Most parents yell at their kids from time to time. Sometimes it’s out of frustration, and sometimes it’s instinctual in the moment to keep them from harming themselves or someone else. But at the heart of it, yelling is about control, and it can be exhausting—not just for you but also for your kids. It can also scare them and cause your relationship with them to deteriorate over time.
“Conventional parenting is punitive and fear-based, and adult preferences are prioritized,” says Sarah Rosensweet, a peaceful parenting coach and host of the Peaceful Parenting Podcast.
Peaceful parenting focuses on supporting kids with the guidance they need to meet our expectations. It is based on three components:
- The parent commits to self-regulating their own emotions.
- The parent prioritizes maintaining and strengthening the parent-child connection.
- The parent coaches the child.
Putting these ideas to use in the field is easier said than done, so I spoke to Rosensweet about some simple ways caretakers can implement this calmer approach to raising kids.
Keep your own emotions in check
Table of Contents
There comes a moment when even the most even-keeled parent loses their cool. It could be in the morning when it’s time to leave for school and everyone is moving at a different speed. Maybe it’s right before lunch, as your kids get “hangry” and begins to whine excessively. No matter what part of the day your frustration meter goes into the red, raising your voice will scare your child, and fear shouldn’t be a component in the parent-child relationship. Rosensweet says we’re human, so anger is a normal response.
“It’s not that you don’t get angry,” she says. “It’s that when you are angry, you recognize you’re angry. You take care of yourself so you don’t scream your head off at your kid.”
According to Rosensweet, the simplest way to avoid raising your voice is to pause the moment and try to “stop, drop, and breathe.” It could mean doing something as simple as taking a deep breath. When these moments occur with my boys, I’ll ask them to breathe with me. You can also try something comforting, like putting your hand over your heart or visualizing yourself having a different reaction.
Be a strong leader
Our children rely on us to keep them safe, so when they act against their best interests, we need to be honest and upfront with them—even if it makes them unhappy. An example Rosensweet uses is a simple Target run. You tell your child that you’re only getting a birthday present to bring to their friend’s party but later find yourself buying your child a toy because they had a meltdown.
“You give in because either you feel like you can’t tolerate your kid being unhappy with you or you can’t tolerate their feelings,” she says.
There are different, peaceful ways to handle this situation that don’t involve buying the toy, such as letting them get something with their own money, sitting and comforting them through their meltdown, or even taking a picture of the toy and putting it on their birthday or holiday wish list. It could also mean not taking them to the store at all. Be strong and find a solution that can work for both of you.
Don’t resort to punishments
When a child has a meltdown or misbehaves, it’s not because they want to be a bad kid. They’re having difficulty with something, such as being hungry, tired, or feeling disconnected from you. They might need help understanding what you’re asking since, because of their young age, they lack perspective. Punishing them will slowly chip away at your relationship. Rosensweet recommends that instead of doling out discipline, try to understand why your child acted out. By finding the underlying cause, we can support them if it happens again.
Carve out some one-on-one time
Peaceful parenting is about coaching your child and strengthening your relationship with them so they feel seen and know they matter to us—and you can accomplish this by spending some quality time with them, even if it’s not a lot of time. Rosensweet suggests finding 15 minutes to spend with each child as unstructured and child-led, with no screens or distractions.
During this time, you flex your long-dormant play muscles and build with some LEGO or imagine an adventure with their favorite superheroes. If you can’t steal away a moment during your busy week or a younger sibling needs attention, find ways to modify this special time to fit your schedule.
She also suggests looking for ways to delight in your child—that can be as simple as a smile while everyone is getting ready for their day or finding a moment of connection after school. Rosensweet calls these tiny moments throughout the day the times when what you feel in your heart shows on your face.
Peaceful parenting isn’t about your kids
Rosensweet has found that many parents she coaches realize the process is about them, not their kids.
“If you had parents who were reactive, you might have felt like there was no space for you to have any feelings,” she says. “There are internal triggers that we carry because of how we were raised that really don’t come up until we have our own kids.”