It started happening around bedtime, when they weren’t listening, when you were totally fried from the day, from work, from eating dinner standing up and from bathtime and books and….. You yelled, no you kinda screamed. They weren’t listening! But lately it’s been happening more and more. You go from 0 to 60 in .5 seconds and find yourself barking at their little faces, the fear of god in their eyes before the tears. And oh, the tears. And then you feel worse than you did before. You apologize, kissing away the wetness from their cheeks. You’ll be better tomorrow, you promise yourself, before repeating the cycle again and hating yourself even more.
Listen. Cut yourself some slack. None of us are perfect, and we’re allowed to get annoyed with our kids because, well, they’re annoying! But if you find yourself constantly being that parent who yells, maybe it’s time to get it in check. Figure out what else is going on with you that might make your little ones scapegoats. Here to help you navigate your emotions is our resident relationship therapist and psychotherapist Jean Fitzpatrick to guide you towards breaking the anger cycle:
“It’s hard to imagine a parent who hasn’t lost it now and then,” says Jean. “But if you’re constantly yelling, chances are that feels pretty terrible for both you and your kids. Are you neglecting self-care? To bring your best self to your mothering, be sure you’re getting enough sleep, working out and scheduling at least a few minutes of “me time” each day.
Just remember, yelling a lot creates a negative cycle. Like people who live near the subway, after a while kids stop paying attention to the sound. Try the “connect first” technique. Before you tell them what you want them to do — get dressed, clean up, go to sleep, etc. — focus first on connecting with them. Make eye contact. Stoop to their eye level for a brief chat. Slip your arm around that small shoulder. Gestures like these can spark a connection that motivates your child to be more cooperative.
Everyday rituals get many families through the tough times and minimize battles. Instead of repeating yourself to the point where you’re nagging, try communicating with fewer words or with no words at all. Sit down with your kids and put together a family playlist. Include a get-dressed-in-the-morning song, a bedtime song, and so on. When you play the appropriate track, it’s time for them to get on task.”