Familius.com Shop

A woman hugging her daughter.

I Yelled at My Child—Now What?

Parents and kids both have big feelings, and when those feelings have nowhere to go, they often explode outward. If you’ve ever yelled at your child and thought, Now what?, then we have some tips for you.

Dame Sue Bagshaw, MD, and Michael Hempseed, the authors of Calming Your Child, say that “part of good, solid relationships is knowing what to do when things go wrong.” They suspect that many children have difficulty in relationships because they don’t know what to do when they’ve made a mistake: “A generation of parents saying they will never argue in front of their children means children don’t learn how to manage conflict. If you have made mistakes, this can be a great chance to teach your children how to make amends.”

Although it feels loud, huge, and terrible at the time, yelling at your child can be one of those parenting mistakes that leads to valuable life skills and a deeper connection with your child. However, you have to learn to apologize correctly first:


Don’t be afraid to apologize. Admitting that you made a mistake will not only teach your child how to correct their own wrongs but also increase honesty and openness in your relationship. However, before you try to engage a child who is distressed, you need to stop and think, Am I in a good space to do this? If not—if you’ve reached your breaking point—then it’s okay to walk away. When you’re ready, your child will be waiting to hear your apology.

You might not get it right on the first try, but just as we practice how to read, play sports, and play instruments, we practice saying “I’m sorry.” The key parts of a good apology are being sincere, creating a safe space to apologize, and simply saying that you were wrong.

Listen to Them

David W. Earle, LPC, said that “making amends is not only saying the words but also being willing to listen to how your behavior caused another’s pain.”

So many young couples break up because one of them makes a mistake. Rather than talking to their partner and discussing how they feel, they choose to walk away. Bagshaw and Hempseed believe that “the relationship could be saved if people were better at talking about what makes them unhappy.” The same could be said for your relationship with your child.

If you’ve yelled at your child or done something else to make them fearful or upset, talk to them about it. Start by telling them how you felt when you got upset, and then ask your child how they felt. Model your behavior and let your child reciprocate in their own words, at a level appropriate for their age.

According to Bagshaw and Hempseed, “it can be healthy to reflect on how you have been interacting with your child. If you’ve made mistakes, gently examine them and consider how you might be able to improve next time.”

Validate Their Feelings

After yelling at your child, telling them to “calm down” or “relax” will only make their emotions bigger. Whether the big feelings are reasonable or not, you and your child are both experiencing them, so let your child know that it’s okay to be sad, angry, or anxious. Let them fully experience their emotions, help them feel seen, but remind them that the important part is how they express their feelings.

By apologizing for handling your big feelings poorly, you are showing your child how to deal with these emotions and teaching them that they can fix their mistakes. The more accepting you and your child are of negative emotions, the better you will be able to handle them in the future.

Remind Them of Your Love

When you yell at your child, there are a lot of negative emotions floating around, and those big feelings can be scary. The fear or sadness incited by your mistake can cause a rift in your relationship and make your child feel distant. Maybe they feel like you don’t love them or that they aren’t valued.

For a child, when their connection to you feels unstable and uncertain, it’s important to remind them of your love and rebuild that connection. A simple “I love you” can go a long way toward making amends.

Teach Coping Skills

You’ve apologized for yelling at your child, and you’ve made sure that they’re okay, which teaches your child how to make amends. However, it doesn’t teach them how to handle those big feelings so that they don’t make a similar mistake in the future. If you truly want to make sure your child is equipped to build and grow relationships, then it’s important that they have the skills not only to apologize but also to manage their big feelings before they explode.

Just as how you taught your child how to apologize by modeling the behavior, you can teach them coping skills by showing them how you manage your big emotions in the future or by telling them how you should have handled your big emotions before you yelled. You can say something like, “I should have taken a deep breath,” or “I should have counted to ten.” By including these coping skills in your apology, you are giving your child an alternative behavior to yelling when big emotions get out of hand.

For more tips on how to cope with negative emotions, check out our article “How to Be Anxious and Calm.”

Let Go of Your Guilt

As Bagshaw and Hempseed say, “Some parents may feel a lot of guilt for the mistakes they have made. If you are one of them, just know: every parent will make many mistakes.” Mistakes mean you’re learning.

Holding on to your guilt won’t make you a better parent or fix your mistakes. Once you’ve apologized, the most important step is to find a way to let go of your guilt so that you and your child can keep moving forward. Whether you go for a walk, talk to somebody, or take a trip to the beach, you need to take care of yourself after your big emotions have run their course.

For more self-care ideas, read our articles “Self-Care for mom Because You Deserve a Break!” and “Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others—Then and Now.”

More Books for Coping with Big Feelings

Children’s Books for Coping with Big Feelings

Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

Scroll to Top