• Take a break: Sometimes you are better off pushing the pause button and revisiting the problem in 20 minutes or the next morning.
When Hoefle’s children, now ages 19 to 24, were younger and she felt herself losing her temper, she would put a hard candy in her mouth or look at a sweet picture of her child. That was often enough to make her consider her response more carefully.
She also took the unconventional approach of allowing her children to leave the room if she was yelling. Most parents might think seeing their child’s retreating back would escalate their anger, but Hoefle said it made her stop and think about what she was saying, and how it was making her child feel. It was enough of a pause, she said, for her to reconsider how she was handling her anger.
“If you find what I’m saying disrespectful, you have permission to leave, because nobody should be subjected to that,” said Hoefle, whose book advises parents to resist the urge to nag and control their kids. “It set up a dynamic where people could get up and walk away and the person yelling would stop and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ My kids would say, ‘I know we didn’t do what you asked, we got distracted, we’re sorry.’ Just the respect goes a long way in re-establishing order.”
• Put a stop to recurring arguments: Figure out when, and why, you’re most often losing your temper, Hoefle said.
Do you yell at your son every morning because he’s dawdling in the shower when you are trying to get everyone out the door on time? Then talk to him about what you can do to make things go more smoothly.
Come up with a strategy that attacks the root of the problem, whether it’s using a timer to remind him when he needs to get out of the shower, or taking one the night before. If you involve your child in creating the plan, Hoefle said, he is more likely to participate in executing it.
“If you can anticipate that it’s going to happen, you can make a plan,” Hoefle said. “If it goes this way all the time, what are you going to do differently as the adult? You can say to your kids, ‘We have to create a morning routine that works for you. What can I do to be of assistance?’ “
• Be clear and consistent with expectations: Kids want and crave limits and structure, so it’s important to set boundaries and stick to them, the CED’s Sendek said.
Don’t get into the habit of asking your child to do something multiple times. Instead, ask her to do something (say, brush her teeth), and tell her what will happen if she doesn’t. Be specific and follow through, even if she tries to bargain her way out of the consequence.
Leahy said she calmly refuses to be swayed by her daughter’s attempts to negotiate, recalling a time recently when she told Sophia she wouldn’t drive her to a choir concert at school because Sophia had been disrespectful.
“There was a lot of wailing, crying, deep breathing, and then she said, ‘I’m sorry,’ “ Leahy said. “I said thanks, and she looked at me, and I said, ‘I’m still not taking you.’ We don’t want to make our kids feel bad, but at the same time I 1 / 8held 3 / 8 my boundaries without yelling.”