Whole Parenting Family

5 Ways to Stop the Habit of Shouting at Your Kids

stop shouting

The other night we were praying night prayers. I asked my oldest what he wanted to tell God, or ask of God. He began, “Dear God. Please help me to be a better boy.”

I choked up. I actually felt the sting of a tear swell up in my dry eye socket. He was really getting this whole prayer thing.

He continued, “And God, please make my mom a better mom. Please make her stop shouting at me so much. Thank you very much. The end.”

Indignation replaced sentimentality. I bit my tongue and almost gasped out, Speak for yourself, buddy!!! When I realized it. I had become a habitual shouter. The kids knew it and now I knew it too.

I remembered the great book I read last year about habits (The Power of Habit) and started to make a plan for breaking this habit.

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1) Accept that you’re a shouter.

It has taken me a long time to acknowledge this isn’t just one bad day, or one bad instance that really set me off. I now have the habit of letting my frustration get the better of me, and am a habitual shouter. It’s not everyday, but it is definitely a lose-my-temper-a-few-times-a-week.

And immediate remorse. And apologies. And feeling like I will never let myself do it again. Until I do.

2) Replace the undesired shouting with a different activity instead of quitting cold turkey.

I’m replacing shouting with a deep overly dramatic exhale and digging my fingernails into my palms. Luckily I have very short, unkempt nails so they can’t do much damage.

I envision myself in the dentist’s chair when the dentist is rooting around and asking you how you’re doing and all you can manage is a fake chortle while you choke on your spittle. All the while, you’re digging into your palms with your fingernails and praying an arsonist breaks the front glass of the office so you get reprieve. Just me? Just checking.

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3) Apologize.

I am big on modeling apologetic behavior to my kids. We do an examination of our days every night before bedtime and reflect on what we need to work on, and what we did well. I try to end the day on a good note rather than a scathing one.

And when they hear me apologize, and I see their faces soften or tear up, it reinforces in me that I do not want to talk out of anger. I do not want to correct from a place of anger. And apologizing helps drive this home for me. Yes, we are  all human and going to be angry. But that doesn’t make it okay.

4) Assess my triggers and talk about them with the kids.

If you have toddlers, just assess. Don’t set your hopes biologically-impossibly high by informing your child of them with hopes their brain can retain and comprehend the triggers. Remember what’s really going on with child’s brain? (remember my fav book The Whole-Brain Child?)

But with an almost five year old, I can certainly discuss how I feel about certain actions or attitudes. And he gets it. I know he gets it because he can walk through why he’s upset now and he’s using the same language I do when I explain my frustrations.

He told me after I shouted at them the other night {imagine 44 interruptions when you’ve been solo parenting for a few nights//days and the baby was almost asleep} and rounded back to talk it out and apologize. I sat on his bed and rubbed his back and told him I was sorry and asked how he was feeling.

I don’t like it when you shout at me and my sister.

It makes me mad because you are mad. But it also makes me sad because I think you need help with the baby and I can’t help. I feel what you’re feeling.

I was blown away by his ability to identify his emotions, name them, really name them, and explore why he had them. I told him it was okay to be mad, but not okay to shout and be impatient on my part. And that he didn’t have to solve the problem of the baby not falling asleep. That was a grown up problem. I gotta own my problems, even to an almost five year old. Maybe especially to him.

It also helps me to step back after I shout and think why did I do that? And can I stop that undesired behavior? Yes: great. No: can I stop it from bothering me?

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5) Make changes.

Now that I know my triggers, I simply cannot host a playdate and expect to get work done during naps because I’ll be cleaning up the house. I cannot rock the baby for an hour and then when he wakes up when I put him down, expect myself to rock him again. I have to gird my ears against whining and gear the kids up to go run it off outside. If I’m deviating from the meal plan for the week, I have to dig something out from the freezer that’s already cooked before 6:09 when AA is home and hungry.

Managing expectations is one of the most clutch things we can do in life, right? So saith my mom. Maybe I can get her to go in for another interview so you can hear it from her own uncensored lips like my Mother’s Day interview with her!! More MamaK!

Look how we got all gussied for a neighbor’s wedding. Thank goodness my hair had been reminded of its blonde roots. Literally.

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linked to similar items: My dressTwice * Baby’s romper: similar here * SuperBoy’s pants & shirt: thredUP * SweetPea’s shoes & sweater: zulily



  1. Ruth Anne on May 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    These are some super helpful ideas for dealing with “shtuff”. I think for me, I usually get hung up on #3 and #4. Especially the talking about them with the kids part. And they’re totally old enough to understand, but growing up we never had those types of conversations so I don’t know really where to start.
    I love the idea of the examination of the day!

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 25, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      I edited to show what our conversation looked like after a bad mama-shouting. It’s hard to ask questions and get them to reach their feelings. It’s hard to make it really safe because we want to clamp down and just make them OBEY us. Or at least I tend toward that. When I can set my feelings of frustration aside and ask about his, it really gives me a good idea of how to respond. The examination helps a lot! It helps them praise and censor themselves with guidance from me. I love when they realized they did something really kind or good that day. I love that look of pride on their faces!

  2. Laura @ Mothering Spirit on May 26, 2015 at 11:48 am

    “I feel what you’re feeling.” <– proof you are doing 1,000 things right with your sweet kiddos, even if you feel (like we all do) that you fail sometimes, too. He's learning empathy and compassion and communicating his needs and emotions. Amazing. Air high five, friend.

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you, sweet friend. SUCH KINDNESS from you!

  3. Abbey @ Surviving Our Blessings on May 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Oh, Nell, that humbling moment of apologizing to them when we screw up is where everything hangs, I think. I mess up all the time- all the dang time!- and I keep telling them I want to stop yelling, and then I go and do it again. The difference, though, is that we talk with them about it. We show them that adults aren’t perfect and we model contrition. It’s not as good as actually not yelling, but it’s really beautiful and important. You’re doing a great job. <3

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      We’re trying so hard, right???

  4. Shannon on May 26, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    LOVE The Whole Brained Child! Such an excellent book. I got burnt out on parenting books after just 1 baby, but the few research-based ones still make the cut!

    Also, thanks for being real about this. It’s so helpful to have other women admit that yelling isn’t something that slips in from time to time, but is actually a habit they’ve found themselves in. It creates space for other women to come out of shame and speak up too. Parenting has stripped me down to the barest bones, and has revealed to me just what a sinner I am. That might sound depressing to some, but it’s actually been incredibly liberating… no more faking perfection! just realness and a daily striving to do better. It’s also made me judge others less and love them more. I’m thankful to be changed!

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 26, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      Such a great great book. Did you read No Drama Discipline too?

      Completely agree. Such a beautiful way of putting it. No fake anything. No room for it!!

      • Shannon on May 27, 2015 at 1:45 pm

        I haven’t read NDD but was eyeing it at B&N the other day. Need to see if I can get it from the library!

  5. Marijanna on May 27, 2015 at 4:36 am

    I have to say this was so timely and really spoke to me. I have 4 under 3.5 including 6 mo twins and though I love them to death, the 2 & 3 yr olds are “busy” to put it mildly (and I was a former preschool teacher for 25, so I know “busy”) I am like you with the apologies and feel it’s teaching them too. Thank God for opportunities!

  6. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany on May 27, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Dearest Nell, thank you for keeping it real with this post. Every time I yell at my kids, I too have that immediate remorse and feel so horrified at my behavior. I love your ideas here. Apologizing is not something that comes easily to me as a general rule (major character flaw!!), but I’ve found it to be so helpful to everyone involved when I apologize after losing my temper with my kids. I’m amazed by how empathic your oldest sounds!! Great post 🙂

  7. This Week’s Miscellany: Vol. 127 on May 29, 2015 at 9:05 am

    […] 5 Ways to Stop Yelling at Your Kids: Whole Parenting […]

  8. Jenni on May 29, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    I really can relate to this recently. In fact, when I received an email notification about this posting, we were talking about this matter. Thanks for sharing to help others relate and beyond 🙂

  9. Rosa on May 30, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Truth lady. For me the number one way to stop yelling is to stop being distracted by stuff and actually be aware of what the kids are doing so I can interfere before I get to my breaking point. Of course that’s inpossible a lot of the time. Also save tv for when you have to do the more focused stuff like cooking.

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 31, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      When I give up the notion I can “get something done” away from them, it’s so much easier!!

  10. Kristi on June 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you for this! Makes me feel not so alone in these flaws. I have realized a lot of it, for me, stems both from pride and an imbalanced sense of justice (vs. mercy). The litany of humility helps, there. Also, my husband made me a list before he went out of town that included helpful suggestions such as “Be OK with something just getting done instead of perfectly or the usual way,” and “Ease restrictions/rules for sanity.” I actually left it up after he returned (behind the bathroom cabinet, haha) because it was a helpful reminder to let go of my unnecessary perfectionist tendencies! I also heard a great “Messy Parenting” podcast recently where they said the goal (in discipline) is not punishment, but communication of your values. It was so helpful. I am on the road to trying to stop the frustrating habit in which I automatically lose my temper at times. I still make mistakes almost daily but I think it’s getting better. I think I will try your exhaling trick, and maybe read that book you mentioned! 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      What a beautiful description of discipline. Totally and completely! It’s really hard to step outside ourselves and evaluate our motivations and behavior. Way to go, mama!!