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How Do I Stop Yelling at My Child?

Kids can test even the most patient parent's composure. They're noisy, demanding and sometimes, downright difficult. But, if you spend most of your day yelling, it's time for a change. Yelling rarely brings about the results you want, and it can cause long-term damage to your relationship. It doesn't feel good, for you or your child. Analyze the reasons why you yell and seek some positive solutions. Your kids will thank you!

Learn New Skills

When parents first bring home a new baby, they don't plan on becoming that parent who yells all the time. But, parenting is hard work, and most parents fall short from time to time. One of the most common reasons parents yell is simply because they lack other strategies. Parenting classes, such as Love and Logic or 1-2-3 Magic, teach parents to use natural and logical consequences instead of yelling. For example, maybe your tween is glued to the television, while his homework suffers and his room is a mess. Instead of yelling, suggests Faith Golden, M.A., a child development specialist and founder of It's Apparent, a parenting and behavioral consulting service in Encino, California, offer a choice. Say something such as, "You can do your homework now or you can do it later, but you may not watch television until your homework is done and your room is clean." You're no longer the bad guy, and your child is responsible for making the decision.

The key to using natural and logical consequences, says Golden, is to set reasonable limits and follow through consistently. "This requires that you take action to say what you mean and mean what you say from the very beginning, as young as 12 months old," notes Golden.

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Take Care of Yourself

Being a parent often means wearing a variety of hats, but when you're stretched to the breaking point, it's hard to be patient. Take a look at your lifestyle to see if daily stress might be at the root of your yelling, suggests Diane Lang, M.A., a New Jersey therapist and author of "Baby Steps: The Path from Motherhood to Career." "When basic needs aren't met, parents are more likely to snap or lose it with their kids." You probably have certain challenges in your life that can't be changed, but you may have more control than you think. Carve out some time for yourself. Hire a babysitter and spend an afternoon sleeping, reading or lunching with friends. Commit to going to bed by 9:00 each night so you get enough rest. Exercise every day, even if 20 minutes is all you can fit in. Go for a walk, run the stairs or do a few minutes of yoga before getting dressed in the morning. Moms, in particular, often feel guilty for taking time for themselves, but you are human and have needs, too. Take care of yourself and you both benefit.

Keep Realistic Expectations

You want the best for your child, and you want to be the perfect parent, as well. These two goals are well-intentioned, but a perfectionist mindset can set you up for major stress, which often translates into yelling. Try to see things from your child's point of view. Most kids don't intentionally try to make adults mad. But they're kids, which means they make messes and mistakes -- frequently. Give yourself a break, too. Parents tend to compare their worst moments with everyone else's best and, inevitably, fail to measure up. All parents have the occasional bad day -- even those who seem to live a charmed life. If you can accept that both you and your child are doing the best you can, you'll probably feel more relaxed -- and yell less.

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Focus on Behavior

When emotions are running high, it's tempting to hurl criticism or blame at your child. This strategy only creates resentment without solving problems. A better approach is to focus on the behavior, rather than the person, says Brandi Davis, a teacher and child and parent coach from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For example, instead of calling your child lazy because her room is a mess, say something like, "I feel frustrated and angry when you leave your clothes all over the floor." Then, work together to find solutions. "How would you like to fix this problem so your room stays clean?" Make sure your child follows through with the chosen solution.

Resolve Old Wounds

Parents who were mistreated as children often resort to similar behaviors with their own kids. If you have unresolved pain from childhood, seek out a counselor you can trust, advises Gary Potter, LMHP, a licensed therapist from Kearney, Nebraska, who specializes in family relationships. "Begin talking about those unresolved childhood hurts," he advises. "More than likely they are affecting more than your yelling at the kids."

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