How to Stop Yelling at Your Children

by braniac

If you ask children how they feel about being yelled at, they will all tell you they don't like it. Here is my story of how I stopped.

When I was ready to change my bad habits, the first action I took was to select one single thing from the list of things that I had written down. Then I made a commitment to overcome this problem. What I chose to change was my bad temper. I began by breaking down this huge problem into manageable pieces. I chose one manifestation of my temper and decided to work on that first. What I chose was my habit of yelling at my son. I chose this because at a therapy session with my son, the therapist said to him, "If you could change one thing about your mother, what would it be?" My son replied, "I'd like her to stop yelling at me when she gets upset."

To begin trying to change this bad habit, I spent the next few weeks thinking a lot about yelling. I asked myself why I yelled. The answer was that I was frustrated when my son didn't do what I asked him to do, and this was the only way I could get his attention Then I asked myself what other choices I had. I came up with a plan that I called "calm persistence." The day after committing to this plan, I screamed at my son. Afterward I was overwhelmed with a sense of how easy it was to do something that I had told myself I wouldn't do. However, I didn't give up. I kept trying, and after each failure I spent some time thinking about how the incident had gotten started and how it had escalated. A few weeks into this great adventure of trying to change, I asked my son to do the dishes when he came home from school. I got home from work expecting a clean kitchen. When I saw the dirty dishes piled up everywhere, I turned red with anger. I was ready to pounce on my son. Fortunately, he wasn't home so I had some time to think about the commitment I had made to calm persistence. When my son came home, I began talking to him calmly. When he started getting defensive and making excuses, I suddenly found myself yelling at him again. However, this time, instead of feeling as if I was in some kind of trance with no control over the situation, I found myself observing myself as I was yelling. I also felt, for the first time, that I had a choice. I knew I could stop if I wanted to. I used this new sense control to change my behavior. I stopped yelling at my son in midscream and walked out of the room.

Later, despite my small victory, I still felt as if I had failed to reach my goal and I started crying about it. The sobs continued for quite a while and afterwards I felt as if a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Then I recognized that at least I was thinking about yelling at my son before and during the act not just afterward. I was making progress. The next time my son forgot to do the dishes, I talked calmly to him about it and insisted that he do them before going out or turning on the television. He resisted and I persisted but I did not yell. Afterward, I felt so good about myself for not yelling. This victory lifted my self-esteem and later became a motivation to continue fighting my urge to yell. From this point on, despite periodic relapses, I continued to have a sense of choice about my yelling rather than feeling powerless about it. After a year had passed, the urge to yell at my son disappeared, and it seemed normal to handle things without losing control. I still got angry, but I had gotten control over my behavior and I felt better about myself. Most of all, in changing my behavior I had improved my relationship with my son. We were closer and he respected me more. Because he respected me more, he was more cooperative.

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