With young kids around, yelling and emotional regulation seem to be constant topics in our home. We are always discussing ways to be sensitive to our children’s very real emotions. It is a balancing act of allowing them to feel those emotions, teaching them it is okay to have and express those emotions, but also giving them tools to handle those emotions in appropriate ways. Read on to learn one way we can achieve this balance.
Yelling and Regulating Emotions: Where do we begin?
I don’t believe these challenges are unique to just children. As a friend recently reminded me, making real changes in your family and out in the world begins with self-reflection.
One of the key parts of humility is admitting when you are wrong. Our children think of us as these amazing people who know everything. But, as we all know, we are imperfect, and there is kindness is acknowledging our flaws and admitting our mistakes. It allows us to:
- Model apologizing.
- Demonstrate the positive ways to work on what we find difficult.
- Be relatable and human.
- Show our children how to learn and grow from mistakes in positive ways.
- Teach them we can still love others and ourselves despite our flaws.
- Promote mutual respect.
Recently, I decided to work on one of my own flaws in a very visible and concrete way: yelling.
If I could change anything about myself, it would be that I yell. I raise my voice when I get stressed and overwhelmed, and I am very impatient. At times I see this behavior in my kids. They are imitating this negative expression of mine, and I am determined to break that cycle. In order to do this, I wanted to find a strategy that would work for me (so I could MODEL the appropriate responses to stress and frustration), and one that could also work for my kids.
As a visual learner, I wanted a concrete way to demonstrate stopping, refocusing, and calming ourselves when we felt ourselves (or noticed someone else) nearing a breaking point. From there, the hope is that we would be able to address the situation in a more constructive way without yelling. In the beginning, I thought I would use a stop sign. Ultimately, however, I settled on a red heart, because by stopping, breathing, and refocusing, we are not only calming ourselves, we are also being KIND to ourselves and the people around us.
How it works:
- If we notice ourselves or another person in our family getting angry, worked up, or frustrated, we go to our clipboard, grab the red heart, and silently hold it. We don’t have to say, “Calm down.” We don’t need to scream in frustration. There is power in the gesture, and power in the silence.
- That visual cue reminds us to look at our “Calm” Board, which contains several strategies for helping ourselves refocus. For our “Calm” Board, we brainstormed strategies as a family that help us feel calmer when we are frustrated. We can try:
As with anything involving your kids, the system isn’t seamless. In the beginning, both of my boys resisted the whole idea. We experienced a few incidents involving a mangled, torn heart and a heart lost to the garbage can. However, over time, I have found that the silent visual cue of handing over the heart has had a positive influence. I am consciously working on regulating my own emotions, and truly it has helped tremendously to have that visual reminder. One day Mr. Track Suit heard me say, “Okay, you guys, I’m starting to get frustrated!” Without missing a beat he said, “Mom, maybe you need the heart!” I went to the heart, did my five deep breaths, and moved on. Using a visual cue, I was able to model appropriate behavior, and I didn’t yell or get more worked up.
Another huge advantage to this system is that I have the ability to help my kids without “over” parenting. I have a tendency to try to explain things to them that are way over their heads or get lost in the midst of their heightened emotions. This is simple. And with kids, simple is better. My kids are beginning to learn to calm themselves, and have control over choosing the strategy that will work best for them.
What are some things you are working on and what have you found to be helpful? What are some challenges you have that I could write about or research to help you?
This parenting thing can be hard, isolating, and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. We are in this together and can help each other. I want to learn MORE and only hope to share in that with you. I can only hope that you see this as a place to collaborate. Email me, message me, call me. Let me know what YOU are struggling with and what information you’d like more of. Tell me what you are doing that might be helpful to others. I want to ask questions. I want to confront my prejudices. I will be raw and real, and I hope you all find you can come to me and be that open, too. Through all of our discussion, I hope we can help our kids reach their potential, too.
I hope you reach out. Keep looking for those little helpers in your world. Mine were lifesavers this week.