Menu

I became a more peaceful parent using these 4 strategies

I'm slowly, imperfectly getting there.

I became a more peaceful parent using these 4 strategies

Confession time: I'm a yeller, a trait that seems to be virtually imprinted in my DNA. My mom was a yeller, her dad was a yeller. It's just how we react. Don't get me wrong—I'm not a monster. It's just that when I'm provoked, or really stressed, or my daughter has fought me for the last 20 minutes about doing her homework, finally, I yell.


It's not something I want to pass on to my daughters. And I know it isn't good for them in the short-term, either—as registered play therapist Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S confirms. "Yelling affects children in several ways by creating high levels of stress, shame and fear," she tells Motherly. "This in turn can significantly negatively impact a child's self-esteem, particularly if the yelling also includes insults and shaming statements."

FEATURED VIDEO

In other words: Whatever you're yelling at your child becomes their inner voice. Ouch.

I know there isn't a great excuse for it, but I'm sure that my stress doesn't help the cause. With everything on my plate as someone who works from home 40 hours a week, runs a business on the side, takes care of two kids and an aging mother, I can see where this stress comes from. But I still don't think it's okay to take it out on my family.

So how do I undo generations' worth of bad habits and the stress that amplifies them? The answer is: slowly, painfully and imperfectly. I created a process as imperfect as my behavior, but it seems to be gradually working. Mellenthin reassures me that even though progress may not be as quick or linear as I would like, it's worthwhile.

"We have to be willing to change the things within us that we want changed in our children, because most of the time, we are their model of how to respond to the world around them."

Here's what I've learned:

1. Observe yourself

To solve a problem, first you have to know there's a problem. I became the observer in my life, watching my children's faces when I yelled, paying attention to how they react to each other. (I am their example.) I paid attention to my anxiety and my workload and my stress. I listened to the tone of voice I used to talk to them.

It wasn't easy. It made me sad. But it gave me a reason to change.

2. Treat the source

I discovered that a leading source of my yelling was anxiety. Studies show a huge link between anxiety and anger and it was definitely true in my case. So, what reduces my anxiety? For me, it was exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep (the link between stress and sleep is also huge) and prayer or meditation. For some, medication is necessary. Until my anxiety was under control, I had little hope for my yelling to get better.

"Many parents feel hopeless, helpless, scared and discouraged when they are unable to stop or 'parent away' unwanted behaviors or emotional difficulties. When we feel these vulnerable emotions, the easiest way to respond is in anger," Mellenthin says. And an untreated anxiety disorder is a recipe for disaster if you want to parent in a calm, peaceful way.

3. Hold yourself accountable

I decided I would keep track of my yelling. I would make a tally mark on the calendar each time I yelled in a day. Awareness was necessary. I began each day with a meditation: "Please let me be kind, wise and gentle today."

I focused on the moments like unnecessary accidents (such as breaking something they weren't careful with), fighting among the sisters and rude behavior—and then I watched my reaction and made an effort to breathe. Sometimes I just had to walk away. I didn't want to shame myself for slipping, but I wanted to be aware of my behavior, which Mellenthin recommends.

"We have to catch ourselves being good just as much as we need to do this for our children," she says. "When we can raise our insight and awareness into how we feel, we can make changes in how we react."

4. Celebrate your accomplishments

"It is so important to reward ourselves as parents—and one of the ways we can do this is by engaging in self-care as well as verbally telling yourself 'I am proud of me today,'" says Mellenthin.

There was an intrinsic reward to yelling less, of course. I saw my children relax more, I saw them enjoy their time with me more. I saw their faces light up when I responded with kindness and patience when they fought. (Side note: Whispering to your kids when they are in a yelling match is very effective.)

I told them that if I didn't yell for a solid week that I would take the whole family out to dinner. Now, I need to be honest here, six days has so far been my personal record. But six days without raising my voice once is huge. And a great start.

I've only been at this for six months, but so far, I'm a happier parent and my kids are happier around me.

So, whatever stage you are at in this process, be gentle and be hopeful. Being a wiser, kinder, more peaceful parent is within your grasp. And with that, everyone wins.

You might also like:

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less
Shop
Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

FEATURED VIDEO

"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

Keep reading Show less
News