I Yelled at My Kids
by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
I really hadn't meant to yell. But the aftermath of it lay before me. My son was a whimpering mess on the floor, and my daughter sat frozen on the chair in front of me.
As I sat there considering my next move, I sensed it needed to be done quickly. There was a deafening sound of silence. It reminded all of us that an ugly moment had just occurred. And a voice inside me continued to insist that my kids were at fault.
"OK, you two, I'm sorry I yelled like that, what a dumb thing to do!" As I moved toward my son, it became evident that he wanted no part of me. "Get away from me!" he shouted.
I thought better of telling him not to yell at me, so I did the only thing I could think of doing. "Crabby Daddy is back!" I proclaimed. I transformed my hands into pincers, and crawled in crab-like fashion towards them. "I love to yell at children, then eat them!"
My son continued to yell at me to go away, but he was now laughing and crying simultaneously. My mission to undo the damage from my yelling was underway. I’d been able to recover quickly this time, but I knew this moment wouldn’t soon be forgotten.
Most importantly, I wanted to remember what had really happened. I had lost my discipline. I failed to control my emotions, and I took out my anger on my children.
Were my children misbehaving? Absolutely. Is there a part of me that wants to blame them, and let them know how badly they were acting? No question. But this is the part of me that serves my ego. It shows my children how to avoid responsibility, and to blame others. It’s not what I want to show them, or myself.
And when we’re with our children, we must always search for our best self.
Our kids don’t need perfect parents, and they won’t get them. But they do need parents who strive to get better, and who are willing to take responsibility for their own mistakes.
So when you make a mistake and yell at your kids, what do you do?
Here are five ideas:
1. Recover quickly - Recovering emotionally (or faking your recovery) will make it much easier on your children, and show them how to be resilient themselves.
2. Apologize, but don’t overdo it – It’s important to say you’re sorry, but don’t dwell on it, and don’t show signs of pity. This will only help to create a victim of your child.
3. Avoid finding ways to blame them – It’s incredibly easy to blame your kids when you’re angry. It’s OK to say, “When I saw you hit your brother, I felt angry,” but avoid saying, “You made me angry.” You’re responsible for your own anger—teach this to your children.
4. Process the incident with them – Children can be traumatized by yelling, and it helps to talk about what happened for each of them. Ask them questions about it, and allow them a chance to talk about it.
5. Don’t beat yourself up about it – You probably didn’t screw up their lives with this one incident. Kids are pretty resilient and they’ll recover, especially if you follow these steps, and keep improving yourself. Feeling awful about it for days afterward doesn't help anyone. Move ahead, and your kids will, too!
Set your standards high, do your best to follow them, and forgive yourself when you yell at your kids.
They may have forgiven you already.
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches busy parents by phone to balance their life and improve their family relationships. For a FREE twenty minute sample session by phone; ebooks, courses, articles, and a FREE newsletter, go to
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