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Learning to Yell Differently

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Yelling. Probably one of the least desired actions we want to take with our children. Or maybe you’re okay with yelling, as long as you’re not belittling or scaring anyone.

I recall  the first time I yelled at my oldest child. I felt like a monster afterwards, seeing the mixture of fear and nervous laughter arise in her as I lost all sense of composure I thought I had. (What is composure anyway, if not a pack of well organized part-time truths?) It wasn’t effective either; it just drove the wedge between us even deeper. And it continued.

Until I learned to yell differently. Now, at first I tried to just stop yelling. That didn’t work. I’d yell, demonstrating clearly how not to deal with anger, apologize profusely, pledge to never do it again and then – repeat the cycle. Sometimes several times in the same day. (Needless to say I needed help, but was afraid to ask).

Eventually, though, the fear and disconnect I was creating became strong enough to penetrate my own madness. I was finally able to see through the anger enough when I was experiencing it to feel how damaging it was to my children. The justified sense of superiority and power I felt in yelling began to give way for a slow trickle of in the moment empathy – for everyone involved, including me.

I reached out, I asked for help.

I started learning how to notice the tension that would precede yelling so I could stop and take care of myself before I would blow. During the times such awareness seemed to come too late I would pay attention as soon as I was aware that I was yelling and I would notice my body, breathe, start to take ownership of my feelings, use “I” statements and lower my voice. In time, I invited my children and others to ask me to stop yelling and committed to stop if asked.

Sometimes I still yell. While it’s less often and very different from when I blamed everyone for the angry feelings I experienced, it still happens and I would like to always speak in a tone that feels safe to my children.

So, I’ve been experimenting with yelling. When asked, I always lower my voice. It took time for me to accept help and “correction” from my family but I want their assistance. This is our livelihood that I’m contributing to and yelling can be scary. It revs up the body and puts us on alert. I only want to do that in an actual emergency – and even then I can choose my tone so that it’s not scary.

When I do yell, I remember to breathe and bring my attention inside, to what I am feeling, sensing, needing and how I can communicate that most effectively. I lower my voice, sometimes to a whisper, and I’ve practiced this so much that it actually feels good. I’m only able to do this because of meditation and mindfulness practice, determination and the willingness to receive continual feedback from my family. It’s not always easy, yet it keeps me keep growing and striving to at least yell differently if I am not able to circumvent the yelling all together. How do you yell and what do you need to yell differently as you learn to minimize yelling overall?

Here are some resources that may be helpful along the way…


Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.

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