I remember a particularly stressful incident when my kids were still toddler and pre-school aged. They were seemingly out of control – screaming, throwing things, crying and generally acting like they were possessed. Nothing I tried was working and I had no idea what else I could do to get the chaos to stop.
Any other dads with me on this? Any chance you’ve been in the same scenario?
Well, since this post is about yelling… yep, you probably guessed that I resorted to yelling. But it wasn’t just yelling – it was bellowing at the top of my lungs. I’d lost it.
Definitely not my finest hour…but it was certainly an important one for me to see firsthand the disastrously negative effects of yelling at my kids.
They were terrified. So terrified, I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face. It’s etched in my memory forever. Despite how painful it was to see my children’s reactions to my outburst; it’s also been the catalyst for me to change.
I imagine many dads may struggle with staying calm in the midst of challenging times. Despite our best effort, something can always push our buttons and result in momentarily losing control of our voices. That being said, its crucial to learn better ways to respond in the moment and communicate in calm, respectful ways. Making this change is important if you truly want to raise confident and successful children.
This matters because the fact is yelling at kids has very negative effects. It may temporarily feel like a release, you may think it serves as a form of discipline or feel like it’s the only way to get your kids attention – but the psychological effects of yelling are damaging.
The goal of this post is not to condemn the fact you yell – it’s to help you decrease, and ultimately stop yelling at your kids. From personal experience, let me tell you it’s worth the time and energy to improve in this area.
Here are my five steps to help dads stay calm and communicate better.
1. Admit you have a problem with yelling
It’s been said that, “when you finally find the courage to admit you have a problem, that’s when you have some power over the problem. That’s the first step. Otherwise, you’re just withering away…”
If you’re reading this, you have a problem with yelling. How can I know that? Why else would you be reading?
Be encouraged – you’ve already taken step #1 because you ARE reading this. Keep going.
2. Evaluate your habits
You must look at your patterns of behavior outside of just parenting. Is yelling your default behavior in other areas of life when you don’t get your way? Where else do you yell? What’s causing you to yell? Is it frustration, lack of self-control, a desire to intimidate, or something else?
If you resort to yelling in your life, chances are this pattern of behavior will be exposed and increase when dealing with your children.
On the flip side, if you don’t find yourself yelling anywhere else in life but are yelling at your kids, then you need to dig deeper to identify what’s causing you to yell. Our thoughts and feelings are the primary drivers of our behavior – and often the feelings are the most powerful driver. The problem is that men often suppress or deny their true feelings.
“The problem is that men often suppress or deny their true feelings.”
Do you have the pattern where you deny your feelings? Or are you completely unaware of your true feelings? That’s ok if you are – most adults are painfully unaware of their true feelings. They also lack the knowledge and skills to process those emotions in a healthy way. So, it’s really the greatest challenge you have as a dad.
To truly stop yelling, you have to change from the inside out. You do that by identifying your feelings and processing them so they don’t come out in destructive ways towards your children. A series of tips and tricks won’t create the lasting change you want to see.
3. Heal yourself
We all have pain that has affected our lives. If it hasn’t been processed, it’s like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off…especially when the stress of life ratchets up the intensity. When you heal your past pain, you can begin to better manage your reactions to life situations in the moment.
In fact, the more you heal yourself, the more you can make conscious choices to ‘respond’ to life, instead of react. Isn’t that what you really want when it comes to your kids – and your life? To respond with composure, strength, kindness, grace, resilience and a positive way forward?
4. Create new thinking patterns
Once the pain of the past is processed it’s like writing on a blank page. Creating new thinking patterns is like having a lined page instead of blank – it shows you where to start and put the words down.
As an example, let’s say you used to yell and immediately felt guilty. The old thinking pattern would be, “I’m so mad at myself for yelling. I know it scared my kids, and I feel like such a failure. I’m a really bad dad.” Your thoughts were perpetuating your guilty feelings, and that negative cycle would repeat, usually resulting in you feeling worse and worse.
By processing the feelings of guilt, plus the deeper feelings of resentment and bitterness – because you blamed your dad for always yelling at you when you were growing up, and every time you did the same thing you were reminded of how much it scared you, you never wanted to do the same thing. Once you work on healing the anger, resentment and bitterness, you need to create a new thought pattern. One that says, “I’m a good dad. I made a mistake, but that mistake doesn’t define me. I know this process is hard, but I can do hard things and get better. I’ll apologize and repair the relationship. I’ll get the support I need to get through this.”
That new thinking pattern must be established to break the negative cycle of doubt, fear, guilt, and shame that holds so many dads back from truly changing their behavior.
5. Learn empathy, listening and self-management skills
Doing the “inside job” outlined above is 80% of what’s needed to stopping yelling. While that’s encouraging, there is still a final 20% that can start transforming your relationship with your kids (and anyone else). To achieve the child affirming and positive relationship you want it will take applying new skills. It’s not enough to just have your kids not be afraid of you – you want them to actively come to you for your love, guidance, direction, protection, and provision, right?
That’s why you need to learn to demonstrate empathy, active listening and self-management skills. These skills help your kids:
- Know you hear and understand them
- Feel like you care about them
- Trust you’re on their side
- Value your perspective
- Hear your direction
- Follow your guidance
Doesn’t that sound like what you want from your kids?
Following the above five steps will help you start achieving that level of positive influence. It will take time. It will take work. Maybe most importantly it will take courage. And I know you’ve got what it takes to do it. I believe in you.
Remember, you were made for this.
For specific resources to help you through each of these five steps, connect with Dad Central. Download a free resource, read additional blogs, enroll in our fatherhood fundamentals course, or just email us at [email protected].
About The Author – Drew Soleyn
I’m the Director of Dad Central Ontario, Founder of Connected Dads, and a Career Coach at the Queen's Smith School of Business. As an ICF certified coach and John Maxwell Team Coach, Trainer & Speaker, I help struggling dads show up at their best for the people who matter most.