Menu

Yelling at your child happens—what you do *after* is what counts, mama

If we don't do anything about the guilt it can eat away at us.

after-you-yell

Most parents out there have lost their cool in front of their child at least once. It happens. And it's not too hard to find people or resources out there providing reassuring statements like, "It's okay, it happens to everyone," or "Don't worry, everyone makes mistakes," or some other variation of that.

I agree with those statements completely and have even found myself offering those words of support to friends at times. But most of the time, when we are the ones who messed up, those statements don't really take away the guilt we feel, do they?

I'm sure there are entire books out there about parent guilt because it's plentiful and comes in many forms. But the guilt I'm talking about today is a little different than the guilt we feel when we are too busy cooking dinner to play, or the guilt we feel when we have to leave a child with a caregiver in order to go to work, or the guilt we feel when our child is crying and we can't figure out what's wrong.

In those situations I just mentioned, guilt comes underserved. We haven't done anything wrong, but we still feel bad. That guilt is more like a version of heartbreak. Because we are limited as human beings and cannot give more of ourselves than what we have.

But the guilt that we feel when we lose our cool is different. That guilt is worthy of the name—we did do something wrong, and we feel bad about it. That guilt is indicative of our own morality. It's a sign that we can acknowledge our mistakes and our poor decisions.

It's a good, healthy thing to be able to feel guilt when it's warranted. But it certainly doesn't feel good. In fact, if we don't do anything about that guilt it can eat away at us.

So what can we do after we've lost our cool with our child? It takes three steps:

Step 1: Calm down

If you're still in the hot zone, you're not going to be able to use the part of your brain that helps you make thoughtful, rational decisions. So you've got to get yourself out of that hot zone. This can be one of the biggest challenges as a parent, especially if you're a single parent or a stay-at-home parent or someone who doesn't have a partner that can take over so you can take a break.

Sometimes you might need to find ways to take a mental break even when you can't take a physical break. This is where you're going to need some creativity, and it will all depend on the age of your children.

It might be packing the kids up into the stroller and going for a walk outside. Maybe you keep special activities aside for moments like these when you need to entertain the kids and catch a breath. Perhaps this is a moment you become a little more lax with your TV restrictions. If your kids are old enough, you can even tell them you need to take a break to calm down and go in another room for a bit.

However you do it, finding a way to calm down is necessary to move on.

Step 2: Allow your child to calm down

In the same way that you're not able to be thoughtful or rational when you're upset, neither can your child. If your child is still in that feeling, you will also need to help them find a way to calm down. (After you calm yourself down first!). They will be unable to have a corrective experience otherwise.

Helping your child to calm down will look different depending on their age:

  • The littlest ones might need to be held, rocked or played with.
  • Toddlers and preschool-aged children might need help to label their feelings, or to cry, or to direct their anger in an appropriate way (ex: your brother isn't for hitting, but you can hit this pillow).
  • School-aged kids may still need help to label their feelings and could also find drawing their feelings helpful. Physical exercise and alone time might be beneficial for these kids too.
  • Teenagers are most likely to need time away from you to calm down. Music, art, poetry and writing are all effective mechanisms for releasing emotions to calm down. And physical activity can help release the physiological energy that builds up when angry.

Step 3: Repair

This is where the good stuff happens. Repair is all about taking the bad feelings that have just happened and releasing them through forgiveness and love. When we don't repair after conflict occurs, kids and parents are left with those negative feelings stuffed inside. Over time, those negative feelings accumulate and eventually explode.

In addition to a feelings explosion, parent-child conflict has a long-term impact on children's internalization of the process of conflict. As with most things, kids learn about the conflict through their parents.

They learn about the "rules" of conflict

  • Is it okay to yell?
  • Is it okay to name call?
  • Is it okay to throw things?
  • Is it okay to give the silent treatment?

They learn about themselves

  • Am I bad? Or did I just do something wrong?
  • Am I a burden? Or does my value outweigh my challenges?
  • Am I still loved even when I make a mistake?

And they learn about the ability to work through conflict

  • Do relationships end after conflict occurs?
  • Is forgiveness possible?
  • Can you be mad at someone and still love them?

As you can see, the way children experience conflict with their parents sets the stage for a lot of significant beliefs and expectations later on. So being able to effectively repair the break in the relationship after conflict occurs is incredibly important!

How to repair your relationship after conflict:

1. Determine that both you and your child are calm

Make sure you've completed steps one and two above. You both need to be able to reconnect with the rational part of your brain that can think things through and have a dialogue.

2. Approach your child and invite them to talk

This doesn't have to be a formal invitation necessarily, but by thinking of this as an invitation, it reminds you that your child has the ability to decline.

Perhaps you misjudged, and they are still angry and not ready to move on to the repair stage yet. Or maybe they are busy doing something else, and this isn't a good time. This step is all about demonstrating respect for your child.

3. Offer affection

You can adapt the level of affection to what you're comfortable with and what you are accustomed to using with your child. But affection is powerful. It has the ability to melt away negative feelings instantaneously when offered genuinely. And can set up your conversation out of a place of love instead of anger or guilt.

4. Apologize

This step is important! Some parents think apologizing undermines their authority, but remember what I said above about parent-child conflict shaping your child's experience with conflict going forward?

Do you want your child to demonstrate accountability for their actions? Do you want them to communicate this accountability to others? Do you want them to apologize to you for their misbehaviors?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to start by demonstrating the behavior you want your child to learn. And that means apologizing to your child when you make a mistake. Being able to apologize for your mistakes is indeed a sign of strength, and you want your child to gain that strength.

5. Encourage your child to express their feelings

In order to fully move past this issue, you'll need to allow your child the opportunity to express how they felt when you did whatever you did. This will help him to release any remaining negative emotions stuffed inside and ensure that this isn't something that's going to come boiling over later down the line. So take a deep breath and listen.

6. Validate your child's emotion

Whatever emotion your child brings up, find a way to communicate that their feeling is understandable. It doesn't matter if you wouldn't have felt the same way your child felt. All that matters is that your actions made your child have some negative feelings, and now it's your job to help them feel okay about those emotions.

If you do these steps, you and your child will both walk away feeling lighter and more relaxed. If either of you doesn't feel that way, something may have been off. Were you both calm when the conversation happened? Was your apology genuine? Did your child express the feelings he had inside? You can always go back and try the repair again.

If you're new to the process of repair in relationships, this experience may seem uncomfortable initially. However, remember that the price of positive change is just a little bit of discomfort. And the benefits are absolutely worth it.

You might also like:

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

    $269.99

    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

    $99.99

    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

    $99.99

    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

    $219.99

    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

    $99.99

    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

    $64.99

    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

    $29.99

    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

    $165.99

    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

    $39.99

    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

    $39.99

    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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


    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

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

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    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.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    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!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    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.

    $30

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

    Keep reading Show less
    News