Dec. 5, 2018

Sometimes We Lose It (with guests Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright)

Sometimes we lose it. And while yelling kinda feels good in the moment, afterwards? Not so much. But studies show that trying to clamp down on anger actually makes us MORE angry. Here’s how to recognize our parental triggers in time to control them.


Sometimes we lose it. Really lose it. We’re not talking “How many times do I have to tell you to put your shoes on” in a slightly elevated tone. We’re talking… well, Dr. Stuart Shanker calls the emotional state in question “red brain,” and you get the picture.

When we’re in red brain, yelling can actually feel pretty good. It’s also singularly ineffective. Here’s how Dr. Alan Kazdin of the Yale Parenting Center explains it:


If the goal of the parent is catharsis— I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am— well, yelling is probably perfect. If the goal is to change something in the child, or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.


But clamping down on our anger isn’t effective, either— in fact, studies prove that attempting to do so actually increases our sympathetic nervous system responses and makes us feel more angry.

So this is all pretty tricky. But in this episode we discuss:


techniques for recognizing red brain before we’re in it

why we sometimes treat strangers better than our loved ones

Margaret’s “self-doghouse” technique

how to properly make it up to our kids after we blow up


And after discussing what NOT to say, Amy discusses what TO say to our kids with with Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, the authors of Now Say This: The Right Words To Solve Every Parenting Dilemma.

Heather and Julie explain their extremely effective “ALP” technique for communicating with our kids— Attune, Limit-Set, Problem-Solve. They also explain the importance of “the repair set” and modeling emotional health for our kids, particularly after we have not been our best selves.

Here’s links to some of the other research and studies discussed in this episode:

Margaret’s surprisingly useful “family doghouse” plaque

Stephen Marche for NYT: Why You Should Stop Yelling At Your Kids

Kelly for Happy You, Happy Family: Why Every Parent Should Know the Magic 5:1 Ratio – And How to Do It

Dr. Karen Leith et al for Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Why Do Bad Moods Increase Self-Defeating Behavior?

Dr. Ralph Erber et al: On being cool and collected: Mood regulation in anticipation of social interaction.

Sue Shellenbarger for the Wall Street Journal: Talking to Your Kids After You Yell

and our episode on yelling, which is kinda the same but kinda different. 

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