Do you find yourself yelling at your kids when you’re angry? Like when you’re late for your dentist appointment because they decided to play with your keys (and lost them)? Or maybe when they decided to draw on the carpet (again) despite your repeated reminder not to do so? Do you feel like a bad parent after all that screaming and feel a little helpless about your parenting?
If you said yes to any of the above, then know that you are not alone. It’s not easy to control your behavior when you’re angry. The intention is to be a better parent, but the reality of it seems so difficult and distant. But don’t lose hope or despair. Here is what you can do to stop the yelling and start a responding habit when you’re angry with your kids.
Why we shouldn’t yell
Let’s just agree first that yelling and calling names can set a terrible example as a Muslim since our kids learn about Islam from watching us. Kids get scared of us when we scream at them, they don’t see what they did, they see what we’re doing and it can be rather painful for them to process. It creates a wall between us and them.
If you find yourself yelling at your kids often, you’re sending them a message that you are not in control of your behavior so you can’t be in charge. They assume they are in charge and behave more disrespectfully. Screaming, and calling names encourages kids to scream and call names when they are upset as well. Kids disconnect from us when we repeat angry outbursts, which later leads to becoming more vulnerable to peer pressure. Not to mention being mindful about what Allah tells us about restraining anger.
“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous who spend [in the cause of Allah ] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good; And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” [Quran: Chapter 3, Verses 133 – 134]
How to find a good source of motivation
They say “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” Since an angry reaction is a learned behavior, it can be unlearned and changed into a positive response. You can learn to respond (and not react) when you’re upset, frustrated and overwhelmed with anger. It takes patience and a lot of practice but the result is worth it when you know what the outcome can be. You can make any positive change in your life when you have a great reason. Your reason is the “why” you’re doing this. This “why” i.e. motivation will keep you going when you’re having a hard time after a long day. And the best motivation is doing something to please Allah . Please be mindful to please Allah and not yourself, your kids, spouse or anyone else, please Him by becoming a role model for your kids. Remind yourself:
- I want to please Allah by having more control over my behavior
- I want to please Allah by behaving in a positive way
- I want to please Allah by choosing to respond instead of reacting when I am angry
- I want to please Allah by emulating the Messenger of Allah
Pick one that resonates with you. Make dua to Allah
You can still get angry even after becoming aware of your triggers. It takes time and patience to have control over anger. Take the following steps when you get angry, perseverance is the key here and with Allah on your side, you can do anything, insha’Allah.
- Seek refuge with Allah from Shaytan– do it right when you feel the sensations of anger in your body before it takes hold of you. Keep repeating it until you calm down a little.
- Stop talking and start noticing what happens in your body when you’re angry. Where do you feel anger? Notice the sensations there and don’t talk until the sensations have subsided.
- Disengage yourself. Remove yourself temporarily from the heated situation. Instead of screaming get out my sight at your kid, take an intentional pause and leave the room. Re-enter when you have better control over your actions.
- Sit down to respond. After you’ve removed the “urgency” to speak, sit down to respond following the Sunnah. Changing position creates a distraction and can take the edge of off all that anger.
- Take a 3-minute break before talking, just tell yourself before you scream- I’m taking a 3-minute pause and then I will respond. Take deep breaths while you’re waiting, don’t think, just inhale and exhale. You can also do Wudu for an extra calming effect.
Narrated Atiyyah as-Sa’di who reported the Messenger as saying:
Anger comes from the devil, the devil was created of fire, and fire is extinguished only with water; so when one of you becomes angry, he should perform ablution. [Sunan Abi Dawud]
- Speak slowly and softly to your kids, It is very difficult to overreact when you’re speaking slowly and softly.
- Ask yourself, would I behave this way if the Messenger of Allah were here now? Just close your eyes and imagine how you would behave in our dear Prophet’s presence.
- Smile. Yes, smile and say whatever you need to say, you’ll diffuse your anger when you’re smiling.
Pick any three things from the list above and do it every time you’re angry. The trick is to practice these steps every single time immediately following the trigger. you won’t form a habit if you only do it from time to time. Be consistent even if you remember to do them mid-argument The more you practice the easier it will be to remember, insha’Allah,
Don’t dismiss it as a trivial matter or think they are only kids and they won’t remember anything. Don’t think you can behave irrationally just because you are a parent.
Apologize with sincerity
Make a sincere apology to your kids every time you behave badly out of anger. Don’t make slapdash apologies as it only shows your insincerity, tell them exactly which action/s of yours you are apologizing for. Your ego will get in the way and you will need lots of practice. You can’t fix something if you don’t admit it’s broken. Own your behavior, learn from your mistakes and act better the next time. Take full accountability for your actions and be completely honest about the situation and tell them how you’re working on it. Most importantly, do not give up, do it as many times as you need to, but be sincere every time.
Try to make things better for your kids. If you hurt them with your words, talk to them to soothe their pain. Read to them or cuddle with them. If you hurt them with your actions- broke or ruin something that belonged to them, help them fix it. Ask them how you can make amends. Don’t just buy another dollhouse to “replace” the broken one. It just doesn’t work that way.
Take accountability for your actions. Announce your new habit on your blog, social media, tell your friends and relatives or even decide to pay a fine every time you’re angry and pay it upfront. The Messenger of Allah said:
‘Whoever gives up telling lies in support of a false claim, a palace will be built for him in the outskirts of Paradise. Whoever gives up an argument when he is right, a palace will be built from him in the middle (of Paradise). And whoever had good behavior, a palace will be built for him in the highest reaches (of Paradise).’ [Sunan Ibn Majah]
What else can you do?
Ask your spouse or friend to role play with you. See how many steps you can remember when you’re acting angry. Although you’re acting, your brain will remember your efforts and you will learn to respond better, insha’Allah.
“No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back” – Turkish proverb
Forming this habit is hard. It takes tremendous self-control and patience and you’ll find yourself messing up over and over again. Don’t give up, don’t berate yourself if you missed a chance to follow through. As challenging as this habit may sound, it really works. It gets easier and easier to stop yourself in the middle of yelling, with some work you will get to a point where you will be able to stop the thought of anger before it becomes an action. Just keep doing the steps right after a trigger occurs, and soon you’ll find that you haven’t yelled at anyone for days which will turn into a month, insha’Allah.
The best thing is that your transformation will inspire your kids to control their actions and behavior. You will find them more respectful, cooperative and they will listen to you without having to raise your voice at all. “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder”- Jalal Ad Din Rumi.
Have you found these tips helpful? Do you have any more tips to keep a cool head when your kids are misbehaving? Share with us in the comments.