Patience is worth its weight in gold when it comes to parenting. Even the best kid can wear you down. If you’re a dad like me, when that happens, you start yelling. And if you’re a guy like me, you also probably wonder if that makes you a bad dad.
The short answer is, “No.” So is it ever OK to yell at your kids?
When I was growing up it would have been weird if my parents didn’t occasionally blow their top over something. But today’s parents are deluged with blog posts and newsletters giving us “437 Alternatives to Punishing Your Kids.” It’s enough to make you feel that even a single outburst is unacceptable.
My wife often reminds me that yelling never improves the situation. She’s right. Yelling at my kids makes them cry. It makes them frightened. You lose whatever point you were trying to make in a flurry of overwhelming emotions – both yours and theirs.
Rationally, we all know it’s better to keep our cool. It’s just unrealistic to think you always will. Instead, focus on what happens after you flip out. Here are four simple tips that can help make a world of difference the next time you find your Patience Tank is running on fumes.
1. Embrace the feeling of powerlessness. There will be days when everything just goes wrong. It happens to us all. You’re late for work, there’s finger paint on your slacks, and did he really just take his pants off again? Face it; you’re not getting control of this day back. Learn to make the best of it. Tomorrow’s another day.
2. Work on the volume. As long as you’re not committing any kind of verbal or physical abuse, the worst part of yelling is the volume. And the truth is a calm but firm demeanor communicates more effectively. So go ahead and be mad, but maintain, to the best of your ability, your body language and volume. Eye contact and a firm tone will show how serious you are.
3. Accept that you will lose it sometimes. Your kids aren’t perfect and neither are you. And sometimes you will flip your lid. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, once both you and the child are able to calm down, apologize for yelling. Then focus on the lesson at hand. “I’m sorry I lost my temper. I didn’t mean to scare you. Can we talk about what happened?”
4. Remind them it’s not their fault. In addition to apologizing, let your kids know that your temper is yours and yours alone. Kids test limits; it’s an important part of learning. You lost control. Tell them that. At the same time, put some control in their hands. “Daddy lost his temper today, and that wasn’t right. I’m sorry. Let’s make a deal: I promise to work harder to stay calm today. Can you promise to brush your teeth like a big girl?”
There is no particular moment in which you can say, “It was OK for me to yell at the kids over that.” It’s always best to avoid it when you can. But when it does happen, own it and learn from it.