101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking

August 31st, 2010 by Dionna | 104 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance

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Photo Credit: obyvatelIf you have come to a point in a challenging situation with your child where you feel that the only thing left to do is to yell at or strike your child, step away from the child.

Here are 101 things you can do instead of yelling or spanking:

  1. Take a parental time-out.
  2. Call for help from a friend or family member (ask them to give you an immediate break if possible).
  3. Pile everyone in the car and drive to the park (or anywhere – just go for a change of scenery).
  4. Sing a silly song about how angry you are.
  5. Do jumping jacks.
  6. Draw your feelings out.
  7. Make yourself your favorite snack.
  8. Write down 3 instances when you felt intense love for your child.
  9. Clean out your clothes closet and set aside a bag for Goodwill (now would probably not be a good time to do this with the kids’ toys).
  10. Change the subject – come back to it when you and your child are calmer.
  11. Whisper.
  12. Practice progressive relaxation.
  13. Act like animals: stomp like an elephant, growl like a lion, etc.
  14. Run around the house (or around the block if your children have alternate childcare).
  15. Do a load of laundry.
  16. Set out clothes for the kids for the next week (or do some other task that will pay off later).
  17. Release tension: shake your shoulders, roll your neck, etc.
  18. Count to 100. Out loud. In a robot voice.
  19. Immerse yourself in an easy craft project.
  20. Dust off the hedge clippers and trim your trees or other landscaping.
  21. If your child allows it, give him a huge hug and tell him you love him.
  22. Scream into a pillow.
  23. Bake cookies (with help from your child), bring some to a neighbor or your local fire department.
  24. Dance to your favorite song.
  25. Instead of yelling at your kids to do something, act out your request in a game of charades or pictionary.
  26. Pluck your eyebrows.
  27. Clean out the refrigerator.
  28. Bang your head – to some loud music.
  29. Write down the angry words you could have said, then rip the paper up and throw it away.
  30. Do some yoga.
  31. Rearrange the furniture.
  32. Make a list of the many reasons you love your child.
  33. Wash the car by hand.
  34. Laugh in as many different ways as you can think of (think Mary Poppins).
  35. Take everyone and go sit in a car wash. Choose the option for colored soap.
  36. Chocolate.
  37. Call a friend who supports gentle discipline (think about finding a “gentle discipline partner” who you can talk to anytime you feel the urge to yell or spank).
  38. Fall down theatrically on the floor. Lie there long enough to collect yourself.
  39. Pay bills.
  40. Keep a roll of washi tape handy – use it on your mouth.
  41. Squeeze a stress ball.
  42. Recite multiplication tables.
  43. Stand as silent and still as possible.
  44. Paint your nails.
  45. Do 25 sit-ups.
  46. Finish a task you’ve been putting off.
  47. Listen to an audio book.
  48. Take a bubble bath.
  49. Ask a silly question. Ask another.
  50. Take a walk around your neighborhood or a park and clean up the trash.
  51. Run up and down the stairs.
  52. Paint on different mediums (paper, rocks, your windows, etc.).
  53. Write a story using only 100 words.
  54. Cook a meal for the freezer.
  55. Look at pictures of your child when she was a baby.
  56. Play Solitaire (or whatever game strikes your fancy).
  57. Brew some of your favorite tea or coffee. Have a tea party.
  58. Sweep, vacuum, or mop.
  59. Learn something new online.
  60. Play with Playdough or clay.
  61. Put a movie on for the kids; have sex with your partner.
  62. Take a shower.
  63. Organize meal plans for the next week. Or month. Or year.
  64. Set up an obstacle course for you and your kids to do (inside or out).
  65. Instead of shouting something angrily, shout “I love you!!”
  66. Make up a rhyme about how much you love your child. Recite it while standing on your head.
  67. Play ball (basketball, throw a tennis ball against a wall, play catch with someone, etc.).
  68. Take artsy pictures.
  69. Make a PostSecret postcard.
  70. Pull weeds.
  71. Decoupage something.
  72. Blow bubbles.
  73. Make a list of “things I would rather do than engage in power struggles with my child.”
  74. Trade roles with your child: pretend you are the little, and she is the adult.
  75. Reorganize a closet or cabinet.
  76. Roll around on an exercise ball.
  77. Make bread or pizza dough (the kind you have to knead).
  78. Form a drum circle: everyone grab a drum or a pot, and start playing.
  79. Build a tower out of books (or anything handy). Knock it down.
  80. Gather the kids for a nature walk around the block.
  81. Have a few funny videos saved on YouTube to watch when you need a break.
  82. Take silly pictures of yourself. Invite your child to help.
  83. Ask your Facebook or Twitter friends to tell you a joke.
  84. Scrub the shower.
  85. Write a poem (it doesn’t have to be a good one).
  86. Send postcards to random people.
  87. Make a silly (and unrelated) announcement. (“For the rest of the day, everyone must hop on one foot when moving about the house!”)
  88. Make funny faces. Tell your child that no matter what, they must not laugh.
  89. Turn on a videocamera. Turn the opportunity into one of love and connection that you can be proud of later.
  90. Play an instrument.
  91. Take the family to a park with sidewalk chalk: write/draw inspirational messages/pictures.
  92. Learn how to say a few words in another language (ASL, Spanish, etc.).
  93. Floss.
  94. Jump rope.
  95. Do something nice for someone else. (Involve your child if he wants to help.)
  96. Write your feelings down on paper.
  97. Meditate or pray.
  98. Hug your child’s teddy bear or doll and talk about how much you love your child (while your child is watching, if you’d like).
  99. Look into a mirror and realize what your child is seeing when you are angry.
  100. Remember your child is young, and innocent, and loves you, and needs to trust you.
  101. Take a minute to calm down and breastfeed your child. (It’s hard to be angry at a child who is nursing, plus the act of breastfeeding releases hormones that will help calm both of you down.)

The bottom line is to not scream at or hit your child. It’s ok to step away from the situation or to defuse a fight by using laughter or love instead of instantly turning to discipline or punishment. If you are trying to “teach” your child something, she will not learn when you are approaching her with anger – whether it is in your voice or in your hand. All she will feel is fear.

Talk about it when both you and your child are calm. Chances are, you will both feel better about the outcome.

What do you do when you need a moment to compose yourself?


Photo Credit: obyvatel via Stock.xchng

104 Responses to:
"101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking"

  1. Thank you for this list! I grew-up around a lot of yelling and I’m ashamed that my husband can remain so calm and patient and quiet when frustrated while I get these ferocious yells built up inside me. I know I need to practice living a different kind of life and nurture healthier reactions so my daughter doesn’t continue the cycle. This list will help. I especially like #s 4 & 99.

  2. I like numbers 18 and 38. It is so hard for me to not yell, either. It’s so hard!!! Maybe the “falling theatrically on the floor and staying there” will help! :-)

  3. Michelle

    My son started lashing out and hitting and screeching at the top of his lungs at anyone who was trying to get him to do something he did not want to do. My initial response to this was to raise my voice and tell him no and then slap his hand…..I soon realized that I was yelling and hitting, the exact things I wanted him to stop. I though I was being a ‘good parent’ because I was not spanking or any of the things my parents did. Now I will hold onto his hand(s) to prevent him from hitting and rub his back and speak to him calmly to try to get him to stop screaming. Not always effective, but now I can try some of the suggestions above as well.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Michelle – Aren’t those “aha”moments wonderful?! I do hope some of these help – I almost always find that when I take a breath and relax, our confrontations magically disappear.

  4. Nell

    Thank you for this! I am trying so hard not to use anger against anger because it seems to only create more anger. I wish I would’ve had this list last night while we were school clothes shopping! I did walk away and make a phone call to calm me down. I think I’ll try number 11. :)

  5. kelly @kellynaturally   kellynaturally

    Awesome of awesomeness.

    I love#29!

    Have done #31 & #35 with much success. :)

  6. the grumbles   thegrumbles

    great ideas! i think you’re crazy though about putting “paying bills” on there, that will double my blood pressure almost immediately. ;)

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I saw some comments on FB to the effect of “cleaning would just make me angrier.” Many of these things I included were either a) to make the parent burn off some excess (angry) energy – hence exercise or cleaning; or b) to make the parent use their logical/rational brain – hence calming down the emotional/irrational side.
      They won’t all work for everyone, but hopefully a handful will resonate with every person who visits.

      Everyone please leave more suggestions – I’d love to do “another 101 things to do” list!

      • mama_to_3

        a couple of suggestions that were not on your list that I find effective is to:

        stop what I’m doing and help my children with what they need first.

        So often we get aggravated because we have an agenda and we think we will get done faster if it can just be done uninterrupted. This is not always true.

        When you want to talk to your child, get down on your knees level with their face. It is difficult to yell into big, brown eyes and a freckled face. Besides, they might just hear you when you are actually facing them.

  7. Holly   becomingmamas

    Excellent post!

  8. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

    What a great list! Changing gears from irritation and anger to playfulness and flexibility is my biggest parenting challenge. These suggestions are really helpful.

  9. Meditate, ground-down, get spacious, feel the inevitability of your death…

    thanks for the great list!

  10. Heather   xakana

    One thing I’ve done is to just start saying quietly, “I’m mad, mad, mad. Wow, this made me mad. Oh, I’m mad.” No yelling and the chant keeps me calm while I fix whatever is broken/exploded/wrecked. By the end of whatever I had to fix, I’m able to explain why I was mad calmly and I don’t have the reason staring me in the face any more, so it’s easier to be calm about it. It’s no good when you get yourself all calmed down and come back to what ticked you off in the first place.

    Also sucks when 2&3 would be great options, but aren’t :(

  11. Leslie

    OK, I think I disagree with #26 Pluck your eyebrows…that could have a bad outcome, LOL.

    Good list! I really love the last one and have actually used it because I know that’s one way that I can change my daughter’s mood.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      LOL you are the 3rd person to say that about plucking. I figured if you’re already mad, then maybe the pain of plucking would be cathartic ;)

  12. Kathryn Hill

    I can’t help but notice that you using the terms “spanking” “hitting” and “striking” interchangeably. I am sensitive to the fact that some people have been exposed to parents who have abused a child and excused it as spanking. That is unacceptable and I am heartbroken when I hear that any child has been hurt by their own parent. But I want you to realize that spanking, when used correctly, is not a form of abuse. Spanking is a form of disciple that I use when necessary. My husband and I have strict guidelines for how we use this method of discipline. Only in cases of direct defiance (not just mischievousness), only if we’ve found that other forms of discipline are not working, and ONLY if we are calm. Usually taking the time to walk to a private place(spanking is also not meant to embarrass)gives us a moment to calm down. We also clearly explain why a spanking is being given. I’m sorry that this is a form of discipline that has been abused, and I agree that NO child should ever be hit or stricken. But please know that when done calmly, spanking is a form of discipline that teaches a child very clearly that there are consequences for his/her behavior (and learning to face those consequences at home, in a loving environment, is much easier than letting them wait and learn them out in the world). And I can assure you that my child feels loved and secure. Thanks for listening.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Hi Kathryn – I am aware that our cultural nomenclature approves of the word “spanking” when it comes to the striking of children, but realistically, spanking = hitting = striking. A rose is still a rose, and all that jazz. I’ve written a little bit about this subject in the past week or two, including a review of the plethora of research available that gives hard evidence of why any corporal punishment – even the most “minor” spankings – can be detrimental to children.
      I invite you to take a look at “Discipline or Misdemeanor” and “A Corporal Punishment Fallacy,” and then to do some more research on alternatives to corporal punishment if you are open to it. Gentle discipline achieves the same (and better!) results, without the shame, resentment, and anger that spanking produces.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment so respectfully – I appreciate it.

      • Tim

        I invite you as well to review ALL of the available research on the subject of spanking. The truth is that there is an immense volume of research that shows that corporal punishment (including spanking) can be detrimental to your child. There is also an immense volume of research showing that corporal punishment, when administered responsibly and lovingly, contributes to healthier behavioral decisions and greater self-discipline by your child.

        The fact of the matter is there is no “proof” either way that one method is better than the other, because no matter how much evidence is given by one side of the debate, there is just as much evidence supporting the other side of the debate. What both sides do agree on is that when disciplining your child the two most important things to remember are 1) ANY form of discipline is most effective with children and their short attention span when it is carried out immediately, whether spanking, time-out, or whatever. The longer the amount of time between the behavior and the consequence, the less effective the discipline will be; and 2) No matter what form of discipline you use, it is imperative that as soon as the discipline has been given, you also explain what they did that was wrong, explain what they should have done, and then reaffirm the loving relationship (i.e. hug, “I love you,” etc.)

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        We will have to agree to disagree on this subject. The research shows that spanking can engender immediate compliance, yes; but the long-term effects of spanking are detrimental overall. Why would you want to do something that will make your child more aggressive, more likely to hit their own spouse, more likely to use drugs? It makes no sense.
        Research also shows that spanking & other harsh punishment will make your child more likely to comply when there is a chance they will be caught – would you rather them want to be a good person for intrinsic reasons, or to avoid getting hit? What will last longer over time? I think the choice is obvious, others don’t.
        And you are incorrect about discipline needing to be immediate – as Lawrence Cohen writes in Playful Parenting, “effective discipline rarely happens in the heat of the moment.”
        Parenting gently requires a paradigm shift from the way most of us were raised, but once you see that discipline can be another opportunity to connect with your child, rather than frighten, hurt, or alienate them, you will be amazed at how much children can learn – even when it’s not done at the palm of your hand.
        Added bonus: parenting gently does not require me to “reaffirm” how much I love my child – he never has to doubt it.

      • Kathryn Hill

        We’ll have to agree to disagree. If you choose not to spank your child, that is a decision I can respect wholeheartedly. I would NEVER recommend spanking as a form of discipline for someone who has a bad association with it, or was abused. And I don’t take it lightly that I do spank. But, I’ll say that once my husband and I decided it was necessary, and my son learned that direct disobedience would ALWAYS and consistently result in punishment, the punishment became almost obsolete. I very rarely find it necessary anymore.
        I know that many parents are parenting based on the experiences they grew up with (what else do we have to go on?). I’m sad for the woman (Jill, I think?) who says that she still shudders when she hears her husband take his belt off. That is so sad. But, you should know that I don’t use a belt, and it sounds like her spanking experience may have been coming from an angry parent (especially if she still fears it). I was disciplined by a very loving parent, and my son always gets an explanation. Spankings shouldn’t come by surprise. I guess I struggle so much with the fact that it feels like parents are so quick to judge one another. I fear that people who consider spanking to be abuse could very likely affect my right to discipline my child how I have chosen to. I don’t agree with the parenting methods many of my friends use (for sleeping, feeding, etc) but to publicly berate their choices or to accuse them of being bad parents is simply not my place (even if I had research to support MY methods as well, which I do). Thanks. I, also, appreciate the chance to debate these things in a friendly manner.

      • Tabitha

        Can I just say that I am working through some of these challenges with my own children. I was spanked as a child. That did not effect me as much as some of the other ways that parents discipline their children. I remember that when I did something wrong that I was told that I needed to earn my parents trust back. That was way more hurtful to me than being spanked. But people react differently to these things. One may be worse than the other. But the point is that a parent has to come to this conclusion on their own. I believe and am learning to use a teaching method with my children that is based on grace. That is my own conviction. One thing that I think is considered not very mature is taking your own convictions and writing a blog on them. This is your blog and your space to write what you want. But the outward appearance in immaturity. You are only in control of your own children. What you believe to be write for you and your family does not mean that it is right for everyone. I do wish that this is something that you grow to understand. It may be more beneficial to write about things that are inside your control. It brings people together and causes less division. I hope you take this comment in love. I hope the best for you and this blog space.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Tabitha – Thank you for taking time to comment, but I have to admit – I’m seriously flummoxed. So what you’re advocating for is that we don’t share information on anything, with anyone, ever?
        How is a frustrated parent at the end of his/her rope supposed to “come to this conclusion on their own”? Maybe they don’t have the tools. Maybe they don’t have any positive role models. Maybe they’ve never stopped to think about the consequences of their actions.
        Really, I’m flabbergasted. I question your definition of “maturity” if immaturity includes “advocating for the rights of children to be free from violence.”
        I’m not being snarky, I simply do not understand your position.

    • Michelle Honeycutt

      I have to agree with Kathryn & Tim. Sometimes a spanking is necessary to change behavior that has not changed by using other methods or when an act of defiance is so blatent. I work with preschoolers & have seen 2 & 3 year olds slap their mothers in the face. Their mothers just smiled & said “Don’t do that honey.” or said nothing at all. I can assure you, the behavior never stopped. Children need to know that some things are not acceptable & there are consequences for such behavior. OR their parents can just wait until those same children are slapping them around when they are in their teen years. I’ve seen it happen. One family had to end up having their son arrested because he was a threat to them. Children crave & need boundaries & they need to learn them early before it’s too late & they end up in jail or worse. Bottom line–disipline now so others will not have to do it later!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        So . . . the child slaps the mother, and you recommend that the mother – what – hit the child while saying “WE DO NOT HIT!”
        Surely we, as adults who are supposedly older and wiser, can come up with something better than violence to “teach” our children.
        It’s unfortunate that most adults have not been exposed to discipline methods beyond spanking and other methods of control and shame. If you spank when a child is 3, what do you do when a child “blatantly defies you” at 13? Slap her across the face?
        If an adult “blatantly defies” a request you make – are you going to hit him? No. You are going to act like an adult and respond with your words. Children deserve nothing less.
        And your comment about jail? False: children who were spanked are MORE likely to end up with aggression/anger problems and substance abuse problems – they’re even more likely to approve of hitting a spouse later in life.

        I continue to be floored at the number of people willing to advocate hitting children.

    • Jill

      Hi Kathryn and Tim – I am 29 years old and a mother. I was spanked as child exactly as you described how you spank your children. I was not abused. Being spanked made me feel so incredibly angry that I couldn’t see straight. And for the life of me I couldn’t understand why they could hit me and I couldn’t hit them. Being spanked taught me to obey out of fear or to do the wrong again to get back at them. Am I a functioning adult? Sure. But I also have a lot issues that I now have to deal with. Like everytime my husband takes off his belt I get sick to my stomach because it reminds me of the sound right before my dad spanked me. Or whenever I see a child spanked I become ill because the feelings I felt being spanked as a child rush back over me. This is just the tip of the iceburg and I am seeing a counselor.
      I truely believe that positive discipline is a better way. Discipline to me is about having age appropriate expectations while teaching the child. I treat my child with the same respect I show my husband. Because if I hit when I wanted to teach him a lesson then that is called spousal abuse.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I am so sorry that you experienced that, Jill. No child should experience that.

      • DJ

        I have spanked my children. Probably less than I can count on both hands. Hitting with a belt isn’t spanking. That’s abuse. My husband introduced me to the saying “once is for them, twice or more is for you.” And I recall an incident where my son slapped me in the face. I slapped him back. I asked him if he liked it. He said “no”. Then I said “neither does anyone else, that’s why we don’t hit.” Of course I can’t use the same strategy for everything but you use what works with different situations. I’d rather my children be scared of me slapping their butt than doing something dangerous (like playing with stove knobs) that would end up with worse consequences than a temporarily red behind. BTW My mom beat the living daylights outta me. And I could care less as an adult.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        It is my hope that all parents who react to children’s behaviors with violence learn alternative methods. There is no reason to slap your child in the face. Ever. There are ways to communicate with your child that alleviate any perceived “need” to spank. Parents all over the world do it every day. The problem isn’t your child, the problem is that you don’t have the appropriate tools. I encourage you (and every parent who spanks) to take a class, to talk to a gentle parenting friend, to read some parenting books (Playful Parenting is probably the best starter), to learn more than what you were taught as a child.

      • Jill

        Hi DJ – You say you could care less about being spanked as a child and I have issues from being spanked. This does not mean I am a weaker person, it means that it effected me differently. That’s one of the many reasons not to spank. You don’t know how it will effect your children. There are tons of better ways to discipline – to teach – your children. So why use the one that is the most likely to harm, in so many ways. My goal for my children is to not touch the stove knob because it is hot, not because I will hit them if they do. I don’t plan on following my children with the threat of a spanking to make sure they behave. The goal with positive discipline is for them to learn self-discipline and self control.
        I really encourage you to reseach positive discipline or grace based discipline. It is about identifying long term goals, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel and problem solving. Not just randomly swatting them on the butt because of what you see them do at. that. moment. you think is wrong.

      • Kathryn Hill

        I’m also sorry you experienced that. I responded above that I don’t think spanking is a form of discipline that I would tell others they SHOULD use. There are very personal reasons for why people don’t spank, and I respect them. But I do want to respond some things you said:

        “My goal for my children is to not touch the stove knob because it is hot, not because I will hit them if they do.”

        I, also want my child to avoid the knob because it’s hot. But at 3, he doesn’t understand the many consequences of his behaviors. I explain that if he runs away from me in a parking lot, a car could hit him. He either doesn’t get it yet, or doesn’t care yet. For now, I need him to obey me because I said so. If we were in a dangerous situation, I don’t want him to wait for a reasonable explanation to decide whether he chooses to obey me. I want him to do it, because he’s used to doing it. It doesn’t mean I don’t explain myself. It means that whether or not he realizes he could be hit by a car, he obeys me, because there are consequences for not obeying me. For now, that has to be enough, because I WOULD rather a spanking be the worse thing that happens to him. I would rather that than him getting hit by a car, burning his hand, choking, etc. BTW, he’s not always spanked anyway. I’m a big fan of positive reinforcement, time out, going to his room, losing a privilege, and many other methods. I will also say that spanking isn’t for all kids. Again, it’s personal.
        “I really encourage you to reseach positive discipline or grace based discipline. It is about identifying long term goals, providing warmth and structure, understanding how children think and feel and problem solving. Not just randomly swatting them on the butt because of what you see them do at. that. moment. you think is wrong.”
        I’m not sure why you would think parents who spank don’t do these things too. I HATE to have to spank him. But I do it when nothing else is working. I do it so he will associate a wrong behavior with a negative consequence. When discipline is used consistently (whatever form you choose), it works and has to be used less and less. I hardly have to spank him, I can’t say that enough. He is not “randomly swatted because what he’s doing at that moment is wrong.” And my rules don’t change by the moment either.
        Anyways, that said, I’m still very sorry for your experience and I agree that, in your situation, spanking is probably not the best form of discipline. I just want you to understand that it can be done in a loving way and ask you to be careful not to judge those of us who use it. Thanks.

      • Jill

        Hi Kathryn – I was not abused. I was talking to my mom the other day and she says she doesn’t remember me getting spanked much. But the spanking memories are the most vivid ones I have.

        In response to spanking in dangerous situations, here is a great link from Dr. Sears describing another way. http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/T061200.asp

        I understand that you choose to spank your children. But the point of this response is to show other people reading this that there are better ways to discipline.

  13. Lisa

    Put on Bob Marley. It’s really hard to stay upset with “Don’t worry … about a thing … cause everything little thing … gonna be all right.”

  14. Julie

    I have printed out the list to go on my fridge!

  15. Lance

    Or…. rather then fly off the handle in a rage (I’m hoping that’s really what this post is trying to get at), calmly discipline the child.

    Spanking isn’t a sin, it won’t emotionally damage your child. It’s not your job to be their friend or buddy, but to instruct them on how the world works, and there are consequences to improper behaviour.

    They will learn when it’s appropriate to have fun with you, and you will learn when it’s appropriate to enact discipline.

    Seriously, are you advocating plucking your eyebrows, or doing some crafts, when your child’s done something wrong, rather then take the time to teach them what they did wasn’t right?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Seriously – I am. I read some research recently (see this post for more on the consequences of corporal punishment) that approximately 85% of adults admit to being angry/overly emotional when they doled out “consequences/spanking/etc.”

      Not a good idea. And, for the record, I don’t agree with hitting in any form.

      A better idea would be to take a step back and let things sit for a bit before trying to teach your child anything. Children (and adults) do not learn when they are in a state of fear. Give kids a little more credit – they can learn when they are spoken to with respect and reason, just as you and I can. They don’t need an adult to drive the point home with a hand, belt, or other object.

      • rebecca

        It seems that this list was geared towards mamas of young children. Young children need gentle discipline right away. It is our job to be calm for the discipline right away and not to take a mommy time out and then explain right from wrong from our children. A young child who does something wrong, has mommy suggest a fun activity, and then later is disciplined for the wrong action cannot connect the wrong behavior with the discipline. He will connect the wrong behavior with the fun activity.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Yes – there are instances where talking to a child immediately is definitely the right course, but I know that often when I am becoming frustrated with my toddler, it’s because 1) he’s melting down about something or 2) we’re in a power struggle.
        Giving both of us time to cool off and regroup is often much better than trying to “discipline” him about whatever started the challenge. He can’t “learn” anything when he’s in a highly emotional state, just like I have trouble “teaching” him something when I’m agitated.
        I also think we don’t give little ones enough credit – as long as I talk to Kieran about something within a reasonable amount of time, he hasn’t just forgotten about whatever it was we were struggling with. Often, he’ll keep bringing it up several days later.

    • mama_to_3

      I think in most cases the child may not have done something wrong if the parent is ready to fly off the handle. Most likely, the parent is over-stressed, too busy, predisposed, etc. and children are simply being children…maybe needing some busy work to do.

      If a child has indeed done something wrong I think in most cases parents who use discipline that omits spanking are wise enough to realize this and find an appropriate consequence. If the parent is baking cookies with a 4 year old who is hitting his sibling to “change the scenery” and did nothing else about it (whether it is talking about it or time to think about actions) then I do think the parent might be mistaken in their ways if that is the type of parenting that is repeated through each ‘troubled’ scenario.

      I also think that the term ‘gentle discipline’ is misconstrued often. I do not spank but my discipline is not so ‘gentle’ because I use a firm/serious tone and expression and I mean business when I ask my child to take time to think about what they have done before they return to the group.

      There comes a time when children can be rationalized with…until then we must just be consistent with our explanations because it is just a matter of time. And as our children become adults we do want to be their friends while having a healthy balance of parenting.

      • Chatterbox's Mom

        I agree! As a mommy of 1 toddler and from a calm perspective, there isn’t much she could do to warrant getting so angry with her. In my case it is me who is over-stressed, trying to get things done etc and my daughter was just being a little girl and that I just wasn’t “ready” for that at the moment… That is when I’m ready to fly of the handle. Also in my case a lot has to do with how I was raised and my intial reaction, which my daughter is not to be held responsible for. So she should get some slack and I should try harder to find things to entertain her or look deeper into her needs. I’m a Mommy-to-be-proud-of in progress.

    • Jill

      Hi Lance – I would like to say that yes, spanking can emotionally damage your child. I would know, because it happened to me even though my parents had good intentions. There are much better ways to discipline. If you are interested in religious discipline, I would suggest the book Biblical Parenting by Paster Lutton.

  16. marty   canape

    Holy cow, I needed this today. Thank you.

    Just got done with #101.

  17. Daisy   TooTooDaisy

    Wow — what a fantastic list! Something in there to fit any kind of angry mood. Also, I notice a lot of them are things we can teach our very young kids to do when they feel the impulse to kick or hit or scream. So, not to add to your task list, but maybe a post that pulls out the fun and accessible options that kids can use? (My guy can’t write a poem yet, but he can learn to say “oh poodles!” as his “something made me mad” expletive, after which he inevitably disintegrates into giggles.)

  18. mama_to_3

    I have used a lot of these with great success. I especially like:

    plucking eyebrows
    doing situps (I also do pushups too)
    standing on my head
    falling dramatically onto the floor (this gives me a physical action of literally having to pick myself back up again)

    Standing on my head takes so much focus on my inner self and my breath that I can’t retain all the tension that I was feeling. I also think that just being aware of our breath helps out too.

    I’m going to give the charades playing a try next time.

    Some of the ideas on the list seem to be simply fluff though… Filler to bring the list to a number of 101. Pay bills?? Yeah, I can do that when my kids are bothering me so bad that I want to scream. LOL. Bake cookies?? If a mother was at her wits end so much that she wanted to hit her child I’m not sure that baking cookies with a 2 or 3 year old is a very good idea considering kids are generally messy and don’t always listen to instructions well. I guess it depends on what kind of person you are and what is creating the problem to start with.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Nope – not fluff! Read my reply further up to the grumbles – many of the ideas are to get adults to use different parts of their brains in order to disengage the angry/overly emotional part.

      • Tim

        I would say it is important to walk away if you feel you are going to lose control, but if you do not show your anger in front of your child, how are they going to learn that it is ok to be angry? Anger is a normal emotion. God created us to feel angry in certain situations, in fact Jesus himself displayed anger. Sometimes anger is the most appropriate emotion to feel, and your children need to learn that it is ok to be angry sometimes, rather than bottling up and suppressing their anger, only to deal with psychological issues later in life due to never learning how to appropriately respond to their own anger.

        Of course, it needs to be tempered with self-control, but who better to teach your children the right way to handle anger than you. The best way to do this, is when you are angry with them, TELL them you are angry, show your anger on your face, and sternly discipline them in a responsible and loving way. That way they see it is ok to feel angry sometimes, and they also have a role model for a responsible way to react when they become angry.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I totally agree that it’s ok to show kids you are angry. I do not agree that it is always necessary to “sternly discipline” whenever you are angry. Often times adults get angry – not because kids are truly “misbehaving” – but because the adult is inconvenienced, or stressed from their own hard day (that has nothing to do with the child), etc. Adults too often take their anger out on the easiest targets – the kids.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        Tim – I just wanted to let you know that I saw you tried to comment twice – sometimes my spam filter picks up comments as spam that obviously aren’t. I happened to approve this one first, and the second one looks very similar (like you tried again when you didn’t see it show up). I’m happy to approve the other one if you’d like, but unless I hear from you I’m going to move it to the “trash” folder as duplicative.
        Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate the dialogue.

  19. Christen

    Thanks for this list! I, for one, am printing it on my refrigerator…. that way, I can eat chocolate while I read the list for other ways to calm down. All-together a win-win situation if you ask me!!

  20. Rachel

    Flatten cardboard boxes for recycling – jump on them!
    Have a screaming competition to see who can scream loudest. The loudest one wins a biscuit and runners-up get one too.
    We had a big teddy – he took a lot of bashing (and he fought back too, with somebody helping him) – ended in giggles.
    Pillow fights – you have to be really controlled if you’re the adult (and remove your glasses and anything breakable in the vicinity)
    Not reccomended – kick the watering can. It hurts!

  21. Mel

    Oh my goodness! My friend posted this to her FB page & it is JUST what I needed right now. I have been at my whits end the last week & have been yelling and getting angry for the littlest things. This is such a great idea & really helped me put some things in perspective. I will certainly keep this list handy. Thanks so much!

  22. ladyheart25

    I am a parent of a six year old. I am sorry, but most of these things would not help me. I used to scream into pillows, walk away. I have tried walking away and tried to do something else. But when your child continues to go, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…” over and over and over again, when you are trying to calm down, it does nothing but make things worse. I have spoken with counselors and doctors regarding what to do. They have all suggested to “send the child to his/her room, put him/her in a time out, etc.” But what about when this stops working? We have taken toys away, television, games, music, everything my son likes, but oftentimes, nothing works. So, I will disagree and have to say that spanking is a must of many occasions. I am not saying beating the child until they cannot walk or bruise the child. There is a difference between beating and discipline. Also, I don’t want my child to become one of those kids in the store that has never heard the word, “NO” and throws a temper tantrum because he isn’t getting what he wants. That’s when all the adults sit there and say, “that kid needs to get his butt spanked and learn that he can’t walk all over his parents”.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Many times the power struggles that end in harsh discipline (such as spanking) are needlessly brought on by parents feeling that they need to exert control over their children. Children could really surprise most people if given the opportunity to have more of a say in their own lives.
      If you or I were constantly told what to do, how to do it, when it must be done, why we couldn’t do something else that we wanted, etc. etc., we would probably be screaming “mommy mommy mommy” as well.
      Like I said in a previous reply to Tim, gentle parenting requires a shift in thinking – I would recommend Cohen’s Playful Parenting or Hart’s Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids for some fresh ideas. Perhaps even “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk.” You definitely aren’t alone in your frustration – I hope that you can find a gentle way to reconnect with your child!

      • i

        “if you or I were constantly told what to do, how to do it, when it must be done, why we couldn’t do something else that we wanted, etc. etc., we would probably be screaming “mommy mommy mommy” as well.”

        You must have angelic children. My 3 year old screams “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” all day long. Sure, sometimes it’s because she can’t do something she wants or because I told her to do something she doesn’t want to do. The other 90% of the time it’s because she needs my attention every second of the day. Sometimes I’ll say “what?” and she says “umm….” because she realizes she had nothing to say.

        “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen…” is on my nightstand now. So far, I find it disturbing. If anyone talked to me the way the book suggests, I would be very unhappy. I tried it on my daughter and she actually said — “Mama, why are you saying that?”
        It’s good to acknowledge your child’s feeling but the method in this book… Ugh.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        But . . . that’s just a factor of being 3 years old. No one ever claimed that parenting is easy. Your 3-yr-old isn’t at fault for being needy, or for asking you a question that she can’t remember, or for doing whatever else it is that 3-yr-olds do.

        It is your CHOICE though, in how you respond to her. You can choose to be frustrated and angry and lash out at her for doing what a typical child does, or you can take that one more breath you need in order to be a parent who can look in the mirror and like what she sees, and respond with love. Is being gentle and patient easy? No. (I almost said never – maybe I’ll change that to rarely.)

        As far as the suggestions in “How to Talk,” I remember thinking a few of them were pretty hokey, especially coming from a background where we were yelled at, spanked, and controlled. Parenting with respect requires a paradigm shift – I’d also suggest “Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids,” which gives a pretty good introduction on *why* moving away from the behavior management/control philosophy is rewarding and effective.

    • I would also recommend Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post. Also, Positive Discipline. As a mother who dutifully spanked her small children often and angrily when they were young, I can seriously say that it WAS NOT WORTH IT!! I regret every single hit with the misnomer of “spanking.” If acting up in a public place, I would take them to the bathroom for a spanking. No wonder my daughter was almost 8 when she stopped pooping in her pants. The bathroom was a very scary place for her. We have been repairing our relationships with our children, and will continue to work towards healing. I wish I had had this list when I was having such a hard time controlling my own emotions. I believe that God’s highest priority is His RELATIONSHIP with each of us individually, rather than the outcome of a lesson learned, or our behavior. I have learned the hard way that spanking doesn’t build a relationship.

  23. Lily Todd

    Wow talk about multi-tasking… calming down and getting a clean house… too bad I have to do it :). Also glad to see having these feelings (wanting to yell or spank/lash out) is normal. It is all about the tools to deal with those feelings.

  24. Lisa

    There are very, very few ideas here that would work for me (most would either make me *more* stressed – decluttering, trying to cook, getting the kids in the car, etc., or I’ve already tried them before reaching the yelling point – yoga, joking around instead, etc.), but I’ll keep them in mind. But, honestly, if things were even close to calm enough for me to be paying bills, doing crafts or sorting clothes, I’d be nowhere near stressed enough to yell at all. It is a neat list, and definitely highlights the various different ways to change tracks, mentally.

    PS…throwing myself on the floor would end up with my son hurting me badly (he has no sense about jumping/climbing on people)…something to keep in mind for those who want to try it.

  25. Cassie

    One thing I do is stop talking when I feel very frustrated and on the verge of a serious temper tantrum on my part and take some very deep breathes. Unfortunately my daughter doesn’t like it when I’m silent which I can understand from her point of view as being given the silent treatment. She would start crying and screaming at me, “Talk to me, TALK TO ME!.”

    I try and explain in the moment that I’m frustrated and I will say not very nice things to her so I’m going to be quiet, but she still gets upset which leads even further into the withdrawal for me. After I’ve calmed down, I explain to her again. I hoping one day that she doesn’t feel like I’m withdrawing from her, but rather gaining control of myself.

    Gentle parenting is tough sometimes and having some other ideas of what to do in the heat of the moment is great. When the kids are acting crazy, usually from being cooped up inside, I do actually bake with them – cookies, brownies, muffins. It changes the mood and gives them an activity to do.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Cassie – it’s wonderful that you are in tune enough with your daughter to know that your silence is frustrating/frightening for her. I wonder if you could hold her while you’re being silent? Would that physical connection help her feel more secure while you collect yourself?

      • Cassie

        I do sometimes, but it often happens when I have to either tend to the baby, driving, or she is having a melt-down. When she is having a melt-down she doesn’t want me to touch her. She will push me away and/or tell me that she doesn’t want me to hug/cuddle/touch her. She is like me in that when I am in pain or emotionally overwhelmed, I don’t like physical contact.

        I will definitely make an effort to hold her when I feel that I need to be quiet to avoid blowing up. Thanks for the suggestion.

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