When Things Go Wrong #1

All parents want the best for their children.  Parents who identify with a particular way of parenting, such as natural parenting, often hold themselves to ideals that they may not be able to initially implement on a regular basis.  This series is dedicated to finding the opportunities in the times “when things go wrong”.


Many parents would prefer not to yell at their children. Some may be comfortable doing so in an emergency, while others would like to maintain a calm presence regardless of circumstances. Yelling, whether to get children to behave a certain way or out of pure frustration, can result in everyone feeling bad.

The guilt we feel as caregivers when we yell can mount up and create more frustration, which in turn leads to more yelling. Certainly if you feel like you’ve yelled too much, your child does also. The cycle of yell-guilt-mounting frustration-yell-guilt-mounting frustration does not have to continue though.

Here are several ways to make amends when things go wrong and you’ve yelled at your loved ones:

  1. Stop.  Breathe. Yes, you’re already breathing. Now bring all of your attention into breathing. What happens? You stop yelling.
  2. Notice where you feel tense in your body. Breathe into the tension. Imagine a balloon at the tense place, or in the middle of your chest, and feel it blowing up as you breathe into it. You are acknowledging the feeling you have by directing your attention and breath to where it is located in your body.
  3. Feel what you feel while being silent and only taking action that is eminently necessary.We can be in a very resistant state of being. When we start feeling it can be overwhelming at first. Feelings roar and thoughts swim about why we feel what we feel. Just be with what’s presenting for a bit as you get used to feeling and responding – instead of reacting.
  4. Notice what you are resisting. What are you yelling about? To control someone, to express frustration, to vent? It’s natural to resist what is, until we realize it never works to argue with reality.
  5. Consider what you do want. Often, we want something different if we’re yelling. Think about what you want to have happen.
  6. Lower your voice. To a whisper, if you must. That will catch the kids off guard. What is this woman doing who usually yells when she gets riled up?
  7. Describe how you feel. “I feel angry that the dishes are all piled up.”
  8. Express what you want. “I want everyone to wash their own dishes.”
  9. Apologize. “I am sorry for yelling. I like to be talked to in a respectful manner and you deserve that also.” NO excuses.
  10. Communicate what you plan to do next time. “If I feel frustrated again and begin yelling, I will stop myself, breathe, and talk about what I need or want. I may take a few moments to do this so if I’m not talking you’ll know why.”
  11. Ask for help. Let your kids and partner know that you would like to enlist their help in not yelling. Discuss a way for them to communicate with you to remind you to stop if you begin yelling.
  12. Yes, this takes time. You have all the time in the world to make a difference in your family and yet you only ever have the present moment. You, your children, and your family are worth you taking the time to breathe, feel where the tension is, acknowledge it, talk about what you need, and start over.

When Things Go Wrong #2 will explore ways to prevent yelling before it starts. If you have specific experiences of “when things go wrong” that you would like covered, please leave them in the comments or send a note.

About The Author: Amy

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Amy Phoenix is a gentle yet direct mom of five and author of Presence Parenting, a space to address the presence we bring to parenting, especially when feeling frustration, anger or rage.

3 Responses to When Things Go Wrong #1

  1. Shirly

    Thanks for sharing this tips on how to calm myself. One thing that makes me calm is so to breathe in and breathe out.

  2. Sylvia@MaMammalia

    Thanks for starting this series of posts! I think you hit an important point in that many of us who practice natural, gentle, AP have very high standards that are sometimes hard to meet.

  3. Amy  

    Thank you, Shirly and Sylvia! It is lovely that we always have the present moment to start over, re-evaluate, and meet our children with love. 🙂