Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

How I (Mostly) Stopped Yelling at My Kids


I have a confession to make; when my kids were young, I was a screamer.

It's not even that I yelled.  Yelling would have been a step in the right direction.   I would lose my mind over something small like crayon on the walls and scream at the people I love most on this earth.

I felt horrible about it. I didn't want to spend my mothering years screaming at the precious babes in my care! I knew in my heart that I would never let another person speak to my kids the way I was speaking to them and that was a problem.  But I didn't know how to reign myself in.  I felt out of control.

Can you relate?  Because if you can, you are so not alone.

Why it's sooooo important to stop yelling at our kids

First of all, it doesn't work.  When we yell, our kids learn that they don't have to listen until we yell.  Yelling does not convey authority or motivate people for very long.  It may work in the beginning, but over time it will need to escalate to louder and louder yelling in order to be effective. 

More importantly, I believe that yelling at our kids is an act of violence.  I know that is a strong statement, but stick with me here.  Why do humans yell at one another during a conflict?  Is it not to make ourselves seem bigger and stronger than the other?  To overpower the other?  But we are already bigger and stronger and more powerful than our kids.  Imagine how scary it would be to have someone 3 times your size yelling at you?

Most of us would never speak to another adult that way.  I've worked professionally managing volunteers and I would never yell at one of the volunteers under my care, it would be completely inappropriate.  So why would it be okay to treat my tiny humans that way?  Do they deserve less dignity and respect than the people I work with?  Of course not.

As the adults in the relationship, we are responsible for controlling our emotions.  We model to our kids how to behave, even when tired and frustrated.  We are responsible for creating a safe place for them, physically and emotionally.

What helped me to stop yelling at my kids

It all started to change the first time I apologized to my kids for yelling.  I sat down on the floor, pulled my sweet kiddos into my lap and explained that I should not have yelled at them.  I'm sorry, will they forgive me? And they did.

After that, I began to do this each time I yelled, sometimes having to apologize multiple times a day.  I would pull them onto my lap and assure them that I had no right to yell at them, that I should have shown more patience.  Then I would accept their forgiveness, sometimes all of us in tears.

Why this works

Apologizing seems like too small an act to really change such a seemingly uncontrollable response to our exhaustion and frustration.   But it's not.

Because what we are doing is more than just saying sorry.  We are accepting responsibility for our actions and choosing a new way of behaving.

It is an acknowledgement that the problem is always us.  When I yell at my kids, no matter what they've done, it is never their fault. They cannot make me yell. It is my responsibility to behave appropriately through difficult emotions. Apologizing each time builds an awareness of how I'm responding to frustration.  Each act of making amends is a recommitment to the value of being a safe place for our kids.

The MOSTLY part

This is hard.  Don't give up.  You are rewiring your emotional responses and that takes time.

My youngest kids have never heard me really scream the way the older ones did.  But I do still get impatient and yell every once in a while. But you know what?  It doesn't affect my kids the way it once did.  They know that it's not them, it's me.   They know I'm having a rough day.  And they know that sooner rather than later they will get an apology.

Friend, your kids don't need a perfect mama, they need a mom who is humble enough to admit she is wrong and in need of grace.

They need us to take responsibility for the way we act and react, to model ownership over our behaviour. 

They need us to let go of our pride enough to say "I messed up.  Will you forgive me?"

Mama, those tiny humans are eager to forgive you.

Will you give this a try?  And let me know if it helps you to (mostly) stop yelling at your kids.


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4 comments

  1. I couldn't read this article, yet. I was a screamer, as well. I lost my oldest son 4 months ago so too painful. Of course, I changed as my boys got older. Too sad to look back.

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  2. Kelly, this is wonderful. I've been becoming increasingly more patient with my children but I admit I do "let off steam" at them sometimes when they pushed me too far. But I use it as an excuse. And that is wrong. Everything you've written here is exactly why I've been working to do better. I do want to be a mom who disciplines when it's needed and Disturbed when needed but yelling does not have to be a part of that. Thank you for putting this all into words.

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