“Kids, can you please help me? I feel like I’m about to lose my cool and need your ideas.”
Fear of losing control.
Fear of not having the answers.
Fear of raising entitled kids.
Fear of judgment.
Fear of someone getting hurt.
Fear of chaos.
Fear of being wrong.
So what if I told you that if you’re a yeller (like I was), that it would serve you well to learn how to be scared with integrity—how to feel fear without panicking, and how to be afraid with confidence.
Doing this results in modeling the same thing for our kids, which teaches them over time how to slow down and feel instead of avoiding the emotion. It also allows us to succeed at changing this behavior pattern that we so desperately want to switch up.
The next time your little ones do something that lights the fire of rage in you, consider these 10 phrases that will help you pause, breathe and respond, instead of reacting in fear. Many of them you may choose to say internally, but remember that saying them out loud in front of your children is a beautiful way to model for your kids how to process emotions in a healthy way.
1. “I don’t know what to do, and that’s okay.”
Take a break from: “STOP IT NOW…OR ELSE!”
Example: “I don’t know what to do to get you to stop fighting, and that’s okay. I’m learning, you’re learning, we’re all learning.”
Explained: Many of us take birthing, breastfeeding and CPR classes before our kids become toddlers, but parenting classes on how to influence another human being with integrity (how to get our littles to do what we ask of them) usually aren’t on the list. So knowing how to handle misbehavior, irrational requests, hard to stomach attitudes and sibling squabbles doesn’t always come naturally.
Take a break from: “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LISTEN? I AM SO SICK OF THIS.”
Example: “My kids are strong, I am strong, we are okay (even though it seems like there’s a three-alarm fire in our house)… so I will take steps to respond.”
Explained: Our fears about “what if our kids never learn” can kick into high gear when misbehavior and emotions start to soar. In a calm time, cement this belief system that your kids are incredibly smart and learning every day about life…as are you. Even though it seems like there’s a fire drill when misbehavior arises, it usually isn’t the case, and you can take steps to respond (instead of reacting like a volcano).
Creating this space between the stimulus (their misbehavior) and your response (how you handle the situation) is essential to breaking a yelling habit.
3. “I need your help.”
Take a break from: “I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE AND THAT IS RIDICULOUS…DO THIS NOW OR ELSE!”
Example: “I’m feeling overwhelmed and angry and don’t want to yell…I need your help.”
Explained: Kids (especially “power kids” who are built with a strong desire to lead) have healthy needs that are important we pour into. The need to feel powerful, the need to feel valuable, and the need to feel like they belong all play into their behavior (and misbehavior).
Engaging their help in times of chaos empowers them while also helping us to lighten our load. Teaching them that it’s ok to ask for help, and that problems don’t have to be solved alone are essential lessons that all children need to learn.
4. “I’m going to take some time to calm down, so I don’t do something I regret.”
Take a break from: “YOU MAKE ME YELL. IF YOU WOULD LISTEN, I WOULDN’T HAVE TO RAISE MY VOICE.”
Example: “I can feel myself spiraling out of integrity, so I’m going to go into the bedroom to calm down, and then I'll come back to talk about this.”
Explained: The fear of being out of control can cause us to yell when we don’t acknowledge how much feeling “out of control” scares us. Take notice when you’re starting to sense that tornado sensation and take a moment to calm the storm.
Light a candle, go to the bathroom, read a page of your favorite magazine, turn on an essential oil mister, or simply sit on the stairs and take a few deep breaths with your hand on your heart. Creating this self-calming space to allow yourself to feel and move through the fear will do wonders to guide you to have cleaner action when you head back to deal with the misbehavior at hand.
5. “I feel scared that __________, I am not okay with ________.”
Take a break from: “YOU ARE GOING TO GET HURT, I SAID STOP IT…NOW!!!!”
Explained: Using "I" statements shows your kids what it looks like to take responsibility for your own feelings instead of using "you" statements that often make others feel accused and combative. Expressing feelings in this way helps your kids understand why your limit exists and the reason it’s so important they listen. It also helps you feel heard while being firm with your limits.
6. “Freeze…_______________ (ask for what you want).”
Take a break from: “STELLA…NO! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?”
Example: “FREEZE…I need you to walk in the parking lot like a turtle.”
Explained: Consider replacing general commands with specific action requests that give kids clear directions on what you want them to do. When we take a break from yelling at kids with what we don't want them to do and replace it with a clear, firm call-to-action their little brains visualize that behavior (instead of thinking about what they’re tempted to do).
7. “I feel angry and it’s okay.”
Take a break from: “WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, WHY AM I SUCH A MEAN MOM?”
Example: “I feel angry and that’s okay because anger is a healthy, human emotion.”
Explained: Anger is one of the five basic feelings that guide us in life and that other emotions stem from, not a “bad emotion,” or one we should be ashamed of in any way. Anger helps protect us from danger and can move us to action when injustice is present. However, our fear of anger and the actions we take when it is present is what often creates problems in our lives.
Viewing anger as good (not a negative emotion that should be hidden) allows us to move through it with integrity, instead of trying to avoid it. To help process this strong emotion, consider using a stress ball or doing 20 push-ups if you’re a mover by nature, writing in your journal if you’re visual, or (who you know will listen) if you lean towards audio learning.
8. “What am I scared of?”
Take a break from: “NOOOOOO, I SAID NOOOOOOOOO!”
Example: “What am I scared will happen if I don’t yell?”
Explained: When we think that yelling is the only way to get their attention or make them stop, it’s helpful to pause and figure out what it is exactly we fear won’t happen if we are gentle with our words and actions. After you identify this, you can communicate to your kids in a clearer way about what you want (vs. focusing on what you fear will happen), which helps you focus on your strength instead of your fear (a much more joyful way to live!).
9. “Kids, can you please help me? I feel like I’m about to lose my cool and need your ideas.”
Take a break from: “THAT’S IT, I’M DONE! TIME OUT! NOW!
Example: “Kids, can you please help me? Remember how I told you I’m trying my best to stop yelling, but right now, I feel like I’m about to lose it…I need your ideas on how I can keep my cool!”
Explained: After a few months of modelingand teaching self-control strategies, your kids will become great teachers that can help you remember to walk the talk when you feel like you’re going to implode. You have to remember to ask them though!
10. “I am strong, capable and have a choice.”
Take a break from: “I’m never going to change, I am just a pistol and nothing else works with my kids.”
Example: “I am strong (even though I fail sometimes) and capable (even though I doubt myself), and I have a choice (even though I feel like my back is up against a wall).”
Explained: Be sure to journal or record in a baby book the times when you kill it as a mom—the times when you set out to be patient, and you succeed, and the times when you choose kindness and compassion. Successes like those, no matter how small, define you as the strong, incredible and amazing momma you are.
Stay in learning to make sure your tool-kit is always full, and be sure to take a moment to say an “I am” statement like this one, as they can help you reset, power up, and self-guide the future you want to create.
You might also like:
- How I stopped yelling + became a calmer mama
- Deep breaths and mama mantras —5 ways to keep it together during toddler tantrums
- To the mamas who don’t feel like they’re enough: This one’s for you