A “time out” for mommy

At the pediatrician’s office the other day, there was a sign posted in the waiting room. It was called How to Love a Child, and it listed about 20 things in one giant paragraph. A few were highlighted, and one caught my eye: Stop Yelling.

Over the last year, my patience for my first son had shrunk a bit.

Now he is three years old. He has his own opinions. He negotiates for what he wants. And it doesn’t always gel with what I want him to do.

The first time I yelled at him, I felt terrible. I think it was something to the effect of “Just put on your shoes!!!!” so we could get to an appointment on time. After the second or third time I yelled at him, HE yelled back at ME. Oh oh, I thought. That’s where this is heading.

I didn’t want my child to become someone who yells at others. But here I was yelling at him.

I blamed my yelling on stress, lack of sleep, annoyance at the physical aches and pains of my pregnancy, and so on. But of course the reason made no difference to him. He was learning that yelling is the way you get things done.

According to Jane Nelson in her book Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, the feeling that leads to yelling or worse is a sign that “the pitcher is empty.” She says, “Effective, loving parenting takes a lot of time and energy. You can’t do your best when your pitcher is empty, when you’re tired, cranky, stressed out, and overwhelmed.”

She recommends doing things like budgeting time wisely, making lists, making time for important relationships, and doing the things you enjoy regularly.

But the most helpful thing she mentions is a time out. (For me, not my son!) When I feel that overwhelming frustration well up, I’m trying to just step away for a minute or close my eyes and take a deep breath.

What about you? Do you yell at your kids when you’re frustrated? Do you have any secrets to keeping your patience you can share?

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Comments (6)

  1. Jennifer Lewis

    I can relate to this, I have a 10 year old, a 4 year old, a 3 year old, and a 7 month old girl who is the only girl!
    I have had one of those days too and learned that yelling gets them to yell and i found that out quick so i had to break it quick with them bcause they started to yell when they wanted something done! Very good advice sometimes as parents we are so busy and get so caught up that we dont realize that saying someting like that could start “open a can of worms”

    • Lisa

      Jennifer, I admire you! First of all, with just two I’m going out of my mind sometimes. (I’m hoping my three-year-old son never figures out that I get frustrated with him mostly when I’m trying to tend to his little brother!) Second of all, to recognize and then break the habit of yelling must be so difficult. I could count about 20 times every day when I want to yell or say something totally unnecessary to my son. Working on it here…

  2. Leslie Guenther

    I really have a hard time talking about this right now. My husband is deployed I am 8 months pregnant and I have a 1 and 2 year old. Most days I feel like crying. My 2 year old has been so bad since his dad left and at first I let him do it because I felt bad for him. Now I am back to using time out and just walking away from him. I refuse to allow myself to scare my kids (with words). I came from an abusive house hold. I am a time out only mommie. I do not spank. But for the last week or so I have found myself yelling so I totally agree with the time outs for myself. Yesterday I put them in the car and drove around to give myself a time out.

    • Lisa

      Leslie, I feel for you. What a challenge you have on your hands. It sounds like you are doing all you can. Sometimes I find a car ride to be the most relaxing part of the day. Even if the kids are screaming in the backseat, at least they’re strapped in and safe, right? But usually they look out the window and everything is quiet. Unlike at home, he he. Good for you, going against what you grew up with. I admire all you’re doing. Hang in there!

  3. Genny

    I’m guilty. When I have to repeat myself 3 or 4 times, then that’s when I yell. I consider myself pretty patient, but I need to work on myself when I’m not. I’m sure it affects my kids & I know it affects myself. I get headaches. This is a great article. Reminds myself to stay cool.

  4. Lisa

    Genny, glad the article is a reminder for you. I find it so difficult to bite my tongue, too, and I am having a hard time just dealing with typical toddler behavior. Even though he doesn’t do anything wrong, I get frustrated with his wiggliness, his talkativeness, etc. You’re right, it affects both of us when I let my patience dwindle.

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