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How to Keep Your Cool When Your Kids Are Driving You Cray

Having kids is the best. We know this. And it's true. What's also true, however, is that nothing can prepare us for the chaos, the challenge and the sheer volume of parenting until we're actually doing it ourselves, day in and day out. Some days are tough. Some moments are tough. And sometimes, in those moments, we freak out a little bit – because face it: we're human and we're tired—and so, sometimes, we yell.

RELATED: How to Avoid a Mommy Tantrum

The thing is, yelling sucks. It scares our children and alienates us from them, and it makes us feel terrible, too. My dad was a yeller and, as a result, I swore I'd never yell at my own son. I never did (really)… until I had another baby (enter extra challenging big-sibling behavior), and then that whole no-yelling plan went out the window. I Googled around in search of effective strategies but found that most of them weren't actionable for me; leaving the room wasn't usually a possibility, for safety reasons. I didn't always have time to take ten deep breaths. And getting more sleep or 'me time' so I have more patience to begin with? I can get behind that conceptually but it isn't always in the cards with an infant and a toddler in the house.

Here's what ended up working for me (and I've been relying on this strategy for over a year now): in the moment I feel myself becoming angry with my kiddo, I picture him at his very sweetest, as his most loveable self. (Not too hard to do. He's awesome… almost always.) I can do this while also dealing with the situation at hand, and it gives me enough of a perspective-shift to remain patient and calm while doing so. I have such a better relationship with my kids because of it… and so much less mom guilt.

I asked some other mamas how they keep themselves from yelling when they've had it up to here. These are the tips they shared:

"I freeze and take 3 deep breaths. If I can go in another room and do it, I do. Then I make everyone else sit, I turn off all other sounds, and force them to listen to whatever it is I need to say. If my kids see me standing still with my eyes closed, they know they're in trouble! Usually, they shape right up. And by the way, it has taken years of practice to get to this point. My knee-jerk reaction is still to yell. It's a hard habit to break."

Jess Dukes, Mom of Two, New York City

"I try to offer some empathy when reminding my kids of what I need from them. Showing them that I'm thinking about their experience and feelings usually gets their attention (and cooperation) more effectively than other approaches. Instead of 'If you don't get ready for bed now then we won't read books,' for example, I'll say, 'I don't want you to feel sad when we don't have time to read at bedtime because you didn't do what you needed to do.'"

Dena Sutlin, mom of two, Seattle, WA

"I have noise canceling headphones. I lurve them."

- Lex Beach, mom of six ('nuf said), Northampton, MA

"I've been known to yell 'Mommy needs a time out,' and then run away. It's the only thing that keeps my son from asking more questions or following me by a margin of three inches. It gives me just a small window—but big enough to work with—of time, space and (stunned) silence to calm down."

Sarahjean Tito, mom of one, Seattle, WA

"If I feel myself about to yell, I slowly repeat 'Om Shanti.' It kind of freaks the boys out, but it works for me."

Stacy Brodie, mom of two, Austin, TX

Image via Twenty20/cindeebarelas

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