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How I stopped yelling at my kids… & how it’s changed our home

How I Stopped Yelling at My Kids

I thought I was a patient person… then I had kids.

I said I’d never yell at my kids… and then I had kids.

I pictured myself as a sweet, loving, always-cheerful mom… then I had kids.

Motherhood has stretched me and humbled me. It’s brought out the best in me and the worst in me. And, recently, with all the processing of our big move, there has been a lot more of the worst and very little of the best.

I found myself snapping at my kids more and more frequently, which only served to frustrate me. The more I snapped at my kids, the more frustrated I was at myself. And the more frustrated I was at myself, the more I’d snap at my kids.

It was a vicious cycle and I felt trapped.

One night, I was up late thinking of the kind of mom I’d been and feeling so ashamed of my behavior and the example I was setting before my kids. I started praying and asking God to help me to love my children, to help me have patience with them, and to stop getting so angry with them.

My 4-Week Commitment

As I was praying, an idea birthed in my head. I decided to make a commitment to my husband for the next 4 weeks.

I woke Jesse up to tell him my commitment (I have such a gracious husband — poor guy!). It was this: every time I was tempted to lash out at a child I would, instead, find a very practical way to love that child.

It was a BIG commitment, but he agreed that he thought I could do it and said he was willing to hold me accountable. I went to bed resolving that, by God’s grace, I was going to change the tone in our home.

It Was SO Hard

The first day was very, very hard. One child in particular has been getting on my every last nerve recently. This child knows how to push buttons and seems to make a game of trying to see how much they can annoy me.

Well, the first few hours on that first day of my 4-week commitment, this child tried all their usual tactics. I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t yell. I didn’t even raise my voice.

Oh, it was very hard. But I’m a stubborn person and I was determined to stick with my commitment to my husband.

Instead, of lashing out, I asked this child to come snuggle next to me. I poured love, love, and more love.

The Change Has Been Amazing!

Within a few hours, this child’s attitude had drastically changed. They were calm, happy, and asking what they could do to help me. I could not believe it!

And this only continued for the next few days. Until finally, I felt like I almost had a completely different child living in my home. It was amazing!

We’re now headed into week #4 of my commitment and I can safely say that this one change in me has changed the tone in our whole home. My children are more helpful and respectful. I am so much happier. Jesse is happier because we’re happier. And our home is much, much calmer.

All because I’m choosing to love instead of lash out.

I decided my 4-week experiment was a smashing success. And I’m going to extend it for another 40 years. Or something like that. 🙂

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To help me remember to choose love instead of lashing out, I’ve been wearing this bracelet. It came shortly after I made this commitment. It’s a Mother’s Bracelet from Spark of Amber and it has amber beads — which are supposed to be calming — plus, a bead birthstone for each child.

I received mine as a review product for an upcoming giveaway I’m doing and I’ve decided it’s my physical reminder to stay calm with my children. It’s been surprising to me how having this physical reminder has worked so well. It might sound silly, but every time I see the bracelet on my wrist — which is often! — it reminds me, “Stay calm. Love. Love. Love. Don’t lash out.”

P.S. Another change we made around the same time was to have our children be completely electronics-free (no TV, movies, iPads, etc.) except for family movie night. This has also made a HUGE difference in our home… I’ll have to do a post on that sometime, too!

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196 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    I love this. I’ve been thinking along these same lines. I will definitely be on the lookout for the electronics post. I’ve been experimenting with removal as well.

    • Tatiana says:

      I didn’t completely remove electronics but I did limit screen time to only 1 hour a day and saw a MAJOR difference

  • bren says:

    Love this idea n I have a bracelet I’m going to use! <3

  • Kimberly says:

    Thanks for this. Your intro described me. Please pray for me as we do this. I actually have spent the whole day prior to reading this in prayer for something to help with my anger management.

  • Susanne says:

    Omg thismade ne cry. Im feeling the exact same way. My 4 yo oh my goodness does she know how to push my buttons! And i hate myself everytime she doesnt listeb to me and i get angry and act like a stubborn rude kid myself . Oh my I need a necklace of those beads to keep me calm

    • Emily says:

      You are not alone. I have a 4 yr old daughter who I love dearly, but she is in her own world most of the time and can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand. So, after telling her to do something a couple of times, I resort to yelling to get my point across. All this does is cause all of us to be in terrible moods and she may or may not get the task done. I would love to be one of those patient, calm moms, but she drives me crazy sometimes! We all need to pray for all other moms out there! I will definitely attempt to put the points of this article to use in my life!

      • Rebecca says:

        I have one that can’t concentrate too. She’s 11 now, but have caused my husband and I so much grief. I feel like i’m finally able to separate my emotion and response from her behavior. I so hear you. One thing that has been enormously helpful for me is “triple talk.” Have her repeat the instruction three times while clapping. Also, preparing for the previous day and going over expectations for EVERY activity/ portion of the day. It gets old, especially with a middle school child, but, it is worth it.

    • Steph says:

      Me too. I’m so ashamed and feel so much guilt, but God is a God of forgiveness. I don’t deserve it but in His mercy He gives it. Praying for all you other mothers, and lift me up while you’re at it 😉 i need it big time.

  • Sarah Ann says:

    This is a fabulous idea and I vow to commit to this! My parenting situation is quite special, just like the babies I was blessed with through adoption. My daughter has Autism and my son, although not officially diagnosed, probably has ADHD and is quite the wild child. I find myself slipping into yelling without realizing it and it saddens me that I am not the mom I thought I would be. But I am thankful God’s grace is new every morning and with this commitment, I can love them a little more like Him. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you for sharing with us. I have just this year been widowed, with 5 children to care for. I have struggled so much in this area. Love your idea and will use it. Looking forward to a calm home, filled with laughter and love

  • Heidi says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am not a mother, but still live at home with my parents. I have four young siblings (1 1/2, 3, 5, 7) and it’s been on my heart lately try to stop getting angry, especially when I am babysitting. I think you have some amazing insights here! I usually deal with anger and frustration by removing myself from the situation, but that is not always possible if you are the one in charge!

    I also love the bracelet idea! I recently got a ring that says ‘hope’ on it. It’s been a real help for me as I have CFS/ME. Sometimes it is very difficult to keep hope that I will get well, so to see this ring all the time is a special reminder.

  • Sharon says:

    ThAnk you for those words! I need that challenge. I have a child like yours who I allow to push my buttons too. I’m anxious to try your actions. And the electronics post? I’m anxious to see it! We don’t have at an early age seen the negative responses we had with our first son with electronics. So yes we limit our boys too and maybe I need to reevaluate their 15 min a day on my phone.

  • chrystal says:

    Awesome. Isn’t it funny how the Bible is always right! I don’t know why we fight against it sometimes. I’m am going to do this – with the bracelet too!

    You Gotta tell us about the electronics experiment. I’ve been trying to do this – worth no avail.

  • Rachel says:

    I am more than a little guilty in this department thats for sure, but my question is, as parents we still need to discipline our kids, how do you go about that?

    • Dawn says:

      My wild and crazy boys are 6 and 10 now and for years I have been letting them ‘pick their punishment’. When this all started out we reviewed our Family Rules then listed everything from a time out to major grounding. When someone does something wrong I sit alone with the child and discuss heir behavior and ask what they think we should do about it. I was surprised that they are often much harder on themselves than I am so I get to dial back the grounding they suggested to something less severe such as simply returning the toy they stole from their brother. And of course a real apology is mandatory followed by a hug (once I know they won’t kill eachother if they get too close) lol. It’s not perfect but since we have been doing it for so long they know the consequences of their actions and know that they can choose to behave to avoid punishment. It makes them stop and think before they act.

  • Mary says:

    So timely…I am a homeschool mom with 5 kids. I have regularly been losing my patience and am glad to know that it’s not just me and am going to use your advice to help me! Thank you so much for all of your wonderful advice and great example.

  • Jennn says:

    Can you offer up some of the additional practical ways you showed love instead of lashing out? I would love to try this, but need an arsenal of “love tactics” to immediately turn to, as I doubt I’d be able to think of something when my emotions are about to boil over. Thank you!

  • Cheyenne says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been in the same cycle and praying for help, and your post came as part of an answer to prayer for me. I’ve followed many blogs, but I must say that yours is always #1 for me. If I only have time to look at email briefly, of any blog emails I open, yours is always it. It’s so inspirational, practical, motivating, helpful in a whole-life-and-it’s-many
    -parts-management way. THANK YOU for taking on this work that gifts so many mothers like me!!

  • Lois says:

    Hope this works with ADHD husbands too. I need help!

  • Sally says:

    Yep, the child that is hardest to love is the one that needs it the most! Once at my wits’ end, I took my one horrid child on my knee and held her while she struggled. When she finally stopped, I told her, “Sweetheart, you could not EVER be bad enough to make me stop loving you.” I had to remind her of that once a few years later, but it has made all the difference in the world. ♥

  • Jackie says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I will make the commitment and take the challenge and I know my husband will too . Love the bracelet idea.

  • Jenny says:

    Hi! For some reason I keep finding myself at your blog. First it was organization strategies (I still use your weekly house cleaning printouts) and now this post! I was in the same situation as you several years ago and went to the public library, completely at my wit’s end, to look for a parenting book to help me (none of the other 100 or so I had read was helping me) when I came across “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, How to Listen so Kids will Talk” by Faber and Mazlish- BEST BOOK EVER!!! If you have never read it you should definitely see if your local library has a copy. It has been around A LONG time, but I had never heard of it. It completely changed the way I parent. : )

  • Dana says:

    Your posts are always encouraging. We just moved with our sons (1&4) from michigan to Kansas and I have thought about your journey a lot. Moving is tough and high stress on everyone… I am actually having the hardest time adjusting though it’s getting better. I’ll look for your tips for not yelling to help in my frustration. Conscious discipline has been a recent discovery also of mine. Thank you crystal – you help many of us

  • Jessica says:

    Thank you for this post! It’s the encouragement I need to get out of a rut with this! Also could you please post a link to the post about going electronic free? I would love to know how that went.

  • Christine says:

    Any ideas for older kids (9 and 14) who just ignore me even when I speak normally lol!?

    I end up frustrated and then yelling because me asking/telling them to do anything(phrased in any sort of way, truly) in a normal voice falls on deaf ears. They always end up asking “Why are you yelling!?” or “Why do you keep telling me the same thing!?”

    Because you never listen the first (or second or third….) time or you say you ‘forgot’!

    *sigh*

    • Di H. says:

      Here is a suggestion that I found helpful. When you talk to them, start out by facing them and have them look you in the eye. Sometimes touching them on the shoulder to get their attention is helpful too. Once you have their complete attention, make your request (Will you please take out the trash.) & have them acknowledge you by repeating it back to you. (Yes mom I will take out the trash.) Then insist that they obey right away to keep from “forgetting”.
      Even for myself as a kid (and even now if I am watching TV, reading a book, doing the bills, etc) I can get into a zone and completely tune out the world. I usually hear and see nothing else. It frequently takes physical contact to get me out of that zone. My mom would even ask me to do something but unless I put my book down to hear what she said I couldn’t tell you what she said.

      Instead of constantly telling them to do stuff, create a written version of what needs to be done and put the responsibility back on them.

      1. Instilling a new habit to go along with an old habit
      Perhaps make your bed (new) before coming to breakfast (old). If they have to help with breakfast dishes, then a rule might be that they must be cleared from the table immediately after breakfast (new) before leaving the kitchen.(old)

      2. Maybe make a chore chart that they can check off and giving them a time frame for when things need to be done.
      Here are 5 chores and they must be completed by 3pm or before going to a friend’s house

      3. Another option might be to make a schedule to follow:
      7:00-7:30 Get up, dressed, & make bed
      7:30-8:00 Breakfast
      8:00-8:30 Help clean up breakfast
      8:30- 9:30 household chores
      9:30-11:30 Free time

      You can even mix and match. Have a strict schedule M-F and a list of things on Saturday or vice versa

  • marjanna says:

    So needed this. It has been really bad in this house for several months but it keeps getting worse. I’m sure it’s my attitude. Pregnancy hormones don’t help wither. Going to start this right now. It also gives me an excuse to buy myself a bracelet;) my kids are 5, 3 and 2 and I’m 38+ weeks pregnant. It is a very trying time for me as a mother dealing with the attitudes of these ages. We will also be getting on a routine too so I know that will help. Thank you for this post!!!!

  • yessica says:

    Hi, thanks for writing about it. Am having that same problem and I am going crazy, I even thought it was depression. Is a small change but is worth it.

    thanks!

  • Rebecca says:

    I love this idea and having some visual reminder as well…..

  • Kathleen says:

    Thanks so much for your transparency, Crystal. I’m encouraged to follow your lead as we’ve been facing similar struggles. I’ve been praying and trying to strategize my way out…This is a practical (although hard!) step I can take to change the tone of our home, too.

    And I love the idea of your reminder bracelet! 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I am glad I read this. My husband and I recently separated because he says he is tired of my yelling. I have been praying about it but nothing seems to help. I am going to try this. I hope it works. I hate the fact that I yell at my loved ones and really hate that u have pushed my husband away because of it! Maybe if I can fix it like you did, he ad my children will be happier and he will come back home where he belongs and my heart will not hurt anymore.

  • Katrina says:

    Thank you for sharing this. We just put our home on the market and I have been a complete nightmare to all around me. I will be starting this challenge today. Blessings to you and yours!!! <3

  • Anne says:

    Unbelievable! This post is an answer to my prayers! Just TODAY I was consumed with the thought of this exact issue! One of my children has really been getting on my last nerve and I HATE that I let that happen! I’m the adult! I should handle it better! After reading your advice/tips and the other comments from folks who are in my shoes, it’s good to know that I am not alone. I feel selfish for letting it get to this point! So, tomorrow is a new day; I just need to decide what bracelet to wear 😉
    THANK YOU!!! God bless you all!

  • Alicia says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I needed this blog so much! I have a now 10 month old who is into everything and although he is too young to understand me telling him no 150 times a day it is starting to wear at me some days and I feel myself getting short with him when he doesn’t deserve it. I always told myself I didn’t want to be the mom that yells at her kids but I felt myself headed in that direction and I didn’t know how to change. This blog gave me new perspectives, new strategies and hope! I can and will be the mother that my kids love by turning to God and finding patience and love. Thanks for reminding me of that!

  • Natalie says:

    How can I implement this idea with teenage boys? I love your 4 week plan!

  • Misa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this..I myself have been struggling for years now..im having a hard time disciplining my two boys without yelling and freaking out at times..i know im hurting them inside and its hurting me too..i will definitely do the same things that you did..i will ask for guidance and i know i can do this..again thank you and God bless you and your family.. 😊

  • Kimberly says:

    I know this may sound silly but what are some of the ways you showed love in the moment you wanted to yell? Besides snuggles or hugs… I’ve been trying this and know tons of ways to love my children but in the moment seems like it needs certain kinds of loving and not others. I don’t know if that sense.

  • Mary says:

    Thanks for the wonderful message. Yelling make it difficult to understand certain things about the child. Blessings to my family.

  • Amanda says:

    This post came right in the nick of time! It breaks my heart when I yell at my children. I feel awful that I do exactly what I try my best to teach them NOT to do. Thanks for the post 🙂

  • Kerry says:

    This is a great article! I’m 33 weeks pregnant with a 2.5 year old daughter at home. She is a great kid, but still very much a toddler, testing her limits and my patience at times. I really like this approach and am excited to try it – being pregnant and working full time has severely limited my patience! Any advice on how to use this approach if they actually need to be disciplined or misbehaving?

  • Melissa says:

    You have no idea how bad I needed this. I have been struggling these last months. I have a 12 yo boy and an 11 yo girl. My little one has special needs and things have been difficult. My son adores his sister and when she gets sick he acts out. This has been such a rough couple of months and schedule changes and I have felt very alone, despite having an amazing husband and family. Reading this made me feel uplifted. I am so happy to hear I am not alone. I will be trying to take your advice. Thank you so much.

  • Tia says:

    As I am reading this article tears are beginning to form. Because this is me. I feel there is no other way to get my point across to my 4year old daughter. As of today I have made a commitment to no longer be a “yelling mom”.

  • Eve says:

    Thank you! Perfect fir my situation! I ordered the bracelet too!

  • Bee says:

    So you’ve been doing this floor several years now. Any tips on logging and showing Grace, but still instilling disrespect and disobedience is not acceptable? I am trying not to yell, but I also don’t want to be viewed as the pushover my husband is seen as.

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