Because yelling, DON’T YELL AT ME! doesn’t always work.

Story Time

I wrote before about my tendency to yell at my kids. I don’t love it, it’s inherited from my Dad, but often times before now I feel it’s the only effective tool I have in certain situations.

I tried something new and I feel like it’s safe to say that we are out of this one phase. Will we enter into a new, even more terrible phase later? Maybe. Will I be able to easily get him out of it? No. But here is what has worked for this phase, now that it’s over.

I’ve always hated being a yeller, but Wes is the first kid of mine to incorporate yelling at ME into his tantrums. Therefore, I would often be screaming at the top of my lungs, “DON’T YOU YELL AT ME!” Have you ever had to do that? It feels a bit counter-productive. I’m just saying.

Then, I caught about 5 seconds of that Supernanny show one night and she was talking about how, if you always yell at your kids, that’s all they’ll respond to. While part of me was like, No. I yell because my kids only respond to yelling, not the other way around; most of me saw some valuable truth in what she was saying. And enough, partnered with the yuckiness I felt every time I yelled at my kid for yelling at me, that I decided to stop yelling.

I think the most valuable thing – as a parent – that you can do is: CHANGE IT UP. If nothing is working? Do something entirely different. And for me? Not yelling? ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

The first few weeks were rough. It’s hard to speak calmly to a child hitting you. (Update from 2021: He learns to manage that because he’s awesome.) It’s hard to be patient and wait for their tantrum to end so they’ll hear you, when before you would just yell over them. So the first couple weeks? A true test for my willpower. It was very tough to stick with it, but I kept hearing that British woman saying, “If you always yell, that’s all they’ll respond to.” So I stuck with it.

And guys – IT REALLY WORKED. Will it work with your kid? I don’t know. BUT IT WORKED WITH MINE. He and I talk about the tantrums now, I catch them before they start, I distract him and redirect his energies before he gets into full meltdown mode. That’s the thing, when he did one small thing before, I would put him in timeout. But that puts the focus on the bad behavior and we always went downhill from that first timeout into screaming and yelling and hitting. Now, after that first thing, I discuss it with my usual, “When do we obey, Wes?” “First time.” “Yay! Good job. Now, bring me a book so we can read.” Instead of before when I would put him in timeout for not obeying first time.

And then, when we have a BAD moment – a yelling, or hitting moment (which has only happened once or twice since Christmas) – we talk. I know it seems so…granola…hippy…cheesy. But for Wes? And Me? At this moment in time? It worked. We are in a such different phase now. Even last night, Donnie was talking about how sweet Wes had been to him. Telling him he loved him, that they were best friends. Those moments happened before too – but now they’re more often – and not peppered with the face of the devil.

I guess I’m just happy I caught Supernanny. Happy I was desperate enough to try something new. Happy I don’t sit around bracing myself for another meltdown when instead – we can spend our time just enjoying each other’s company.

Now, if only I could figure out how to deal with his sister’s sass.

Update from 2021: I really did change a because I very rarely yell now. Of course my kids think me just raising my voice a bit in frustration is yelling because they don’t remember when I used to yell so hard I’d make myself red in the face. But I can say for certain I changed that part of my parenting for the better. YAY ME!

10 thoughts on “Because yelling, DON’T YELL AT ME! doesn’t always work.”

  1. My husband has Apergers and precious few coping skills when it comes to parenting our 2.5 year old. I ended up writing out my plan for him so he knew what I was thinking about. It was interesting to articulate how I was going to deal with the stuff that pushed my buttons and general PITA stuff.

    In the end the things my husband most responded to were the PITA tactics:
    1. Evaluate for hungry, thirsty, tired, sad and correct where necessary.
    2. Review how much “focused completely on kid” time had occured in the last hour, if near 0 spend spend 2 minutes in touching / eye contact gamed.
    2a – If good response, continue until kid disengages
    2b – If negative response, try drastic change of scene

    It might not work for everybody, but it works for us most of the time.

  2. I have two year old twin toddlers, and I have a found a whisper in their ear (something like “You sound upset, but I don’t understand a crying voice. Please use a talking voice”) works SO well. They quiet down so they can hear you, and then they’re able to share what exactly is bothering them.

    However, I’m at my wits end for the post-bath/pre-bed time. They are at their most physical (hitting etc), and it’s the worst when they’re dripping wet, naked and in the bathroom with me because I can’t put them in TO–too small a space, and because they’re tired, they don’t really respond that well anyway. I also tried putting hands (Gently) in timeout. I say “I am going to hug your hands with my hands to help your hands how to hug” but I have no idea if that works or not. They don’t try to pull away, so I’m not sure what would happen if they did.

    I think I’m going to start bathing them separately. It will be super annoying, but at least I won’t have a quiet, in my head meltdown every night.

  3. Disclaimer: I am only an care giving Aunt… I have caught a lot of flack about my opinions, because I didn’t birth a child(ren). However, this isn’t my first child of care-giving. At 15 years old my Mom’s step-sister and her hubby had a baby which was a premmie and decided when the baby reached the 5 lb mark and could go home, they weren’t ready… WE and I should say ME got this baby. I had her until I was 18 and headed off to college, as if I were the parent. Plus caring for my nephews while working full-time.

    Ok off the soap box… but YOU are on point. I learned that invaluable trick from you on the hitting and it’s still working.

    The don’t yell at me I conquered with nephew #2 back in the day. They are little sponges, how you talk is what they pick up. So when number 2 nephew would yell, I would yell right back and he said to me at the bright age of 4; you yelled back Aunt Kymmy. What a shock huh?

    I learned the rubberband method as I call it. I actually created this for public speaking, but I used it with the kids. I kept a rubber band on my wrist and when I could feel myself want to yell or react, I snapped the rubber band on my wrist to bring me to awareness.

    As for the sassy stuff, unfortunately NikkiZ is a mini adult and as much as you want her to advanced, she is just that, she see’s herself as a mini you, she is your equal, therefore, she can sass…

  4. So I just recently read this book, Setting Limits With Your Spirited Child, and it was amazing! It’s really a quick, easy read but it’s full of good advice/tips. I mean, really — it’s changed a lot for our family. It may be worth checking out!

  5. OMg_u r teaching me how to be a good parent =D by your candid posts (I am not a parent)
    LOL it’s so funny the way u said ‘I kept hearing that British woman saying, “If you always yell, that’s all they’ll respond to.” =P??y the way, I really feel that when my parents yell at me when???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? I feel the talking method sounds so loving =D Kudos and tacos!!! =P ????

  6. Some formatting issues above sorrys =P I meant when my parents yell at me when I was then young, I cringe. because I would really like my name to be said in a loving way. It makes me link that I am being loved~ x

  7. I kind of love Supernanny. That’s wonderful that you found something that works better for you and Wes. Good job! (GOLD STAR)

    ^ note, that is just goofy, not sarcastic. I really do think you did well and deserve gold stars and sunshine and puppies.

  8. I read this post yesterday, and I’m back to read it today for inspiration. Because there was yelling in my house last night. From me. At my two year old daughter. Sigh. It was getting a bath toy bucket thrown at me which sent me over the edge. It was…. not good. I had to just walk away for several minutes. I was shaking because I was upset, and also so ashamed. *I’m* supposed to be the ADULT here. I’ve got to work on not pushing everyone’s buttons- hers and mine. Breathe. Be patient. Maybe wait a minute. Thanks for posting this.

  9. hiyya,

    First time reader here, but this post could not be more timely. My 2 year old is a huge yeller and i know fully well that it’s because my family’s a yelling one (I live with them while my husband is in school in a very far away place..ANYWAY!). If he’s not yelling, he’s just a really loud toddler. Just REALLLY loud and it drives me NUTS every single day. Admittedly, i yell back when I’ve had enough, and like you mentioned, it stops him from yelling for the time being too. Immediate relief, but it never addressing the problem.

    Very recently I decided to just ignore the screaming and loudness. But I have no idea how effective that will be. It’s been a few days and I don’t always hold my cool, but reading that it took you weeks gives me a larger frame to work with, and hopefully more patience.

    Thanks so much for this post, for offering up what worked for you, and mostly for being so honest. It’s immensely relieving to me to find moms who admit to being yellers (I most certainly am) or anything other than granola from the get go.

  10. Thank you, thank you for this! I am slowly working on ways that we deal with our very headstrong 3.5 year old. It’s SO hard. Just this morning I started saying, ‘when do we obey Mama, the first time’ because I swear telling him to ‘listen! do what mama says’ makes me feel like a dictator. Or the Queen of Hearts. I also spent an hour while he was at playschool storing a whole bunch of toys that he doesn’t play with. I am trying to eliminate our major conflicts – toys everywhere and a bad attitude about picking up!

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