Most moms I talk to say they’d like to know how to be a calmer mom and stop feeling so on-edge and yelling all the time at their kids. They’re overwhelmed by both the physical and emotional demands of motherhood.
You know, the stuff no one prepares you for when you start having kids.
That’s because motherhood isn’t easy for any of us. We all have very different lives with kids of different ages and needs. And naturally, our already stressful lives only get more stressful with kids. If we’re not prepared for this stress or how to manage it in a healthy way, feeling short-tempered, on-edge, and exhausted is basically a guarantee.
And there’s no short supply of mom-guilt either because simply writing that last paragraph brought with it a pang of guilt for even implying that my kids’ lives are a source of stress for me. That’s the hardest part of motherhood for me – loving my kids so much that I can’t stand it but also knowing full and well that being a mom is the hardest thing I’ll likely ever do.
So wishing you were a calmer mom is kind of a given. Unless you’re what I call a unicorn mom – one who loves every moment of motherhood. But I really think she’s just a myth. What do you think?
Being a Calmer Mom Starts with Us, Not Our Kids
Here’s the thing, though, being a calm mom starts with us. Our focus and energy need to be on the beautiful woman staring back at us in the mirror. She’s tired, worn out, and in desperate need of some attention.
As mothers, we somehow forget who we are and what we need. We just take the stance that this is a challenging season and I’ll get back to my needs when I can get past this season or stage. Only we don’t realize that this challenging season evolves into another one we never see coming.
Let me be clear it’s not my intent to paint a dark or miserable picture of motherhood – only to shine a light on how ignoring what we need most often leads to making motherhood harder than it really needs to be. If we truly want to enjoy motherhood again, we need to learn to put ourselves first. Or at least higher on the list than dead last.
You can’t keep pouring out of an empty vessel and expecting something to pour out. It doesn’t work that way! You have to pour in to be able to pour out. Otherwise, you’re just dry and grouchy and nobody likes that.
How to Get to the Root of Mom Anger
If you notice anxiety or constant anger and yelling creeping in all the time, it’s important that we take the time to find out why this keeps happening. This requires both courage and patience as we do the work to learn why we keep feeling this way.
What I’ve learned over the last few years is that negative emotions are most often caused by internal issues and not the external ones visible on the surface. What triggers one mom to anger or anxiety is totally normal to another and vice versa.
This means when your kiddos start fighting over the TV remote in the other room and you feel your blood boiling or feel a panic attack coming on, it’s likely not your kids causing you to feel this way.
There’s something else going on under the surface. When we leave negative emotions unchecked and unmanaged, it makes us react like a ticking time bomb. It’s like the science experiments we did in school. When certain chemicals are sitting calmly in the beaker, all it takes is the right element entering the mix and BOOM!
And many times our kids (and partner) just have the worst timing. To break the cycle, start to train yourself to evaluate what was happening in the moments leading up to your blowup.
- Were you stressed about something else?
- Did you feel embarrassed about something?
- Did what happened trigger fearful thoughts?
If you avoid the temptation to ignore those emotions and do the necessary digging, you’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Keeping reading to learn how to start getting below the surface and see what’s really going on.
One Easy Way to Reframe Anger
Another way we can get to the root of why we’re feeling the way we are is to reframe how we see it. Instead of saying “I’m angry about_____ .” Try changing the statement to “I’m angry because _______.”
This helps us remove the negative stigma around our source of anger. We could be mad because our kid just spilled their place of sticky pancakes and glass of milk all over the floor we just mopped.
If you said, “I’m angry about my son spilling his breakfast all over the floor after I just mopped the night before,” it feels to your brain more like this person or situation made me angry.
When we say, “I’m mad because______,” it helps to depersonalize the source of anger and return it to a cause and effect scenario. You’re still validating your emotions but not establishing blame.
Learn to Identify When You’re Most Vulnerable to Yelling
The truth is, most blowups don’t “just happen” out of the blue. There are signs signaling to you that you’re more vulnerable to yelling and anger. And these signs are always flashing before we lose our cool.
Stay with me here because this is HUGE.
Even though I’m pretty good at not blowing up at my kids these days, I can often miss these subtle signals. I wish they were bright and loud and undeniable. But most often they’re just simmering quietly below the surface and so easy to dismiss and ignore. But when the heat gets turned up, it doesn’t take much to boil over!
These signs or signals are naturally going to look different for everyone, but there are some common ones:
- Feeling increased tension or crankiness
- Anxiety that’s out of the norm
- Annoyed more than usually by your kid’s behavior
- Physical pain in your body
- Little flexibility for the unexpected
- Snapping at everyone for everything
- Lack of motivation to do your normal routine
For me, when I’m suddenly snapping at everyone or I just can’t go with the flow, I know I’m very vulnerable to blowups. It takes practice to see these signs and stop what I’m doing and acknowledge them.
Why You Need to Check In With Yourself
This is one of the most powerful things we can do to become calmer moms over time. We must learn to check in with ourselves about how we’re feeling. In the previous section, we covered how to see the signs of when we’re most vulnerable to mom anger.
In this section, we’ll cover what to do when we recognize those signs so we can prevent anger and yelling in the first place.
When you first notice (and again this takes practice) the signs that you’re vulnerable to yelling and mom anger, take a step back. This may be a physical step back but almost always warrants a mental/emotional step back. We’re “stepping back” so we can see the full picture.
You no longer have permission to simply believe you’re a bad mom and that’s why you lose it with your kids. Instead, I want you to believe that you’re a really good mother who’s simply dealing with something at the moment and needs help.
A mother whose fully human and deserves to be viewed through the eyes of kindness and compassion. No more cut-throat, super judgy thoughts toward yourself. You need love and understanding – as you’d give to a friend who was going through the same thing.
When you take this step back, get to a place you can be alone. I love going to my closet where I can process my emotions in a quiet, undistracted space. Don’t worry, it’s comfy! When you’re in your place you’re going to essentially get real with yourself and ask some questions.
If you can’t safely get to a quiet place alone, break out the TV or electronics to keep the kids happy, and grab a journal to do this exercise on paper while still in their presence.
Here are a few examples of questions you can ask yourself to get connected to your emotions:
- Am I angry or disappointed with another person right now?
- Am I agitated because I’m trying to do too much in this moment?
- Am I worried about something right now?
- What is the specific emotion I’m feeling right now? disappointment, fear, overwhelm, etc.
- Am I feeling embarrassed or judged by others at this moment?
- Do I have some unresolved circumstances that are lingering and causing stress?
- Here is the full list of calming questions to ask yourself when you feel angry or stressed.
Learning to do this on a regular basis is what I call emotional self-care. It’s underrated but it’s a game-changer!
How to Recognize the Signs of Mom Burnout
When your stressed and on-edge temperament is becoming your baseline normal, you may be smack-dab in the middle of mommy burnout.
The thing is, motherhood requires tremendous sacrifice every single day. Sacrifices we’re all too happy to give until we’ve given everything we have and there’s nothing left. That’s what we call being a burnt-out mom.
Here are some signs you may be struggling with mom burnout:
|Sign #1||You have more than the occasional yelling blow-up at your kids|
|Sign #2||Your house is in a constant state of disarray|
|Sign #3||You find yourself feeling lonely but fight against the urge to connect with friends/family|
|Sign #4||Your health isn’t a priority in your daily actions|
We can avoid mom burnout by doing these things intentionally:
- Dropping the idea being a perfect mom.
- Not letting mom-guilt control or consume you
- Making time for doing things just for you
- Stop trying to be super mom and learn to delegate and ask for help
- Taking regular breaks for yourself
I cover burnout, mom anger triggers, getting your kids to listen and so much more in my Happier Mom Toolkit. It’s a bundle of amazing resources (at a crazy value!) made to help you do everything I share here in this post. Click the image below to grab your toolkit:
4 Mistakes Moms Make that Can Lead to Mom Anger
By now you’ve learned the importance of taking care of your whole self and why ignoring the signs of burnout can lead to so many problems as a mom. It’s time to look at how we can be setting ourselves up for mom anger in other unintentional ways.
- Not setting up the right environment. This can be a lot of different things but essentially it’s looking around (physically and emotionally) and seeing what’s bothering you. Is it a sink full of dishes that just need to be done so you can stop thinking about them. Or is it waking up 20 minutes before your kids so you can have a moment alone to pray or journal your thoughts with some coffee. Do you need to get your kids working on an engageing activity before you make that phone call?
- Not meeting your own needs. Do you want to exercise but can’t find the time? Do you want to get back to reading the books you love? It doesn’t matter what it is. You are a whole person (before and after kids) who deserves, better yet, needs to have her own needs met. You’d move heaven and earth to meet a need for your child so creativity and will isn’t lacking. You just need to believe you’re worth the effort.
- Not meeting your children’s needs. When we get busy or are working from home, it’s easy to miss our kid’s ques. When you have younger kids it’s most commonly short-term needs like a nap or hunger. But it can also be a lack of attention and quality time over a period of time which is common with older kids. Not meeting these needs can lead to behavioral AKA (anger triggering) problems.
- Doing the right things at the wrong time. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Multitasking work or doing things that need your full attention while the kids are up and most active is a recipe for disaster. Unless you’ve done great work to create healthy boundaries for this type of thing. But if you have little ones, I find that it’s more trouble than its worth.
Are You Yelling to be Heard or Are You Angry?
There are two reasons moms yell at their kids. You’re either triggered and lose your temper and yell in reaction to something your child did. Or you yell, even when you’re not angry, just to get your kids to listen to you as a method of communication.
Both of these scenarios are common and most often are happening simultaneously. The first section of this post helps moms who struggle with anger and being triggered. Moms who feel overwhelming stress and have a short fuse.
The next section covers the issue of how to get your kids to listen without yelling. These seem like the same thing but they’re not even though the same mom can struggle with both. I know I did!
You’ll learn that yelling isn’t a great method for communicating with your kids at any age. And how yelling to be heard only perpetuates the yelling cycle.
Setting the Boundaries that Protect your Calm
This is the section where we start looking at our kids and their often triggering behaviors. But I need to emphasize that in many, if not most, cases we as the parents are responsible for setting the stage for the behaviors we want to see.
Kids are just being kids and they need boundaries to help teach them what is OK to do and what is not.
Boundaries are healthy, necessary, and we all have them naturally. However, too often we have a boundary but we for whatever reason don’t uphold it. This causes confusion for everyone, especially our kids because boundaries and the natural consequences that go with them help your child know what to expect.
Let’s say for example you have a boundary that running, rough-housing, and yelling aren’t allowed inside the house. This is for the protection of both your nice things and your sanity.
In order to uphold this boundary, your family has a house rule that yelling and general horse-play must be done outside. If this rule is ignored and say something gets knocked over and broken, their consequence is to do extra chores to earn the money to pay for the broken item.
This is a general example to make the concept easier to define. But what I used to do when my kids were little was spend all my energy yelling, nagging, and reminding my kids what they weren’t supposed to be doing…
Hey! I said stop jumping on the bed!
How many times do I have to say, stop running down the stairs!
This room is a mess! I’m just going to throw away all your toys!
Most of the time I was breathing empty threats and saying things my kids knew I wasn’t going to do. I never established clearly defined boundaries with the rules to uphold them and the appropriate consequences to enforce them. This is a setup for yelling ALL.THE.TIME.
The Truth About Yelling and Why It Doesn’t Really Work
You may be saying to yourself that while boundaries, rules, and consequences sound great your kid never really listens to you until you raise your voice.
My response to that is – I get it. I believed that lie too for many, many years.
But the truth about yelling is that it only reinforces the behavior and lack of listening that we don’t want. We think it works because our kids ignore us until we blow our top and they come running.
But we want our kids to respond to us when we speak, not yell. But when we yell all the time, they become conditioned to wait for the yell and it becomes a vicious cycle.
Not to mention that yelling isn’t an acceptable form of communicating with anyone else. Most of us couldn’t imagine being yelled and screamed at by our boss, our spouse, or our closest friends. Nor do we go around screaming at the slow cashier at the grocery store.
Changing this habit isn’t easy and takes time and patience.
Why Connection Helps Decrease Mom Anger
When we’re present and connected to our kids, when we know our child and what’s going on in their lives – it makes parenting a whole lot easier.
Being in a closer relationship with your kids doesn’t magically fix all problems that pop up along the way but it certainly helps. When we show interest in our kids’ interests, take time to really check in with them, and spend quality time with them it shows them that they matter deeply to us.
We also get to know them, what’s in their head and heart, and what they really need – whether they tell us or not. When your child feels seen and heard they respond to things differently. There’s less conflict and you’re better able to see when they need you which is helpful in diffusing behavioral problems to get attention.
Instead of us giving orders or instructions all the time, we can try taking the time to stop and ask questions to get to know our kids. This is especially important with older kids because they often won’t share these things unless you ask.
How to Reset and Repair after a Fit of Mom Anger
It’s inevitable that there will be times when you will lose your cool and yell at your kids. You may just yell and it may be no big deal. But there are times (I’ve been there) when you really go all in and either scare your kids or make them cry.
After you calm down, you probably feel terrible and struggle with the consuming nature of mom-guilt. So how do you restore and reconnect after yelling?
First, let me say that authentic imperfection lived out in front of our children is a wonderful teaching tool. When we make mistakes, they need to see the right way to handle the mistakes modeled in front of them.
We want to send the message that everyone makes mistakes and the first thing we need to do is apologize for our behavior. And then do whatever we know to do to make it right.
Since you’re dealing with another person, you need to give your child the space they need and not force the reconnection. But kids are resilient and are always ready to forgive and move forward. Often before we are.
Final Thoughts on Mom Anger
Learning to be a calmer mom is not an overnight process. There are a lot of reasons why moms yell to be heard, get angry, and feel triggered. There’s often not a single cause to fix but rather a new way of living that must be built.
Know that if you’re struggling right now with mom anger – you’re not alone. Years ago I had several blowups where I screamed so loud that my throat hurt for hours. The encouraging thing is, my older kids don’t really remember those days. And they never felt like I was the worst mom in the world. I’m sure your kids don’t either.
Just don’t give up. And if you feel that you simply can’t manage this process on your own please reach out and get help. Therapy is a gift and so is medicine when needed. There is no shame in whatever helps you feel good and feel whole.