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How to give up yelling and overcome your anger, mama

Anger is often the mask that sadness hides behind.

How to give up yelling and overcome your anger, mama

I believe self-discipline is the first rule of parenting, and the most important step in building trusting relationships with our children and peaceful homes for them to grow up in. In my book, Positive Parenting, I shared that during the times I have struggled most in my parenting journey, an honest look has always revealed that I was the one, of course, and my children were simply following their leader. When my patience was thin, or my words were unkind, this was reflected back to me in the behavior of my sons.

Getting control of our own emotions and behaviors is challenging work. We often feel justified in our tirades, blaming our emotional outbursts on our children's behavior. If only they would listen!

My epiphany came one day when I heard my own snappy words coming out of my son's mouth. I realized it wasn't him who needed the discipline; it was me. He wasn't being defiant. He was being me. He wasn't being naughty. He was being me.

Children are mirrors, and the reflection I saw that day taught me a valuable lesson—if I expect my children to be kind, gentle, compassionate and respectful, then I must be kind, gentle, compassionate and respectful. What I model has more teaching power than any discipline strategy or lecture ever could.

Why is it so difficult to reign in our emotions rather than act on them?

Many of us didn't learn how to effectively manage our emotions in childhood. We watched our parents and we learned how to handle emotions by how we saw them handle emotions.

When we tried out their tactics, we might have been swiftly punished, and so many of us quickly learned to stuff our emotions to avoid punishment or we acted them out in less than desirable ways. As adults, we simply repeat the patterns we saw growing up, only now we have the authority. There is no one to take away our iPhones. Adding to the problem is our exhaustion, busyness and lack of a village. We are spreading ourselves too thin, and with enough repeated stress, we snap.

To end this cycle, we have to hold ourselves accountable. We really must learn to manage our emotions now so that our children don't bear the brunt of a harshness that they do not deserve, and importantly, so they can learn to manage their own emotions well.

However, parents have a difficult job at a difficult time. Of course, we don't have to be perfect. Yes, our children can see us upset, and no, I'm not suggesting we stuff our feelings and put on a smile. I'm merely suggesting that we expect the same of ourselves that we expect of our children. It's okay to feel hurt. It's not okay to hurt others. But our go-to response—yelling—can be hurtful.

Taking ownership of your emotions and actions is key

Do you take ownership of your feelings and actions, or do you blame them on someone else? I used to blame my feelings on my kids all the time.

When parents say, "You're making me so angry!" they're admitting that they don't have control over their own feelings and actions. The child has control. This is a double-edged sword.

First, this makes children feel responsible for our emotions, and that's a big burden to bear for a child. Second, it teaches them to play the blame game and not take ownership of their emotions and behaviors as well." Does "she made me do it" or "he made me so mad" sound familiar?

Instead of "You're making me so angry," try, "I'm feeling angry right now, and I need to calm down." Don't blame your feelings on anyone else; they are your own. Your children are not responsible for your triggers. You are responsible for understanding why you have the trigger and disabling it.

It can be helpful to keep a journal about your emotions and responses. Just by bringing awareness to the things that cause you to feel angry, you take away some of its power. We are often armed with our triggers in childhood. For example, if you were told often to "quit crying" as a child, then hearing a child whine or cry may bring up uncomfortable feelings for you, perhaps even sadness. Anger is often the mask that sadness hides behind.

Next, work on reframing the negative thoughts that accompany your trigger. For example, if you often think, "My kid whines about everything!" then those words will fuel your negative emotions. However, if you consciously choose to replace that with a more positive or accurate thought, then the anger has space to dissipate. Try "My child is having a hard time and needs my help." With consistency, you'll begin to automatically think gentler thoughts, and your responses will be more positive.

Tips for dealing with anger in the moment

1. Do something physical, like 10 push-ups or a few jumping jacks. Splash cold water on your face or step outside for some fresh air.

2. If you feel the need to yell, use a loud, silly voice or make a "toot toot" noise while cupping your mouth with your hands. Don't worry about looking silly to your kids. It's better to look silly than scary.

3. Choose a positive mantra that you can repeat in times of stress. "I'm capable of remaining calm" or "I've got this" repeated often and out loud will help you calm down.

4. Take deep breaths in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and release for a count of eight. Repeat four times.

5. Pretend you are being recorded. Yes, I'm serious! If you knew they were going to show this situation on national television, you'd probably react differently.

Why it's worth the effort

If almost every parent yells, what's the big deal? Raising your voice can feel like a smack across the face. In fact, one study found that yelling is as harmful as hitting.

According to Dr. Kristen Race of The Mindful Life, "Yelling activates the structures of in the limbic system that regulate 'fight or flight' reactions. Repeated activation to these areas tells the brain that their environment is not safe, thus the interconnecting neurons in these areas must remain intact. Because pruning must happen, neurons will be pruned from structures like the prefrontal cortex where higher cognitive functions tend to be regulated."

To put it bluntly, yelling at our children negatively affects their brains. We cannot see the damage inflicted, but deep inside the brain, neural structures are being affected. In addition, frequent yelling erodes the parent-child relationship which is so important for healthy growth.

Your no-yelling plan

1. Join a support group.

There are several yell-free groups on social media. If you're uncomfortable with letting strangers know your business, gather up a few close friends and enlist their help. Tell them of your plan to yell less at your family and ask them to help hold you accountable.

2. Declare your home a yell-free zone.

Post signs. As a bonus to this, your kids can't yell either! Give yourself a pom pom in a jar every time you manage to quell your yell. When that jar is full, buy yourself those new shoes you've been eyeing! I'm not typically a rewards and punishments kind of gal, but sometimes a little incentive is a good thing.

3. Go to the bathroom and yell silently into the mirror, only mouthing what you want to say.

Why? This does two things. One, you get it out. Sort of. Two, you see exactly what it is that your child sees. That image of the twisted raging face is likely to stick with you the next time you feel like screaming at your kid.

4. Be proactive.

If you know that the morning rush makes you mad, change your routine. Get up early. Set things out the night before. Give yourself extra time. Start the day with a short meditation.

5. Release your guilt.

It's easy to hold onto it, but once you realize you should have responded differently, you can let the guilt go. It's served its purpose. Perfection isn't an achievable goal. Aim for doing better, and celebrate the small wins.

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From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

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