Whether it's a carelessly broken vase in the living room or a blatant refusal to acknowledge parental authority, children have the capacity to make our blood boil. And when we're at our breaking point — as is often the case when raising kids — screaming and yelling feels good.
But as parents, we have to remember that we're the adults, and that yelling at our children does little to help them grow into the people we want them to be. Next time you're tempted to scream, think of the big picture, and try one of these 37 alternatives to yelling instead.
1. Breathe. Deep, slow breathing helps to diffuse tension in stressful situations. Take several deep breaths to help you feel calmer, and hopefully the urge to scream will subside.
2. Count to 10. Sing the ABCs. Recite the periodic table. Whatever it takes to give you a few minutes to cool off before responding.
3. Talk it out. Call a good friend and discuss the situation. Talk about what's making you angry.
4. Take a time-out. Time-out is usually thought of as a punishment for a child, but if you're about to explode, you're the one who needs to remove yourself from the situation and regain your composure.
5. Change the scenery. If you're at home, load everyone up in the car and head somewhere else. If you're out in public, go home.
6. Write it down. Instead of directing harsh words towards your kids, write down what you wish you could say. Express your feelings of frustration and anger on paper, then rip it up and throw it away.
7. Ask a question. The response your child gives may surprise you.
8. Walk away.
9. Remember your long-term goals. Think about the values you hope to instill in your children. Will yelling help teach them?
10. Model the conflict resolution you want your children to learn. What you do is always more important than what you say.
11. Go for a walk.
12. Call for reinforcements. Ask your partner or spouse to come home early, or call a babysitter.
13. See the distress, not the defiance. If your child is acting out, see it as a sign that he is having a hard time coping. Focus on how you can help him.
14. Find the source of your anger. What about the situation makes you want to yell? Are you really mad at your children, or are other issues in your life causing your frustration?
15. Punch something. NOT your kids, or in front of your kids. But punching a throw pillow in the privacy of your own bedroom will probably help you feel better.
16. Pour yourself a drink. It's a proven relaxation technique, although if you routinely resort to this one, you probably need a little more help than a bottle of tequila can provide.
18. Know and avoid your triggers.
19. See the baby you used to rock to sleep. Even disrespectful teenagers are hard to be mad at when you can remember the chubby-cheeked babies they used to be.
20. Always assume good intentions. Your kids probably aren't trying to drive you crazy. Remember that.
21. Play the quiet game. If you can't talk, then you can't yell. And there's even an app for it.
22. Show compassion.
23. Consider your child's point of view. We all see the world differently, so try to understand how your child thinks and feels about the situation at hand.
24. Consider the possibilty that you're wrong. It is a possibility, even if you are the parent.
24. Look for the reasons behind poor behavior. Is your child hungry? Thirsty? Tired?
25. Talk. Calmly and rationally. Use positive communication techniques.
26. Set expectations and consequences in advance.
27. Look your child in the eye. Direct eye contact often makes it harder to yell at someone.
28. Start dancing. Impromptu parental dancing will totally freak out your kids and instantly break the tension.
29. Ask yourself if this will matter a year from now. Often, it won't.
30. Give your child a hug. Not all communication needs to be verbal. Children get powerful messages from our nonverbal communication as well.
31. Whisper. Kids tend to block out yelling (especially if they hear it a lot). Whispering is more likely to get their attention.
32. Imagine your own funeral. Okay, it's a little morbid, but stay with me. How will your children remember you? If you passed away tomorrow, would you be proud of the memories you left behind?
33. Laugh. There's humor in every situation. You just have to look for it.
34. Go outside and scream. Better yet, take your kids with you and see who can scream the loudest.
35. Take responsibility for your own actions.
36. Say "I love you." It's a good reminder, for you and for them.
37. Remember the Golden Rule.
I have yet to meet a parent who never yells, and some experts suggest that a fair amount of yelling at home actually prepares children for the moments of emotional conflict they will inevitably encounter throughout their lives. Still, all it takes is a single tear rolling down the cheek of one of my kids to make me instantly regret a moment when I've lost my cool.
And, in that moment, I always know there's a better way.