tell them to your husband when he first walks in the door instead of vomiting complaints on him. Reminding yourself of your child’s strengths will help you be less frustrated with her weaknesses.
Let go of the sins your child does against you. Ultimately, they are not sins against you at all, but against God. There is no need to keep a record of his wrongs, and even less reason to spit them back out at the end of the day. All this does is feed the anger and resentment that results in yelling. You can feel that anger start to build as soon as you begin to repeat your child’s offenses, can’t you?
Forgive. Then forget.
- Let your children be children.
Do not hold your children to expectations they cannot achieve. They will be a little wiggly in church. They will not whisper. They will put fingers in their noses. They will touch all the things. They’re kids, and that kid-ness doesn’t reflect badly on you. How you respond to it does.
If you’re not sure if your expectations for your children are too high or too low, talk to other parents. Observe other children and compare them to your own, being sure to account for things like handicaps and abilities. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and if you err, err on the side of grace.
- Plug in to a community.
Parenting is hard. It can also be isolating, especially if you have a difficult or strong-willed child. If you find yourself losing it with your kids, it is very important that you nurture relationships with people who can understand and encourage you. Go to church, join a small group, find a parenting group, or follow an online support group like The Orange Rhino.
- Fill your tank.
It’s amazing what a little rest can do. Don’t wait until you’re totally depleted to recharge. Work with your spouse to find time for yourself, or trade a few hours of childcare with another parent.
If you’re a single parent, don’t underestimate the power of a movie night! Put a movie in for the kids and take the time to do something that refreshes you. Dream a little. Play. Find the you that has gotten lost in the dirty laundry pile. Doing some things just for you will help to dissolve some of the anger and frustration that can build up in the child-rearing years.
- Get resources.
Besides the Orange Rhino community, which is not a faith-based resource, check out these two great books written by women I respect greatly. Both of these are fantastic reads for moms who struggle with the very exhausting aspects of parenting.
The first is Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst. The subtitle says it all: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.
The second is Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. Desperate is how we feel some days when parenting is hard, isn’t it? These women get it, and their books can help encourage you when you are at your wit’s end.
*Disclosure: both of the links above are affiliate links, although I certainly did not recommend them for that reason.
- Finally, don’t give up.
It can be agonizing and difficult to overcome our sinful tendencies, but it is so worth it. I am reminded often that my children do not need to learn how to be perfect. They need to learn how to fail. They will never be perfect, but they will fail over and over again throughout their lives. They need me to demonstrate how a woman of God deals with her imperfections because they are imperfect too, and they will spend their lives struggling with sin just as I have. They need to see my transparency, my repentance, and my growth in Christ. They need to see me get back up and try again because they will need to do the same.
When you fail, don’t give up. Just get up, and try again.
Together, we can overcome this sin in Christ Jesus. If you have anything to add to the list, please include it in the comments below so we can all learn and grow together.