We’ve all been there, peeking in at the sleeping child, resolving to do better after a day of shouting ‘NO!’ ‘NOT THAT ONE!’ and ‘FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING, JUST STOP!’ constantly. But sometimes, the next day rolls around, and within minutes (or sometimes seconds) the pattern starts again.
So, if you want to break the cycle and stop shouting at your child, expert, psychotherapist and mother of three Anna Mathur is here with advice about why we shout, how we can stop it, and what we can do to break that cycle.
Firstly, perhaps it’s important, though, to ask if sometimes it’s ok to shout? ‘If it’s down to safety, then yes, like an alarming alert that’s there to keep people safe,’ says Anna, but adds: ‘I think we know from the guilt that comes with shouting, that something is at conflict within ourselves. Often it’s an outspill and overflow of our own emotional response. A good way to make us realise this is that, if we’ve had a good night’s sleep, if we’ve got good support, we’re not burned out and overwhelmed, we respond very differently to our children.
‘The more burned out, the more we’re juggling, the less resources we have to regulate our own emotion.’
So, while often, we can feel our shouting is about the child, their behaviour, or our failures in parenting, Anna says often what can help is to make sure we’re looking after ourselves.
‘We’re always parenting ourselves – you know that moment in the morning where the alarm goes off and the kids get up and there’s that part of you that thinks ‘I want to stay in bed all day, have a bath, drink tea and not parent’? Then the other part says, ‘Come on, up you get’? We’re always parenting ourselves. And when we’re tired and stressed it’s that more knee-jerky child part of us that pops out.’
So, how can you take control of your inner child, so that you can in turn try and cope with your children? Here’s Anna’s tips…
If you find yourself shouting, ask yourself what you need.
That night-time guilt you often feel after a long, hard day, Anna says, is a helpful alarm – and instead of letting it shame us, should be used to ‘prompt us to get skills, or support, or space,’ she adds. ‘There’s a need in ourselves that hasn’t been met that stops us from processing our own feelings and containing them.’
She continues: ‘We’re so fixated on the needs of our children – do they need food or a nap etc – and we don’t do that to ourselves. Often our overwhelm and lack of emotional containment comes when we’ve been ignoring our own needs. If you find yourself shouting, ask “What is it that I’m missing?’ Is it balance, is it a hug?”’
Think about how you are being parented
When it comes to having your needs met, Anna says one of those things parenting may need, themselves, is a bit of parental love.
‘Have you got friends that are supportive that you need to speak to get some mothering for yourself?’ she says. ‘We need that as women, mothers need to be mothered too, somehow - whether it’s going for a massage or having a chat and a walk with a friend. Who are those nurturing people and have you been speaking to them?’
Probably always good advice, but never more than in 2020, Anna says it’s key to look after the captain (that’s you btw…I know, terrifying. Don’t think about it too much...)
‘There’s so much focus on our kids and are we teaching them to be worried or anchored,’ says Anna. ‘Where, actually, if the focus is on us, and we can find ways to anchor ourselves, then they will be ok.
‘If you think about being on a flight, if there’s turbulence, you look to the crew, the people who know. And if they’re flapping, you won’t feel safe. If the crew know what’s going on and they can respond and stay calm, the passengers will stay calm. So instead of focusing on the kids’ behaviours, sometimes we need to think “How am I addressing my anxiety, grief or resentment?”, because that’s what they’ll see. What do you need?’
In the moment though, thoughts of anchoring, parenting and our needs can flash out of our brain as we see red – if we’re already at that place, Anna says there is still something you can do. Breathe.
‘You’re having a stress-response,’ says Anna. ‘So many of us mums see that as failure, like “I’m not coping well”. But if we think about any other circumstance in life, if someone was repeatedly shouting in your face, or being mean, or hitting you, you’d say, “I’m not taking this, I’m leaving!”
‘Even when it’s your child, we still will have this flight or fight response that comes out. So, often there’s a thundercloud between a normal human response to stress and the maternal sense of responsibility and love that we have for that child. And they come into conflict like a thundercloud inside of us, with panic and anger and fear.
‘If we can just take a moment to step outside, behind a door frame, or microwave or whatever it might be – as long as the children are safe – and do some deep-breathing (use hypnobirthing if you remember, it’s the same technique) to tell your nervous system you’re safe – then your rational brain can kick in.
‘Find a breathing technique that suits you and use it when you don’t need it, practice it, so when you do need it, it’s reactive. My kids know now, I say, “Mummy’s feeling stressed, I’m just doing my breathing so I don’t shout”.’
Name your emotions
As well as admitting to yourself that it’s ok to feel out of resource, Anna says it’s also ok – and potentially even a valuable learning experience – to do so in front of your children.
‘Teach your children we can have all different emotions and get through it,’ she says. ‘I will say to my kids, “Mummy’s feeling really tired today, I’m feeling very grumpy”. They’ll hear that then a few hours later I’ll be smiling and laughing with them. It gives them a sense of safety with emotion, that you can feel things and express it and it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Sometimes even just naming it is a way of validating it in itself, that you’re a human and it’s an emotion you feel – you’re more likely to accommodate for that once you’ve named it. Also do so with your partner. Say, “I’m feeling really hormonal today, every noise is making me want to smash something” and then they know.’
Be aware of your resources that day
‘Guilt and shame sit between the reality of who and how we feel, how we are and how we expect ourselves to be,’ says Anna. ‘And sometimes it’s just being more honest with ourselves about how we are and where our resources are at. We have different resources every day depending on how tired we are, what news we’ve seen, where in our cycle we are…
‘We know the kids are different every day, we need to apply that awareness to ourselves. We need different things each day and the more we meet that need, the more energy we’ll have to contain and process our own response to stress that is parenting.’
Know that sometimes it’s hard, because it’s hard
Often, we need someone to tell us, out loud something that is simple and perhaps we already know. This, is one of those things from Anna: ‘It’s not failure to find it stressful. It is stressful. Sometimes it’s hard because it’s hard.’
She adds: ‘That’s affirming for some people because they say, “I’ve not got it as hard as so-and-so”. There’s a woman down the road from me who has 11 kids. So for ages, if I was having a hard day, I’d think, “I shouldn’t be finding it hard” but using other people’s circumstances to invalidate your own emotions is so common, but so unhelpful. Someone else’s broken leg, doesn’t make your stubbed toe hurt less.’
As yourself, ‘What is the fear?’
‘Often in stress there’s fear,’ says Anna. ‘So ask yourself, “What’s the fear?” It might be “I fear I’m doing a bad job or I fear I’m out of control” because as soon as we recognize it and name it, we can do something about it.
'Otherwise we’re left with shame and guilt and it pushes our self esteem down, we start comparing ourselves more, and we end up in a place where many mums do, "We don’t deserve help, we don’t deserve support or the love of our partners and kids" and it doesn’t need to be that way.'
Follow Grazia's new parenting account @thejuggleuk on Instagram.
Best Parenting Books
1. How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, By Carla Naumburg PhD
Pragmatic about helping you work through your sh*t to be a more present and positive parent. Increasingly relevant to today's parents, who are more overloaded, overwhelmed, and overworked than ever before, Carla Naumburg has the antidote to the feelings of complete despair and rage. With some humour toou2026
2. There's No Such Thing As 'Naughty', By Kate Silverton
This Sunday Times Bestseller details the secret to tackling tantrums, tears and laying the foundations for your child's mental health. In There's No Such Thing As 'Naughty', mum to two young children, journalist and children's mental health advocate Kate Silverton shares her groundbreaking new approach to parenting under-fives that helps to make family life a breeze!
3. How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes, By Melinda Wenner Moyer
As Melinda's children grew, she found that one huge area was ignored in the realm of parenting advice: how do we make sure our kids don't grow up to be assholes? How to Raise Kids Who Aren't Assholes is a researched, evidence-based guide that provides a fresh, often surprising perspective on parenting issues, from toddlerhood through the teenage years.
4. Why Did No One Tell Me?: How to Protect Heal and Nurture Your Body Through Motherhood
For too long, women have been told that debilitating conditions following pregnancy are normal and something they have to just put up with. Emma Brockwell is on a mission to change this. In this guide, Emma combines her expertise as a specialist women's health physiotherapist with personal experience to create a warm and informative handbook to help pregnant women and new mums take control and care for their changing bodies. Find out how to:
5. The Gentle Discipline Book, By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
In The Gentle Discipline Book, Sarah Ockwell-Smith debunks many commonly held beliefs about punishment and motivation and provides an alternative approach that will empower you to discipline your child in an effective way and with respect. Gentle discipline is not about mollycoddling your child or being a pushover - it means understanding your child, having realistic expectations of them, and responding to their misbehaviour appropriately. It focuses on teaching and learning, not punishment or rewarding.
6. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
No Bad Kids is a collection of Janet's most popular and widely read articles pertaining to common toddler behaviours and how respectful parenting practices can be applied to benefit both parents and children. It covers such common topics as punishment, cooperation, boundaries, testing, tantrums, hitting, and more.
7. When The World Feels Like A Scary Place, By Abigail Gewirtz
This book by prominent child psychologist Dr Abi Gewirtz, brings solutions to a problem that is only going to get worse - how bad things happening in the world affect our children, and how we can raise engaged and confident kids in spite of them. Through conversation scripts, talking points, prompts and insightful asides, When the World Feels Like a Scary Place is an indispensable guide to talking to our kids about the big things that worry them - making us calmer parents with more resilient children.
8. Queen Bees and Wannabes
A revised and updated version of Rosalind Wiseman's groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls. Packed with insights about technology's impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls (YES REALLY) offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
9. How Toddlers Thrive, By Tovah P. Klein
Leading toddler expert Dr Tovah P. Klein reveals why age two to five is the most crucial time for a child's brain development and how parents can harness this period to have a lifelong positive effect on their children's lives. With chapters on everyday routines, tantrums, managing change and avoiding toddler shaming, this smart and useful guide promises to inspire you to be a better parent. Sarah Jessica Parker says: 'Tovah taught me how to resist the temptation to fix everything, and instead give my children the opportunity to learn how to problem-solve for themselves.'
10. The Montessori Toddler
This book promises to not only help you become a more effective parent but actually change how you see your children. Written by Montessori educator Simone Davies, this book shows you how to bring the educational values of a Montessori classroom into your home-while
11. Parenting The Sh*t Out Of Life
From Grazia columnist Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka and Matt Farquharson aka Papa Pukka, comes the Sunday Times bestselling account of parenting told from both perspectives, and a handy guide (kind of) on how to raise a small human. The must-read for all parents and parents-to-be - and possibly the best (or worst) baby shower gift you could ever give a prospective mum or dad...
12. What Mummy Makes
Promising 130 recipes that will suit six-month-olds AND the rest of the family, this book could save you a lot of hassle when it comes to dinnertimeu2026
13. Sex, Likes And Social Media: Talking To Our Teens In The Digital Age, By Deana Puccio And Allison Havey
Based on their professional work with young people, parents and teachers – and their experiences with their own children – Deana Puccio and Allison Havey give you the tools to talk to children who are digital natives with experiences wildly different from their parents'.
14. I Am Not Your Baby Mother
A thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a Black mother. It explores the various stages between pregnancy and waving your child off at the gates of primary school while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point. Candice does so with her trademark sense of humour and refreshing straight-talking, and the result is a call-to-arms that will allow mums like her to take control, scrapping the parenting rulebook to mother their own way.
15. The Calm And Happy Toddler, By Dr Rebecca Chicot
You think a newborn is the hard bitu2026 and then you meet your little toddler. This book promises to help you, gently, through tantrums, night-waking, potty-training and all the fun stuff that goes with having a toddler. Dr Rebecca Chicot has a PhD in Parenting and Child Development from Cambridge University.
16. How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
Tried and tested communication strategies to survive - and thrive - with kids ages 2-7. Users have rated this book for having a helpful toolbox of tricks that are easy to understand and carry out.
17. Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets Of Stress-Free Parenting, By Dr Laura Markham
Most parenting books focus on changing a child's behaviour, but this book says the truth is that children only change when their relationship with their parents changes. In Calm Parents, Happy Kids, Dr Laura Markham introduces an approach to parenting that eliminates threats, power struggles and manipulation, in favour of setting limits with empathy and communication. Bringing together the latest research in brain development with a focus on emotional awareness (for both parents and children), it will appeal to all parents who don't want to force their children into compliance and lose their temper, but want to keep calm and help their children want to behave.
18. 15-Minute Parenting 0-7 Years: Quick And Easy Ways To Connect With Your Child, By Joanna Fortune
This also comes in a version for 8-12-year-olds and posits that just 15 minutes of mindful playtime each day in your and your child's routine could change behaviour. Created with busy parents in mind, psychotherapist and parenting expert Joanna Fortune has devised a simple but effective method to build quality playful time together at home, structured around 15-minute games that can be easily incorporated into your existing daily routine.
19. The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play
With a foreword written by Fearne Cotton and written by Russell Brand's wife and mother to his two children, this book has star ratings. But it's also hugely useful and full of games and tips to keep children preoccupied in ways that don't involve screens, which everyone knows is very much half the battle of parenthood...
20. French Children Don't Throw Food
Part travel book and autobiography, this book shares journalist Pamela's parenting tips she learned from living in France. And, for added glam, it's set to be made into a film, starring Anne Hathaway...
21. The Whole-Brain Child
Designed to help children of different ages, this pioneering, practical book for parents, neuroscientist Daniel J. Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson explain the new science of how a child's brain is wired and how it matures. Different parts of a child's brain develop at different speeds and understanding these differences can help you turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child's brain and raise calmer, happier children.
22. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (And Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did), By Philippa Perry
Philippa Perry has been a psychotherapist for the past twenty years. She lives in London with her husband the artist Grayson Perry, and they have a grown-up daughter, Flo. Billed as a book for parents and children (and those who aren't yet parents), this book comprehensively covers lots of different stages of life and has a host of celebrity fans from Nigella Lawson to Fearne Cotton.
23. Your Baby Week By Week
The book to shove in your pregnant friend's hands and tell them to only read week by week. A helpful manual of things your baby might and could be doing, week by week. As with all books, best taken with a dose of salt too – use the helpful bits, ignore the unhelpful/ones you can't quite face (i.e. the sleep bitsu2026)
24. Nobody Told Me
If it's weaning or sleep-training schedules you're looking for, this might not help exactly, but this book of poetry will make you smile. And probably nod your head a lot. And sometimes cry, and sometimes feel understood. Which goes much further than you'd think.
25. The Second Baby Book, By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
This guide examines the specific issues that can arise with a second pregnancy and birth. From the common concerns about siblings, such as how to prepare your firstborn for what's to come, to how to cope with the practicalities of life with two young children. And the feelings parents are likely to experience, too - because it's easy to forget about this part.
26. Between: A guide for parents of eight to thirteen-year-olds
Raising a teenager can leave you feeling like a parenting beginner all over again. Children in the 'between' stage change daily, leaving parents struggling to understand the child they once thought they knew. In Between by parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith uses biology, psychology and sociology of adolescence to give readers practical parenting advice that you can use to help your child through the tricky transition from childhood to adulthood.
27. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk
Parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish provide effective step-by-step techniques to help you improve and enrich your relationships with your children. Read this guide to learn how to break a pattern of arguments, cope with your child's negative feelings, engage your child's co-operation, set clear limits, express your anger without being hurtful and resolve family conflicts peacefully.
28. The Danish Way Of Parenting
What makes Denmark the happiest country in the world, and how do Danish parents raise happy, confident, successful kids, year after year? This upbeat and practical guide reveals the six essential principles that have been working for parents in Denmark for decades:
29. Baby Knows Best
Baby Knows Best is a comprehensive guide that shows parents how to respond to their babies' cues and signals; how to develop healthy sleep habits, why babies need uninterrupted playtime and how to set clear consistent limits. After reading as parents you will be more relaxed and also have more confident, self-reliant children.
30. Calmer, Easier, Happier Boys
Calmer Easier Happier Boys sees parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton explains simple strategies for the unique challenges of raising motivated, cooperative and confident boys. Using the stellar techniques Noel has developed over many years of working with families, parents can get back in charge. Living with boys can become calmer, easier and happier.