The Important Question to Ask After Yelling

The Important Question to Ask After Yelling

We are walking up the stairs to school. It’s been a difficult morning. I am feeling drained by the need to repeat myself over and over. The feeling that I’m doing everything for everyone. That no one else in the family is doing their share and once again I am over functioning for all of us. I am drained the fact that we are late. Again.

As we walk up the stairs, I say to my daughter, “Hey, this morning really didn’t work for me. I don’t like it when I’m yelling at you. And I don’t like it when you are yelling at me.”

Mumbled agreement from my daughter. I continue, “I need something different to happen tomorrow.”

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It would be nice if we had time to talk about what this would look like, but now we are standing in front of her classroom. It’s time to say good-bye and get on with the rest of the day.

I bend down for a hug goodbye, I look at my daughter and take a deep breath,“I’m sorry this morning was so hard.”

“Me too,” says my almost 6 year old as she gives me the full routine: hug, kiss, high five, knucks. “I love you Mom.”

And just like that we are both able to repair our relationship and go on with our day without the burden of a bad morning weighing us down. It seems a bit magical. Maybe it is. But in just those few moments we were both able to put the frustration of the morning behind us and repair our relationship.

Repair. People get mad. We all have bad days.

Say things we don’t mean. It’s helpful to have a language to talk about repair. Rather than apologize – often a part of repairing – the idea here is to reconnect after a break in connection. What do you do after you yell at your kids? Do they know what to expect?

There will always be breaks in connection with your children.

The important question to ask is what are you norms, your rituals, your routines when it comes to reconnecting?

In our house a favorite question to reconnect is “What do you need?”

After school that same day we sit down for a snack. “So,” I begin, “What do you think we need to do differently tomorrow morning?”

My daughter offers ideas, “You could not yell at me. You could ask me to help.”

I try to listen without judgment. Just listen.

I ask a few questions. “I know it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. What do you need to get out of bed without starting your day in a cranky mood? How can I remind you to get yourself dressed without yelling?” I am truly curious to hear what she comes up with. Most of the time it’s way better than anything I might propose.

The whole conversation lasts less than 5 minutes.

We create a plan. I’ll wake her up gently. I’ll give her a big hug. She will pick out her clothes and bring them into my room. We will get dressed together.

Of course, this is actually what we do most days. For whatever reason (lack of sleep?) today was an anomaly. We work together to get back on track.

positiveparentingzelling

Some of the assumptions that make this kind of parenting possible for us:
1. We are both equally responsible for rough mornings. (No pointing fingers or blame allowed.)
2. Our relationship is valuable. It might get messy, but ultimately we both want to feel connected to each other.
3. We are both capable of making changes and working together so that we can each get what we want/need.
4. Tomorrow is a new opportunity to make it better.

Connect with Dr. Andra Brill at her website Happy Mindful Families 

 

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Dr. Andra Brill is an innovator in the growing field of mindful parenting. She is the founder and senior consultant at HappyMindfulFamilies.com and runs Mama's Mid Week Retreat, an online community for smart moms raising happy, well-balanced children. Using her unique blend of mindfulness practices, psychology and neuroscience, Andra improves the well-being of modern families just like yours.

30 Responses to The Important Question to Ask After Yelling

  1. Yep! I wish there were people like you around in my childhood. It was a long time ago and people didn’t do things this way.

  2. Andra,

    Thank you for another honest and authentic article. I’m not even a parent but your words of wisdom still speak volumes! Miss you and sweet E a ton!! Hope to see you again soon.

    Warm wishes,
    Sara

  3. I sometimes find myself trying to have these conversations with my 3 year old but she doesn’t understand. She challenges everything I ask her to do and I’ve run out of ways to explain why she needs to do what it is I asked.

    • I have one of those free spirited children too. I find that the more I connect, getting down on his level, doing things together, softly explaining things, not giving too many choices but the ones he really needs & wants, and giving myself as much extra time possible really helps a lot. When I’m short on time, he’s worse. When I expect too much of him, he’s worse. When I don’t communicate gently, he doesn’t listen. When I think I can rationally get out the door by a certain time, something always comes up. I recently read to always plan to leave 7 minutes before you really have to. I love that idea & try to follow it. It does get better if you understand that you have a free spirited child that needs your love right now more than your control. That’s a hard one for me sometimes, but my son is almost 6 now & every year it gets a little bit easier.

      • Hi Carlee,
        I so love the idea of leaving more time than we really need to get out the door. In fact, I think the idea of wait time becomes even more important as our kids get older. There’s research that indicates that kids’ brains actually take longer than ours do to hear something and respond to it. It’s not that they are ignoring you, but that they are processing. This is particularly true if they are engaged in something that is taking most of their attention.

  4. Hi Cassandra,
    I understand how challenging it can be when you run out of ways to explain something to your 3 year old.
    I used to try asking my daughter what she thought needed to happen next so that we could find some sort of compromise. (Warning: at 6 my daughter is a master negotiator.) And my other thought is timing. Knowing when everyone is calm enough to have these conversations. Which is different than doing what needs to be done in the moment.

  5. I love everything about this post! My daughter and I routinely have this very morning, and I strive to handle it similarly. Your post is both validating and affirming. Thank you!

  6. This advice is magical! My girls (4yr and 2yr) and I do acknowledge our poor behavior and apologize easily. The relief of letting go of that burden of guilt is game-changing for all of us in the moment.

    We hadn’t closed the circle, though. We didn’t take the opportunity to figure out a game plan together for the next time and I think that was missing. I will start incorporating that immediately!

    What I especially like about your example is that there was no “but” language. No, “I’m sorry I yelled about you BUT you…etc.”

  7. Interestingly my daughter and I just had the same conversation on Wednesday morning. I asked her what can I do differently and what can she do differently to make our mornings smoother because that was the third day in a row I had gotten upset with her and her brother. Her solution was that if I tickled her, it may help. I let her pick the solution so she would be more accountable. This morning things went so smoothly and it was actually my son I had to tickle not her.

    I also learned going through a separation that apologizing to them when I lost my temper was the best way to connect and put it behind us. We still have rough mornings and I still yell but I am taking accountability for it and asking for help. Two things I want my kids to learn.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I’m so tired of the posts that make me feel guilty because I actually yell at my children…that occasionally I lose my temper and speak loudly. So many posts anymore are about not ever raising our voices and yelling, but I’m human and yell on occasion. I think it’s more important on how we as parents handle it rather than whether yelling or not makes a better parent.

  9. Thank you for validating that we are all human and giving us solutions to make the hard moments a little bit better.

  10. I love the “what do you need” question. I’m always saying I need you to do this or that and forget that she may need something from me to help the mornings go smoother. There are a lot of days we are in a yelling frenzy to get her ready for school, my son for daycare and myself for work andcoutthe door in time to catch the bus. I think I’ll have a chat with my 7 yr old and see what she needs to help make things better. Thank you for this article.

    • Evey, I love that question too. First, because it let’s me off the hook for having to figure out how to make things better. Second, because it allows my daughter to take control of her own needs, to check in and figure out what’s going on with her. And third, because it usually allows us to move on, together, in connection. Often what she needs has nothing to do with me. Can’t wait to hear what your daughter comes up with.

  11. Dr. Brill, Thank you for sharing this important step in conscious parenting. I am working towards being more responsive and less reactive, but as I will never be responsive 100% of the time, it is important to have a tool to reconnect after a thoughtless reaction. Thank you. I hope you don’t mind me sharing your information (with a link and citation) on a recent blog post: https://amoreconsciouslife.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/conscious-parenting-inspirations-april-2015/

    • Hi Sharon,
      Thank you so much for sharing this article with your readers. I love the idea of a notebook for keeping track of inspiration and information.

      warmly,
      Andra

  12. Oh yes! Can so relate 🙂 I say sometimes “Ok it’s time for the big eraser. We need to erase this part of the day and start over!” Even last night we sat at the table and discussed how we can both be better. It is so important to admit as a parent you’re not perfect and say sorry… Thanks 🙂

  13. It is so nice to work on things together as a team. I too find that Meryl has great ideas on how to improve things We struggle with.

    • It probably says more about my own childhood that I do everything I can to let Emily have a say in what’s happening around her. I love the idea of teamwork. That we are in this together and that I trust her to help come up with a solution when things get rough.

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