My simplest solution for how to stop yelling at kids is to practice an idea I call “one-downing.”
One-downing is the opposite of one-upping.
You’ve heard of one-upping, right? You know…
First Mom: “I make my own granola.”
Second Mom: “Oh well I make organic granola AND use essential oils.”
Third Mom: “Oh, of course that goes without saying. But I also make all our own soaps and toothpaste…”
Well, I’ve noticed my tendency to one-up my kids as they escalate a situation.
For example, they’re running around screaming while I’m on the phone, so I shout over them to try to get them to stop.
Or, they’re fighting back and forth in the next room (MINE, NO MINE, NO MINE, MIIINNNEEEE!) and I try to yell at the kids over their yelling: “STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER.”
Does this ever happen to you?
Well first of all, let me state the obvious. Something I think we all basically know to be true.
Let’s Stop Yelling At Kids, It Doesn’t Work in the Long run.
Besides the fact that it’s ironic that we yell at kids to stop yelling at each other, yelling at kids is also 99.9% ineffective. And I always end up feeling guilty for yelling at my child. They may get quiet or comply in the moment, but yelling at kids often doesn’t solve the problem.
At least, in my experience. (Here are 3 parenting lessons I learned when I lost it on my kids one time…)
This was true when I was teaching in the classroom too. I taught elementary school music, so the classroom could get particularly loud sometimes.
(Think lots small children + lots of instruments.)
Instead of bothering to yell over everything, I would just stand in a specific spot, and raise my hand until every single kid and instrument was completely silent.
At first, it took a while, but the kids eventually got pretty fast at it. I could raise my hand, a few seconds later, everyone would be quiet and looking in my direction, so that I could calmly announce or explain whatever, and then they would go back to whatever they were doing. (Seriously, if you’re a teacher – do this!!)
Of course, there are a lot of things I do differently as a parent than a classroom teacher because the roles and responsibilities are different. But, this volume thing is applicable in both settings.
A better Solution than yelling at kids: One-downing them
AKA, robot mom voice
Sometimes I call it one-downing, sometimes I call it robot mom voice.
The principle is this: as the child gets louder, I will get softer.
As they escalate, you deescalate.
And, when initially dealing with a “situation,” I use my robot mom voice.
Here’s what I mean:
Take the running around and screaming while I’m on the phone scenario.
One-downing-mom asks the nice person on the other end of the phone to please hold on a minute. Mute button optional.
Walk over to your loud children and say in a very quiet, robot mom voice (no hints of frustration allowed): “I am having a conversation the phone and your screaming makes it hard for me to hear. Please stop yelling. I’ll let you know when I’m done. Do you understand?”
Your kids should nod or acknowledge you somehow.
Or, in the scenario with your children yelling, “MIIINNNEEE” at each other…
Well I’m sure your children would never do this, but mine do every once in a while 😉
One-downing-mom walks over to the children and says, again with no hint of emotion in her very quiet robot mom voice, “It is rude to yell mine at each other. Take turns with it, or I will take it away. Do you need my help to take turns?” (Or verbalize whatever your household sharing policy is.)
Our sharing policy is: They can figure out how to take turns reasonably, and without pestering each other profusely. We can “help” them by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes. Usually after a few rounds of timers, everyone is bored of it or they’ve figure it out on their own.
By the way, this sharing with a timer method has 3 things going for it!
- It literally teaches kids what “taking turns is.” It’s a GREAT technique if you want to figure out how to teach a 2 year old to share.
- It’s pretty effective at encouraging sharing but not forcing sharing because someone else gets whatever they want when I have it. Sometimes you just don’t get what you want right away, and that’s okay.
- It removes a lot of the selfish emotion surrounding phrases like, “I had it first.” and “No I want it!!” and “You just want it because I have it.”
How to stop yelling at kids during a tantrum
Emotions for toddlers can be a tricky thing. On one hand, they’re two. While I prefer not to call it the “terrible twos,” 2 year olds are trying to figure out how the world works. Their instinct is to throw themselves on the floor when you say “no more cookies,” and they have to learn that their instinct is, essentially, wrong.
Because, alas – you can’t go through life throwing yourself on the floor when you don’t get your way.
On the other hands, emotions of toddlers are real! Their feelings are valid, regardless of how ridiculous they seem to us as parents!
This doesn’t mean we have to coddle our child’s bad behavior, but respecting our children (even if they’re tots) is important!
One Downing Robot Mom Is Very Calm in Tantrum Situations
Depending on the situation, I will often calmly pick up the child, and as I carry them to their room say (in my professional-robot-mom-voice, devoid of almost all emotion), “You may not scream and throw yourself on the floor when you don’t get what you want. I’ll come back in a few minutes when you’re calm and we can talk about it.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not 100% A+ perfect at this. I often find my heart rate rising in frustration as we deal with the same repeated behaviors and attitudes for a few weeks or months… and it makes me want to explode sometimes! (I always try to apologize to my kids when I lose it on them.)
Also, I’m not advocating never showing any emotion towards your kids. In the tantrum situation, I usually go back to the room, sit on the floor with them (if they can calm down), and we talk, snuggle, and move on.
My voice then is totally different. We need to be real with our kids, but their moment of extreme meltdown is not the moment to retaliate with all the big real feelings you’re feeling towards them.
The middle of a tantrum is not really the time to try to reason with the emotions of toddlers either.
In the middle of an escalated situation – whether it’s a kid being purposefully naughty or a 3 year old just being 3 and running around screaming at an inopportune time – I’ve found that if I “one-down” the child, everything and everyone gets calmer sooner.
I’ve seen a lot of my friends do this with their kids over the past couple years, and it is very effective across the board. Even with different parenting styles, discipline opinions, kid personalities, etc.
It’s hard to one-down your kid when you are really frustrated!
Honestly, when we had our first two year old running around, I thought to myself for the first time ever, “Do I have an anger management problem!?” I had taught very difficult children in the past… kids screamed at me, walked out of the room, a teenager threw a chair across the room and stormed out… on and on. In all the crazy classrooms, I mostly remained calm.
Yet when dealing with my own 2 year old’s behavior problems, my blood would boil and my heart rate would rise and I would end up yelling. Then, I would feel guilty for yelling at my child.
She is 2 after all! Aren’t I the one who is supposed to have self control!?
One Downing Kids Is Better than Yelling at Kids… but it’s not a “quick fix.”
Remember – no parenting technique creates perfectly behaved children. While good behavior creates a happy home environment for kids to thrive in, having well-behaved kids isn’t the ultimate goal. The bigger goals of parenting are:
- leading our kids to see their need for Jesus
- modeling for them what it looks like to have a relationship with Him, teaching them how to hear from God
- and praying fervently that He would reveal Himself to them personally.
In the meantime, though… robot mom voice is super helpful 😉 One downing your kids is something you can practice and get better at. You can take deep breaths, and intervene with your calm robot voice before things escalate.
We can never be perfect moms! But finding a way to channel your inner robot can deescalate the situation quickly and help you stop yelling at your kids… which doesn’t work anyway.
Do you ever do this? What does robot mom look and sound like at your house!?
One More Thing: Printable Verse Cards for Anger Management (Ha!)
I made these printable verse cards with 4 different verses that can encourage you when you feel like LOSING YOUR MARBLES on your kids… Anyone? Just me?
I’m going to post them around my house and memorize them so that the Holy Spirit can bring them to mind when I need it! Feel free to download and print them if you want!