by Hayley M. Abernathy | Hayley is a freelance writer and editor based in Knoxville, Tennessee, plus a mom of three kids ages seven and under. She loves board games, making lists, DIY projects, and strong coffee. When Hayley’s not working, washing dishes, or chasing a toddler around the yard, you can find her attempting to garden, listening to an audiobook, or spending a quiet night watching Netflix with her husband.
In the past 18 months, I have yelled and had to apologize to my three kids more than ever. I’ve been surprised at my own lack of patience and kindness. And yet, parenting can make anyone a grouch, am I right? (Yeah, yeah, it’s extremely rewarding, too–but seriously, it’s hard!) Not to mention that parenting in a pandemic can be grueling.
A Yelling Loop
I hate to admit it’s not just dire situations in which I shout. It’s one thing to yell after Sibling A pushes Sibling B down the stairs. (Yep, that happened at my house.) It’s another matter to find myself roaring, “Better not!” at the toddler who just threw a cup across the kitchen floor for the third time in a row.
Can you relate?
Perhaps you’re like me and don’t want to yell in either of these situations. For one thing, I’m utterly smitten with my kids and would give my very life for them. (Which you might think would make it easy to not yell!) Plus, I believe parents can lead and love their kids well with no need for unnecessary yelling. (“Unnecessary” as in shouting from anger rather than because of urgency or distance.) When I’m calm, I’m an involved, loving leader working to raise emotionally intelligent children who know their worth.
BUT—and you had to know this but was coming—when one kid is pinching another, a third kid is karate-kicking through a diaper change, we’re late for school, and everyone’s tired, once again I find myself shouting.
Three Practical Resources
So, how do we break the cycle and stop yelling?
We need mindset help and practical tools to keep cool. We also need to better understand when and why certain situations make us see red so that we can, when possible, prevent them. Here are three resources I’m finding helpful with all the above.
Dr. Becky Kennedy
Follow Dr. Becky Kennedy (aka @drbeckyatgoodinside on Instagram) to have empathic, actionable parenting advice appear in your social feed right when needed. (So, all the time.) Seriously—when you’re scrolling and too tired to pick up that dusty parenting book on your nightstand, Dr. Becky comes to you. She’s a clinical psychologist with a PhD from Columbia. As a mom of three young kids, she knows the grind parenting can be. Her reels and infographics are filled with practical verbiage and strategies for parenting gently and cultivating emotional regulation and intelligence in children.
You’ll also want to subscribe to Dr. Becky’s free podcast, Good Inside, where she answers real parents’ questions. Hearing her advice makes me want to parent better, gives me tools to do so, and does not shame me for past mistakes.
On her website, she also offers a variety of paid workshops, including “It’s Not Too Late: How to Move Forward and Parent Differently.” (Full disclosure: I haven’t tried paid content yet—but that one sure sounds appropriate!)
Listen to Janet Lansbury’s Unruffled podcast to hear a soothing voice reaffirming that you really can lead your kids gently and firmly. Lansbury, a mother of three now-grown children, has spent almost 30 years teaching parents how to understand young children’s needs and treat them as people fully deserving of respect. Like Dr. Becky, she responds to real parents’ questions and problems in each episode.
During the three or four years in which I’ve listened to Lansbury’s podcast, I’ve soaked up her tone as she models responses to kids’ challenging behavior. She exemplifies the calm, sincerity, and confidence I aim to achieve while leading and loving my kids.
Dr. Laura Markham
Also a clinical psychologist trained at Columbia, Dr. Laura Markham writes a free weekly email newsletter with actionable tips for “peaceful parenting.” She founded Aha! Parenting, a website full of free articles, which are based on research turned practical for the everyday parent. Whereas Dr. Becky’s insights come in social-media-sized bits, Dr. Laura’s newsletter and website have more long-form articles which dive deeper into parenting topics of all kinds. When I take the time to read her newsletter, I’m rebuilding my positive mindset towards myself and my kids.
Change is Possible
We parents often fall short, and we all have grouchy days. But we can still commit to breaking the yelling loop and to parenting more in line with our own values.
If, like me, you’re head-over-heels for your kids and yet still struggle with yelling, take heart. Psychologists and experts like those above tell us that when we mess up and then make it right—a process they call “tear and repair”—we strengthen our bonds with our children. So, when I yell at the kid who just threw a shoe at a sibling’s head, that doesn’t have to cause irreparable damage; I can apologize, move forward, and seek tools to do better.
Brain science also tells us that with intentional actions over time we can create new neural pathways—new habits. We can, in fact, teach old dogs new tricks. (Thank goodness!) So when, instead of yelling, I breathe deeply and count to five to calm myself, I’m rewiring my brain for gentler parenting—not to mention modeling emotional regulation for my kids.
I hope these resources will help you be the parent you want to be. As Janet Lansbury says at the end of every podcast episode, “We can do this.”
Connect with Hayley
You can follow Hayley on Twitter (@HMAwrites), where she’s re-engaging after a long hiatus, or connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/hayley-abernathy-knox/). Her website is www.hmabernathy.com.
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