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When you start out in this journey of motherhood you never imagine that you could yell at your kids. I mean, they are your precious babies, so innocent and sweet.

Then your sweet baby grows to be a toddler then a preschooler and starts pushing limits and testing your patience. You soon realize that maybe you aren't that perfectly patient parent you thought you were.

You find yourself arguing with a little person who sounds very mature, but in reality is quite immature in their brain development. This little person starts pushing buttons you didn't even know you had.

Then you realize the truth: they installed the buttons. In other words, you and your child are probably similar in certain ways, either personality or temperament. These shared characteristics are part of what makes it easy for them to test your patience.

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The good news is that we are the adults with the mature brains.

We can bring ourselves out of a bad moment without yelling if we can keep a few helpful hints in mind:

1. Remember they are little

This seems simple, but at times it's harder than it sounds. We are around our kids all day. We know what their little toddler language means, we know what (most) every whine and cry is trying to signal. While this is great, it also means that sometimes we forget their smallness and immaturity.

Even as toddlers, our kids can do so much—climb, listen to stories, color, and play. In the course of a day, however, they have to make a lot of transitions and manage complex social interactions.

At some point, they just can't do it anymore, and they lose it. This is when it's key to remember how little they really are and allow them to be little.

I have found that just keeping this in mind put all the tantrums and whining into perspective.

One of my favorite child development authors, Janet Lansbury, puts it this way, "During the toddler years, our most reasonable expectation is the unreasonable. Expecting the madness makes it far easier to keep our cool."

2. Count together

We've all heard the advice that as a parent we can count to ten to calm down. This may work, but I have found that using the counting trick with kids works well too.

It's not about putting a limit on their emotions; that is not a helpful strategy. It's about giving them a chance to modify their behavior.

For example, if your child is doing something that is against the rules and will not stop after repeated calls from you, you can start the counting. You could say something like, "I'm going to count to three, and if you do not stop climbing on the furniture, you will go into time-out" (or whatever you feel is the appropriate disciplinary tactic).

Although simple, this strategy is effective because it works with your child's limited brain maturity.

It gives them time to process the situation. Sometimes we forget that little ones take longer to process information that we do. This gives them a few minutes to think about what they are doing before further action is taken. It also helps you as a parent, because you can remain calm while doing this, and avoid yelling.

3. Model emotional regulation

This, of course, sounds easier than it is. Intellectually we know that our kids learn from every word and action they see from us. However, in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to keep our cool.

Research has shown that children, whose parents overreact to their child's tantrums, tend to increase in their negative behavior over time.

In other words, parents who do not overreact, but instead model good emotional regulation, really do help little ones learn that skill. It's important to note that this study was among very young children (18-27 months), when tantrums are very common.

What this tells us is that even though toddlers are prone to tantrums at this age, with our guidance and emotional modeling, this behavior does not have to be the norm for long.

4. Understand why yelling doesn't work

In the heat of the moment, yelling often emerges from our mouths like a firestorm, without us really considering its impact. Consider this, how do you feel when another adult yells at you? Sad? Frightened? Angry? Now put those emotions into the body of a toddler. Not a great experience, right?

Studies show that people tend to remember words spoken in a neutral tone better than those spoken in a sad tone.

We know from research—and life experience—that yelling is counterproductive. Psychologists have shown us that individuals, kids included, have a much harder time remembering things or functioning well cognitively when their brain is flooded by distressing emotions like anxiety or fear.

This is why when you yell a command at a child, they are unlikely to actually follow through on it. Just knowing that yelling is ineffective might be enough to give you pause before you let loose a verbal tirade.

5. Take time to reconnect

Just like adults, kids sometimes misbehave when they feel distant or disconnected from those who love them. When you are fighting with your spouse, do you feel ready and able to do your best at your job? Probably not, and kids are the same way.

Yelling does not help with feeling connected, but quality time does.

Once the tension has passed, it is often helpful to spend some one-on-one time with your child to mend the connection. Unlike adults, however, kids may not have the verbal or emotional maturity to say that they need time with you. They may act out instead. This is your cue to take a few minutes to calm the situation and do something that your child enjoys.

Play is the really the best form of reconnection with kids.

It does not have to be a big production—maybe just a few focused minutes playing a board game or Legos. If your child enjoys arts and crafts, then working on a project together might be just the thing to reconnect. Afterwards, you might find that you and your child are both a little less edgy.

With a little mindfulness and a few strategies, yelling does not have to become a permanent aspect of your parenting repertoire.


When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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