We all have moments where we struggle with managing our emotions. Whether you’re the parent or the child, learning how to stay calm and diffusing a situation isn’t as easy as taking a deep breathe and moving on.
As I mentioned before, loud noise is definitely one of my anger triggers. My kids know this anger trigger well, and inadvertently I taught them that yelling, or complaining really loudly for a long time is a great way to hit my buttons.
Since I had few tools in the past to handle yelling, often times it actually has, in one way or another, gotten them results. Sometimes I’ve become so flustered that I’ve said yes to things I didn’t want to say yes to. Other times I’ve tried to appease them to get them to stop yelling . Even if they don’t get what they want out of it, they can get a rise out of me, which gives its own hit of power – all of which leads to a long term situation of even more yelling.
I’ve been working to defuse this anger button. I’m not perfect, but I do have tools to share if you want to stay calm and get your child to stop yelling at you.
Some of the hardest times to stay calm for me are when a child is yelling or ranting at me. Especially if I’m in a situation where I can’t easily leave the scene (perhaps while driving or dinner is cooking on the stove.)
I feel attacked – I can feel my tension rising and many times I eventually just snap in an effort to stop the onslaught. This is particularly true when I’m tired or have a lot of other things needing my attention.
Over the years, thankfully I’ve developed a number of different ways to stay more calm, and the more I stay calm, the less kids yell. Gradually our household has become a more peaceful place.
Ideas that can help you stay calm when a kid is yelling:
Pausing before reacting is one of the MOST powerful things to practice for making more positive parenting choices. You can build this skill. It takes practice, but you build your ability to pause each time you resist reacting right away. Even a second longer of pausing teaches your brains that, yes, you can pause.
Remind yourself: This is their emergency not mine. I can help in an emergency by remaining calm.
Repeat a Mantra
Find a quote or mantra to repeat to yourself or out loud to your child, such as “You don’t have to like what someone is saying in order to treat them with respect.”
Try the 3, 2, 1 Calm Down technique where you use your other senses to tune in to your environment and get calm.
Count to yourself
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10… No, this is not a magical stay calm solution, however, when you find your thoughts running away with you and notice you’re getting angrier and angrier, you’re getting hooked in to your child’s yelling. By counting you give yourself something else to focus on, which can help keep your brain in neutral. Sometimes when a kid is yelling, we can’t just leave the room, and yet we also can’t engage without making it worse – so counting might give you a way to stay put without yelling back.
Break things down after the fact – once tempers are calm again, rehash and ask for alternatives that would have been acceptable. Try to keep it neutral. “Last night you were really angry and yelling at me. What was going on? What are some other ways we could have handled that?” You can revisit a situation that went downhill and talk about how you each could have handled it better. If you’ve also lost your temper, you can offer a genuine apology. The more you do this, the more you and your child will have access to ways to “disagree agreeably.”
Recommended Book on Anger and how the Brain Works:
I’ve gained a lot by reading The Whole-Brain Child so that I better understand the reasons my child may be melting down, and better understand my own reactions.
Our family also has found many helpful exercises on anger in How to Take the Grr Out of Anger. This book is geared for kids, but it’s helpful for the whole family as it keeps it simple and lets everyone better understand the emotion of anger and how to handle it in a healthy way.
Finally, one thing that’s helped me be more calm and confident as a parent is simply gaining more tools over the years. A good book to start with would be Rebecca Eanes Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide
I’d love some more tools so I can remain the grown up in these situations instead of melting down along with my child.
Can you tell me some ways to hold onto my calm in the face of a yelling-at-me child?
Find more resources for dealing with anger here on my Anger Resources page.
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.