I'm guilty of this far too often. Especially at the end of the day. Usually when I'm trying to get out the door to get to some event, when chores need doing or when the children are screaming bloody murder because their toast was cut wrong. Someone is fussing, someone else asks for something and gets impatient and starts screaming, then I respond louder so that I can be heard, then it gets louder and louder, then other kids join in. Unfortunately, the kids copy what they see me doing so it's a never ending cycle.
It all started by me expecting our children to give me attention when I talked loudly, or called across the room for them to do something. When they didn't respond I would call louder and louder until I was frustrated and yelling. Eventually it became a habit and I started yelling as soon as I was even slightly stressed.
Unsurprisingly, our kids learned that when they needed my attention they should start out by screaming at me, because that's what worked for me to get their attention.
This can be undone. It takes time. A long time. The solution is simple, but at the same time it is challenging and difficult and requires incredible presence of mind.
Now when I need a job done, I go up to the child and ask in a quiet, even tone. When the kids are screaming at me because they are angry about something, I try to respond in a quiet, emotionless tone, eventually they will want to hear what I'm saying and then lower their voice. When they are wanting attention, I try to listen carefully and respond quietly.
The key is being able to contain and control the anger, frustration and any other emotions I may be feeling at the time. A lot of parenting guides suggest walking away so that I and my child can calm down before responding. That may work if I only have one or two children at home and the children are in the mood to respond to what I'm saying, but typically they're not in a listening mood when this becomes an issue. My children are also persistent and won't give me the space. So I've had to come up with some other ideas:
- Closing my eyes (and ears) and breathing until I'm calm
- Being present and giving my full attention to the person who needs it
- Remembering that it's not personal
- Remembering that my child needs something but is unable to tell me what they need.
- Remember that someone needs to start the calming down process and that I am the adult
I'm not perfect yet and still lose my shit at times, but I am improving.