Why it’s not cool to lose your temper and yell at your kids?

When Mary Wyatt was growing up, her mother screamed a lot.

“My mom yelled at me because of my behavior, my grades, or even when she was struggling with her own personal trials,” says Wyatt, a motivational coach and mother of two who lives in Chesterfield, VA.

When Wyatt became a mother, she found herself repeating the pattern with her son. “Maintaining this screaming technique should be a reason for me not to do it,” she says. But it took me a while to realize that screaming was harmful. “By the time I had my second child, a girl, it was clear that a change was needed,” she says.

It didn’t happen overnight, she says, but she found strategies to break the cycle and avoid screaming. You can too.

See the signs

The first step is to know when you are about to lose your cool.

You may feel irritable, anxious, or uncontrolled. Being aware of how your body feels is key.

Look for physical signs such as:

A clenched jaw A tight chest An upset stomach Your heart rate speeds up Your breathing pattern changes Your skin literally starts to feel warmer

“Once you know your physical cues, you can use quick tools to reset,” says Amy Hoyt, PhD, co-founder of Mending Trauma in Monett, MO.

Try a physical reset

When you notice these signs, try these quick-acting strategies to turn things around.

Inhale twice. Breathe in through your nose twice in a row, without exhaling. After the second inhale, exhale with a sigh through your mouth. Repeat one to three times.

“This is a tool to quickly expel carbon dioxide and increase oxygen, which helps to calm your nervous system immediately,” Hoyt says.

Mindfulness exercise. Pay attention to three things in your immediate environment. What do you see, hear or smell? Concentrate on it. This brings you into the present moment to reduce your anxiety and calm your nerves.

Bilateral stimulation. Tap your opposite feet or big toes in a different rhythm while repeating an important soothing phrase to yourself, such as “I’m safe.” This regulates your nervous system to keep you from flying off the handle.

These strategies are subtle, so they also work when you’re out in public, says Hoyt, who uses them with her own five children.

Devin Sabraw, a blogger who writes about Airbnb, coffee, and gardening, uses a similar strategy with his 2 1/2-year-old son. “When I feel like screaming, I clear the anger by focusing on my breathing,” he says.

Sabraw, who lives in Calgary, Canada, watches his chest as it moves up and down. He learned this by practicing meditation, a relaxation technique that can also help you stay calm.

Know your triggers

You’re more likely to yell if something scares you. These are called triggers.

“Triggers can be a cluttered space, nagging, upcoming work deadlines, and a recent argument with your partner,” says Pauline Yeghnazar Peck, PhD, a psychologist in Santa Barbara, CA.

Try to locate your triggers. Just knowing what they are reduces the chances of them triggering you, Peck says.

Create a calm mirror

Model the tone you want your child to follow. Remember that emotions are contagious.

“If you stay calm, your child has a better chance of staying calm, too,” says J. Stuart Ablon, PhD, director of Think:Kids, a program in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

It may be the opposite of what you want to do, but using a soft, soft voice can get your child’s attention better than yelling. You can even try whispering. Do not call your child from another room.

Make eye contact

Sit at your child’s level. Kneel or sit. Look your child in the eye. If you want to get their attention, gently touch their shoulder or arm. This can help both of you stay calm and suppress your urge to yell.

Be a detective

When Wyatt noticed she was about to scream, she tried to change her perspective. This allowed her to think about what her daughter was going through instead of just reacting.

“Be curious, not furious,” Ablon says. “Ask questions without jumping to conclusions so you can figure out what’s going on with your child. Be a detective.”

Remind yourself that children do well when they can

This is a good mantra for when you’re about to raise your voice, Ablon says. “Just like us parents, our children try their best to tackle things with the skills they can muster at the moment.”

Remind yourself that they are not trying to push your buttons. They are frustrated, just like you.

Give yourself some time out to think

Sometimes you just need a break. Tell your child you need a minute to yourself. Go to another room, take a few deep breaths, and come back feeling calmer.

Wyatt says reflection has helped her break the cycle of screaming. Thinking about her upbringing and reminding herself how she felt through screaming helped her stop once and for all.

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