Do you yell at your kids?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  October 26, 2009 01:25 PM

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I read the New York Times article last week about how, for some parents, shouting at kids has replaced spanking, and I immediately felt guilty.

I've been solo-parenting for the past week while my husband is with our oldest kids, out of state. I've noticed that I've been yelling much more than I usually do, and over things that usually don't frustrate me right away.

My about-to-turn 3-year-old is really pushing limits, trying to see how much he can get away with. After asking him to do something (or, more commonly, not to do something), my voice gets louder and sharper, and there I am, yelling instead of speaking calmly. I'm not saying anything awful, but I'm definitely angry -- and he can tell. It gets his attention, but it's having an effect I didn't notice right away: My sweet-tempered 5-year-old has picked up on my frustration, and when he gets in her way now, she yells at him.

And I cringe.

I'm not a yeller. At least, I didn't used to be. I don't yell at our older kids, even when I'm angry, probably because as a stepmom I've never really felt like I could squander the emotional currency I'd banked; with step kids, you can love them like your own but it doesn't guarantee that they'll love you back.

With my youngest kids, it's different. My stubborn little boy asks for cuddles even after he's pushed me to my limit by not listening. I know my youngest girl won't hold it against me if I raise my voice because she's taken 20 minutes to eat a single bite of rice. But when I shout, it's along the lines of "Pick up your toys right now!" or "Put that down, that's dangerous!" Not “This is ridiculous! I’ve been doing things all day for you!” Or worse.

I think there's a big difference between raising your voice to make a point and screaming something cruel at someone, especially a child, but the New York Times piece doesn't really address this. Of course yelling affects a child -- "If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring. We don’t apply that standard to children,” says one of the study's lead author's, sociologist Murray A. Straus. But isn't what's being said as important -- or as detrimental -- as the tone in which it's said?

The study doesn't offer an alternative to yelling, though Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, acknowledges that most of the techniques out there don't do the trick. Parents "resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior," she says in the article. "In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”

Maybe what we need to do is just accept that we all lose it from time to time -- even supermoms and dads are only human. So, what I want to know is: How do you keep your temper when your kids are pushing you to your limit? And what sets you off?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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33 comments so far...
  1. You are right - there is a different dynamic involved when it comes to reprimanding stepkids. Stepparenting is especially tricky business when it comes discipline!

    Posted by StepMom Magazine October 27, 09 06:50 AM
  1. I think we need to accept that sometimes we do yell..... I'll be watching for more answers.

    Posted by T. Buggs October 27, 09 10:24 AM
  1. People worry too much. Obviously, you shouldn't be insulting your kids and calling them stupid losers. But yelling "Cut it out!" when they are screaming like banshees is not going to scar them for life.

    Posted by BMS October 27, 09 11:05 AM
  1. when I read the comment about yelling and feeling guilty about it afterwards, it was like i was writing the column myself. I find my own self yelling and pointing, counting,punishing even in my worse days an occasional throwing down of whatever I am holding or (and I cringe to admit but we are all honest here) a swear to two. I hate that I do it, I feel terrible afterwards but I allow my emotions to take over. But like they say, nothing is ever easy, it takes time to learn the rules. Thanks for the column and this article, it makes me feel a little less alone!

    Thanks for taking time to comment, Judgenot! -- LMA

    Posted by Judgenot October 27, 09 11:05 AM
  1. Oh I yell. It's not just a raise for the voice thing, it is yelling. I yell "I LOVE YOU" when I am leaving, I yell "OK, NOW I AM REALLY LEAVING" when we are trying to go get ice cream and somene has to bring that one piece of plastic crap with them and I yell when all else has failed to get my DD's attention. Yes, she's repeating the cycle and it kills me that what my friend calls "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" persona is being continued, but I am so human it hurts sometimes. I always talk to my child after my time out for yelling and she and I are so much alike I thing she hurts as much as I do for me.

    Posted by Arlington Mom October 27, 09 11:24 AM
  1. The thing is that I find that yelling doesn't really get the results I want. It doesn't really make the kids do what I need them to be doing, it just makes everyone upset. And I was chagrined when I noted the same effect you did, Lylah, that when my oldest is mad at my youngest, he yells at him in exactly the same tone and manner that I yell at them. Seeing myself mirrored in him that way made me realize that yelling is just an ugly way of handling the situation.

    Posted by anna October 27, 09 11:38 AM
  1. My mother was/is a yeller. I absolutely hated it. She made such a big deal about everything that eventually we all blocked it out, so even when it was about something important it didn't matter. I swore I would never yell at my kids, BUT....I do. And I hate it. It's not close to the same degree as my mother, but it bothers me whenever I do it. I often try talking softer, and it works occasionally, but sometimes I just have to yell when they haven't responded to my requests multiple times. I also try to have a consequence when they don't listen the first time, but it's often about simple things and I don't want to keep punishing them, so I end up yelling, My nine year old gets very offended and says, "why do you have to yell the first time?!" lol It's more like the 5th time, but he obviously didn't hear my regular voice.

    I know what you mean. It drives me crazy when my kids don't hear my "regular voice," too! -- LMA

    Posted by Mom2boys October 27, 09 11:38 AM
  1. I slammed the door on my way out of the house this morning -- my mom used to call that "wooden swearing." I yell when they don't pay attention. I wonder how I expect them not to fly off the handle (have a tantrum) when I'm a grown woman and I can't help but fly off the handle sometimes. Accepting that we adults all loose it every once it a while has helped me cope with my kids' meltdowns too. As LMA wrote, we're all only human.

    Posted by Only Human Mommy October 27, 09 11:40 AM
  1. My pediatrician says that no one is perfect. She means kids, but this applies to parents. I guess I was born without the guilty, "I'm not a good enough mom" gene. I truly believe my kids are lucky to have the parents they do. Not that my husband and I are perfect, but considering the horrors that are out there, a bit of screaming on my part (and yes, I even swear, which I'm not proud of), doesn't diminish the care and attention we give them every day.

    In most cases, yelling doesn't occur in a vacuum (bad mother screams for no reason at perfect children). It's a reaction to a negative situation. It's not always a bad thing for kids to see that their own negative behavior can have negative consequences.

    I tell my kids WHY I yelled, and they, even at 5 and 6 years old, get it. They know that when I yell, it doesn't mean that they are bad or unloved. I know that it doesn't mean I'm uneducated and can't otherwise express myself. It means that no one is hearing/listening when I speak normally. Or that I'm trying to correct behavior that needs addressing. Or that, as a living human being, I react negatively to negative stimuli (such as stress, lateness, or negative behavior of others). I think that parental yelling, while obviously in itself is a negative behavior, provides opportunity in the aftermath to bring positive change. "How can we do this better next time so we don't end up yelling and upset?" I'll ask myself and the kids. Even young kids can come up with ideas.

    Posted by local October 27, 09 12:19 PM
  1. we are human....my son who just turned 3 was trying to crawl under a bathroom stall one timeso I told him at least 3 times to not to do that and stand up from that dirty floor and out of frustration and anger from him NOT listening to me several times I called him a "pain in the a**" OMG, right? He was not bothered by it nor do I even think he paid much attention to it. But I felt awful awful awful and did not mean that at all. I told him I was sorry but that he needed to listen to me. Though he didn't care, I did and felt bad for days after. I love my kids...more than anything. We all yell at them at one point in time and usually say something we wish we hadn't.

    Posted by jadee October 27, 09 12:34 PM
  1. Yelling is verbal abuse. That's it, like it or not. It is what it is. My parents were yellers and when I got married, I realized I was a yeller. When I had my daughter, I vowed to get it together. There was nothing more frightening than my parent's glares accompanied by anger in their voice, because, let's be honest, we yell when we're mad 99% of the time. Rarely do I yell with a smile, and frankly, neither do any of the other parents I know. I yell when I am frustrated, but is that my kid's fault or my own inability to keep a perspective on what's going on? Honestly - I'm the adult, aren't I the one who is repsonsible for calming the chaos? It's funny how we wouldn't thinking of yelling at our friends when they piss us off without concern for ruining the relationship or fear of them yelling back, but we think it is more than acceptable to yell at othese people who we are entrusted to raise into happy, centered, well adjusted human beings. Think about it.

    Posted by Stephanie in JP October 27, 09 12:53 PM
  1. I'm not a parent, but I was a kid. And my mom was a yeller. It has damaged my adult relationship with my mother. I am just not as close to her as I'm sure she would like, and I have very bad, sad memories of her tirades. Unfortunately, they color the really good memories. It's not a question of forgiveness - I don't hold a grudge, just that the bond was damaged as it was forming and there is just no way to go back and undo it.

    I don't presume to tell people how to raise their kids, but I thought some might want to know that yelling could result in more ... or less ... than they want.

    Posted by Susan October 27, 09 01:20 PM
  1. Oh please. Yelling is not automatically abuse. The term 'child abuse' has been applied to so much that is just a difference of parenting opinion that it is becoming a catchall phrase for "You don't do it my way, so you're wrong." I've heard people be accused of 'child abuse' for keeping their thermostat at 63 F in the winter, or buying used clothing or shoes for their kids. Let's keep the term for ACTUAL abuse.

    As I said before, if you are being demeaning or insulting to your kid, or deliberately trying to scare them, that's not necessary. But raising my voice to get them to not throw that ball which is going to contact something breakable in my living room is NOT abuse. If one kicks his brother for no reason and I raise my voice to tell him to go to his room right now, how is that abusive? I should just let him kick his brother and smile? I should whisper "Oh sweetie, you shouldn't have done that" while his brother cries? Sorry, he needs to know that I do not approve of his behavior, and that he needs to stop NOW.

    Posted by BMS October 27, 09 01:25 PM
  1. I found the article and comments very interesting. I too yell at my children and after get upset with myself for resorting to that behavior.

    One of the comments really gave me an ah ha moment... I wouldn't yell at my co-workers or friends if they weren't listening to me. I can't say I will never yell at my children again but I will think twice before I do and give them the respect I would to another adult - even when they are acting like a child!

    Thanks for posting this article so I know I'm not alone out there!

    Posted by Mom of 4 October 27, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Yelling does not equal abuse.
    My DD is just 10. I ask her to do something, get no response, ask her again, get no response, and again, then yup, I'm going to raise my voice. I try to keep the yelling to a minimum, I'm not demeaning her, I'm not putting her down, I'm not abusing her. I'm making her pay attention to her parent. When I do need to yell, it also ends up with a consequence. If I have to ask her more than once to turn off the TV and end up raising my voice, then the number of times I have to ask equals the number of days without TV.

    Posted by MP October 27, 09 03:04 PM
  1. I don't have or want kids. I do have dogs which are totally different beasts (literally) but somewhat toddler like in their thinking, I'm told. The most I can say is that yelling seems to be a reactive state. Sometimes it's the only option for that point in time. It seems better to find ways to prevent cases where yelling is needed than it is to try to come up with alternatives. I don't think yelling, itself is a problem and if you never yell, your kids will be in a for a sorry surprise the first time they encounter it in an authority, but I do think it's good to minimize the likelihood of needing to yell. For instance, if my dog doesn't come when I've called, it may be because I haven't really shaped the situation correctly. I might call to come in from playing in the yard, the same way I call them when I want to clip the nails or I may be calling them in too soon and not given them a chance to run off their energy and do their business.

    Instead, I can find ways to equate calling them with good responses. I can call them when it's time for dinner, when it's time for a treat or just to give them a big kiss. And I can avoid calling them that same way when bad things are going to happen, like getting nails cut, baths, or um, I guess that's it for bad things for dogs, tough life. In time, being called means good things and if I reinforce that (not with bribes but with affirmation) it should remain effective. At least, it's effective in dogs, with kids, YMMV.

    So for me, I look at the situation and think, "this is something that causes me frustration, what can I do in the future to avoid being frustrated." Sometimes, it means letting it go (eh, maybe the dogs don't need to go out, pee and be back in 5 mins flat, let it go and let them have some fun) other times, it means slowly reshaping the behavior (I don't like the dogs rushing the door when I let them out, let's make a game where they have to sit and wait before getting the reward, ie, going out)

    Kids are clearly more complicated but instead of berating oneself for a reaction to the moment it might be better to think of it as a chance to come up with ways to improve the situation for the future.

    Posted by Marnie October 27, 09 03:23 PM
  1. I'm an expectant mother and have worked with difficult adolescents ("emotionally and psychologically challenged") and have found through my work and other experiences that yelling isn't effective and just makes the situation worse/more chaotic and out of control. I definitely understand the impulse to do so and I hope I am able to avoid doing this with my own kids but it helps to remember that it doesn't really do what you want it to do (though it may "feel good" for a brief moment of release). I need to be a model of behavior and appropriate expression of emotions is a vital skill. I also need to stay in control because I'm the adult. My father used corporal punishment and my mother yelled -- I'm hoping I can find some other ways to parent my children without using shame and fear.That said, no one is perfect and we all have to give ourselves some time out to regroup at times.

    Posted by ExpectantMom October 27, 09 03:40 PM
  1. I believe Children have no fear. When I was a child we listened because that was our only option. Today children are always on the computer, on-line at chat rooms, watching tv and they zone out their parents or anyone else including their siblings. Texting is the worst! You try to have a conversation with your child and they ignore you, of course anyone would be yelling, it makes you feel like you don't exsist and Yes, I yell, we all yell, Life is hectic, and sometimes hard. There are alot of parents that both work, single parents, no parents at all. Life is Hard and the one's that don't have children, don't have a clue!

    Posted by yellmom October 27, 09 04:39 PM
  1. Yelling may not be abuse, but like swearing it smacks of ignorance and a lack of control. I have an active two year old and I have never yelled at her and she listens to me just fine. Get down to your child's level and tell them what they are doing is unacceptable and you will not tolerate it. Inform your child of what the appropriate behavior is or what you expect of them. If after a warning they don't listen you need to give them a consequence. For us it is a short time out on the stairs or wherever we are we find a spot. She responds to this because we don't give her another choice. She knows that her actions have consequences and if she doesn't do what mom and dad ask there will be a consequence. You don't need to yell if you have done the work in teaching your child that they need to listen to you. Yelling makes you look dumb and out of control.

    Posted by Calm, cool and collected Dad October 27, 09 10:28 PM
  1. "Yelling makes you look dumb and out of control. "

    19, Calm dad: And how does insulting other people for the sake of getting your point across look?

    Posted by lzo October 28, 09 09:28 AM
  1. I am in charge of getting my daughter up and to daycare in the morning. Mom goes to work very early, and does the pick up and dinner, I tend to work later. We share bath and bedtime activities at night of our current child, 2 and 1/2 months shy of her 3rd birthday.

    Many days I feel that my daughter is much smarter than me and she is amazing to watch absorb and learn from her environments. However, at 6am in the morning we do breakfast in front of the TV most mornings and she ignores my requests to eat with a smile!! She knows exactly what she is doing, and likes the attention. Then my attention used to work its way into yelling, she would fake a cry and tell me I hurt her feelings to solicit hugs from me. Again smiling!!

    I have stopped yelling, and begun eliminating the distractions. First the TV. Then dolls. But most importantly, I ask her to use her words to tell me what she needs. "Use your words, are you done with Breakfast?" "What do you want to wear today". I do it at her eye level, with lots of hugs, but even more patience on my part, with constant reminders. I still yell from time to time.

    It was extremely funny to watch my daughter yell at her Dora doll and put it in a time out and tell her that "IT IS NOT OK" because it sounded a lot like my wife and I, but then we thought about it for like 0.5 seconds and realized that we're building this little monster, and loving every day with her. But she is not there just for our entertainment. I have sworn in her presents, she repeats its and smiles at us as she does it, b/c she can tell it was a bad word with the inflection in our voice as it came out. We now have replaced the OH Sh** word or worse with "Oh boogers!" and our daughter uses the phrase appropriately.

    It is that intellegence that we have begun to approach our daughter and asking her to explain what she wants with her words and work with her to get her to what we want. We use the elimination technique to start, then we dangle the carrot as well... "if you finish your dinner before 6:30 we can watch Phineus and Ferb before bath, or we can read 3 books tonight"

    It is the hardest thing I have ever loved to do. It requires a tremendous amount of personal work. I still resort to yelling from time to time... my mom could yell the roof off a house when I was young. She tells me that I was really mischievous as a child and my daughter is my punishment!!! So now I actually encourage the behavior so my daughter will do it in front of me and we can laugh at it together.

    My point. I still yell some, she still loves me back!!

    Posted by Anyonecanbeafather butDadsarespecial October 28, 09 09:59 AM
  1. I think there is a distinction between being a rageaholic and yelling at times that it is necessary to get your child's attention. I work hard every day to exercise patience. It does not come naturally for me. But I also think that I have guilt that I need not have when I do yell. Discipline is in a child's best interest and a large part of the job as a parent. I do not buy in to that whole "you would not yell at a friend" argument. My friends are adults. They do not depend on me to keep them safe and teach them how to function in the world. And frankly, if friends aggravated me half as much as my children do at times, I would have far fewer friends.
    I believe that if I were to give in to my natural tendencies to frequently yell, then my kids would quickly learn to disregard me, or just flat out resent me, and raising my voice would lose any impact that it does have in getting a situation under control. So my goal is to have my yelling be the exception rather than the rule.
    And when it gets too frustrating I throw Bill Cosby's "Himself" into the DVD player. "Come here, come here, come HERE, COME HERE, HERE, HERE. HEEEEERE!!!" "Sit down, sit down, sit DOWN, SIT DOWN, SIT, SIT, SIT, SIIIIIITTTTT!!!" "My wife and I have five children, and the reason that we have five children is because we do not want six." Hilarious and therapeutic.

    Posted by mom of 2 October 28, 09 11:47 AM
  1. Yes, we yell at our kids occasionally. We also have children who are "extra-sensitive" to criticism and if we point out incorrect behavior in a calm reasoned tone they take that as yelling. We think their response is because they already know they are in the wrong and feel guilty and are upset with themselves and then when they hear our criticism it is an extra burden. I am unsure of how to react to this. I can't come up with an example right now, but I feel certain behaviors must be addressed immediately, and do not like having a child scream at me "You're yelling at me!! You always yell at me!!" when I was not yelling, but merely calmly trying to correct her. My sister has a similar problem with her sons.

    Posted by kj October 28, 09 12:49 PM
  1. For me its the shoes in the morning....put your shoes on, put your shoes on..are your shoes on? No...Put them on..put them ON! I fear its this point in time where I lose it. I just plain and simply lose it. Now question..do I put his shoes on for him in the morning to avoid this fight or do I allow my six yr old to suffer his own fate for not listening????

    Posted by Judgenot October 28, 09 02:30 PM
  1. Judgenot....I have the same issue with my son who is nine! My 7 year old is no problem. His clothes and shoes are on in seconds. The nine year old (who is a genius in many respects) just cannot get dressed. I tell him we're in a hurry, he can tell I'm rushing, he'll have one leg in his pants and if I leave the room and come back five minutes later I can find the pants on the bed, and he'll be reading or drawing, or writing "just one more thing!". Then we have the same scenario with the shoes and coat. I know part of it is that he is very creative and does stop thinking, but I just don't know why he can't get that it would be so much easier on everyone if he just put the darn things on!

    Posted by Mom2boys October 28, 09 05:27 PM
  1. Mom2boys - LOL - I am so with you on that one! My 2 cents - my mother was a yeller and it has definitely impacted my relationship her. Yet I am a yeller too and while it fills me with guilt, here is the difference. After a rampage where I know I've lost control, I take the time to seek out my son, apologize, talk over why I lost control and how we can work on the problem that caused the yelling, and end with a hug and some special time together. I know that if my mother had even once apologized or just sat down and tried to work out a solution together and listened to what I had to say, it would have made all the difference in the world.

    Posted by Cordelia October 29, 09 10:36 AM
  1. Cordelia & Mom2boys, I used to have the same problem until we had the Olympics one year when they were old enough to understand. That year we would use a timer to see how long they took (like they'd seen in the Olympic sports) to get dressed, or have a shower, or put their shoes on. Then they would try to beat their record and it became a game! Soon they realised they could do it faster!
    Worth a try. Might work. Good luck!

    Posted by Mum of 2 teens November 4, 09 02:02 AM
  1. I am finding myself yelling back at the teens when they start yelling at me, then I have to yell for them to calm down, then start giving them deductions off allowance for every smart-alec comment until finally it is back down to reasonable tones. sometimes the kids (or teens) start it, and it is just disrespectful. I agree that sometimes we just have to yell, they won't take you seriously sometimes, but don't insult them, and hopefully yelling isn't a common occurrence

    Posted by R.L. December 20, 09 05:42 AM
  1. One of the commentors above made me think of the reason parents yell at their kids (I do it as my twin 11 yr old daughters and/or husband appear to aspire in making me raise my voice). They brought up the thought that we show respect to our friends or co-workers when they don't listen or do what's asked, buy dealing with the problem in other ways. The key word here is respect. When a child doesn't hear our "normal voice" or respond quickly to our directive, we are being shown disrespect. Perhaps I will try to yell "RESPECT ME" next time I start getting the urge to raise my voice! If our friends aggravated us as much as our children can, we’d probably all have a lot fewer friends. The problem with this comparison is that these are our family members, not just friends and we live with them 24/7 and can’t just “not be friends with them”! If our co-workers were that aggravating we would either request a change of positions in the company, fire them if we were the boss, find a new job if not the boss or become self-employed. So we can’t use that as a comparison. We can’t find a new position in the family, we can’t fire our children, we can’t realistically find a new family (although divorce and/or re-marrying sometimes accomplishes just that) and all parents are self-employed by their family!
    I’d love to hear some other realistic philosophies.

    Posted by MVG,a work at home Mom March 4, 10 09:35 AM
  1. Whoever complains about their kids not listening to them because they're busy with computers and cell phones- Are you kidding me? Did you not realize that as a parent you are PAYING for them to use any of those things, and as a PARENT you can tell them to stop? Don't whine about how your kid's too busy texting to listen to you. Take that damn phone away- I'm sure they'll be all ears after that. And yes, when people lose it and start yelling, they look stupid. I've seen kids play around with their parents once they start yelling, because they know they're in control of the parent's emotions once they push them to that point. They can calm them down, but it's much more interesting to them to know they can get the best of you. My advice is to step back and think before you make decisions based on your emotions- don't let your kid own your emotions. And for the parents who whine and don't take control- grow up. Remember- who's really in control?

    Posted by Aggravated Reader September 18, 10 06:06 PM
  1. So does any parent out there have an effective "flag" that they can get to go up when they start to lose it (yell and lose their temper)? Make your self go outside? Walk away? Take three deep breaths? How do you put up the flag before you lose your temper? The key work here is "lose". How do you get yourself to see that its the time to walk away? Next thing you know, your swearing and saying mean things to a kid that is good and sweet except he is just not listening and its the 4th time you'v told him to speed up because the bus will be there in 5 minutes....How do we creat a flag that will pop up in our face as we are about to lose it?

    Posted by Amom October 15, 10 11:37 PM
  1. Blah, blah, blah, I read this looking for alternatives and found a pro-con debate about yelling. What are the alternatives...and don't tell me "behave like an adult." that's just not helpful. Let's hear some real alternatives. Situation: the kid is asked nicely one, then two times to brush their teeth. What do you do next? I come from a family of yellers and didn't learn any alternatives, except for spankings and beatings which are all out the question for me. More scared of that than yelling, but still would like some acceptable ideas that help me get my kids to say brush their teeth the first or second time I ask...or at least a real approach on handling the third time.

    Posted by Debelo November 21, 10 01:48 PM
  1. how does one stop yelling at their kids? time outs sometimes work or they wont stay in them. what about when the grandparents are yelling at the kids as well, or putting their hands on the grandchildren? how does one deal with that and stay finanicially afloat? to be honest, i dont care if i look dumb or out of control when i yell at my kids in public. i am too anger to think about pleasing everyone around to care, especially for the single stay at home mothers around, maybe they understand. i understand yelling does not get anywhere, but putting down other parents just continues the cycle. thank you aggravated. try to have 3 kids on your own living at your parents with little income. be grateful!

    Posted by Beth May 9, 12 12:52 AM
 
33 comments so far...
  1. You are right - there is a different dynamic involved when it comes to reprimanding stepkids. Stepparenting is especially tricky business when it comes discipline!

    Posted by StepMom Magazine October 27, 09 06:50 AM
  1. I think we need to accept that sometimes we do yell..... I'll be watching for more answers.

    Posted by T. Buggs October 27, 09 10:24 AM
  1. People worry too much. Obviously, you shouldn't be insulting your kids and calling them stupid losers. But yelling "Cut it out!" when they are screaming like banshees is not going to scar them for life.

    Posted by BMS October 27, 09 11:05 AM
  1. when I read the comment about yelling and feeling guilty about it afterwards, it was like i was writing the column myself. I find my own self yelling and pointing, counting,punishing even in my worse days an occasional throwing down of whatever I am holding or (and I cringe to admit but we are all honest here) a swear to two. I hate that I do it, I feel terrible afterwards but I allow my emotions to take over. But like they say, nothing is ever easy, it takes time to learn the rules. Thanks for the column and this article, it makes me feel a little less alone!

    Thanks for taking time to comment, Judgenot! -- LMA

    Posted by Judgenot October 27, 09 11:05 AM
  1. Oh I yell. It's not just a raise for the voice thing, it is yelling. I yell "I LOVE YOU" when I am leaving, I yell "OK, NOW I AM REALLY LEAVING" when we are trying to go get ice cream and somene has to bring that one piece of plastic crap with them and I yell when all else has failed to get my DD's attention. Yes, she's repeating the cycle and it kills me that what my friend calls "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" persona is being continued, but I am so human it hurts sometimes. I always talk to my child after my time out for yelling and she and I are so much alike I thing she hurts as much as I do for me.

    Posted by Arlington Mom October 27, 09 11:24 AM
  1. The thing is that I find that yelling doesn't really get the results I want. It doesn't really make the kids do what I need them to be doing, it just makes everyone upset. And I was chagrined when I noted the same effect you did, Lylah, that when my oldest is mad at my youngest, he yells at him in exactly the same tone and manner that I yell at them. Seeing myself mirrored in him that way made me realize that yelling is just an ugly way of handling the situation.

    Posted by anna October 27, 09 11:38 AM
  1. My mother was/is a yeller. I absolutely hated it. She made such a big deal about everything that eventually we all blocked it out, so even when it was about something important it didn't matter. I swore I would never yell at my kids, BUT....I do. And I hate it. It's not close to the same degree as my mother, but it bothers me whenever I do it. I often try talking softer, and it works occasionally, but sometimes I just have to yell when they haven't responded to my requests multiple times. I also try to have a consequence when they don't listen the first time, but it's often about simple things and I don't want to keep punishing them, so I end up yelling, My nine year old gets very offended and says, "why do you have to yell the first time?!" lol It's more like the 5th time, but he obviously didn't hear my regular voice.

    I know what you mean. It drives me crazy when my kids don't hear my "regular voice," too! -- LMA

    Posted by Mom2boys October 27, 09 11:38 AM
  1. I slammed the door on my way out of the house this morning -- my mom used to call that "wooden swearing." I yell when they don't pay attention. I wonder how I expect them not to fly off the handle (have a tantrum) when I'm a grown woman and I can't help but fly off the handle sometimes. Accepting that we adults all loose it every once it a while has helped me cope with my kids' meltdowns too. As LMA wrote, we're all only human.

    Posted by Only Human Mommy October 27, 09 11:40 AM
  1. My pediatrician says that no one is perfect. She means kids, but this applies to parents. I guess I was born without the guilty, "I'm not a good enough mom" gene. I truly believe my kids are lucky to have the parents they do. Not that my husband and I are perfect, but considering the horrors that are out there, a bit of screaming on my part (and yes, I even swear, which I'm not proud of), doesn't diminish the care and attention we give them every day.

    In most cases, yelling doesn't occur in a vacuum (bad mother screams for no reason at perfect children). It's a reaction to a negative situation. It's not always a bad thing for kids to see that their own negative behavior can have negative consequences.

    I tell my kids WHY I yelled, and they, even at 5 and 6 years old, get it. They know that when I yell, it doesn't mean that they are bad or unloved. I know that it doesn't mean I'm uneducated and can't otherwise express myself. It means that no one is hearing/listening when I speak normally. Or that I'm trying to correct behavior that needs addressing. Or that, as a living human being, I react negatively to negative stimuli (such as stress, lateness, or negative behavior of others). I think that parental yelling, while obviously in itself is a negative behavior, provides opportunity in the aftermath to bring positive change. "How can we do this better next time so we don't end up yelling and upset?" I'll ask myself and the kids. Even young kids can come up with ideas.

    Posted by local October 27, 09 12:19 PM
  1. we are human....my son who just turned 3 was trying to crawl under a bathroom stall one timeso I told him at least 3 times to not to do that and stand up from that dirty floor and out of frustration and anger from him NOT listening to me several times I called him a "pain in the a**" OMG, right? He was not bothered by it nor do I even think he paid much attention to it. But I felt awful awful awful and did not mean that at all. I told him I was sorry but that he needed to listen to me. Though he didn't care, I did and felt bad for days after. I love my kids...more than anything. We all yell at them at one point in time and usually say something we wish we hadn't.

    Posted by jadee October 27, 09 12:34 PM
  1. Yelling is verbal abuse. That's it, like it or not. It is what it is. My parents were yellers and when I got married, I realized I was a yeller. When I had my daughter, I vowed to get it together. There was nothing more frightening than my parent's glares accompanied by anger in their voice, because, let's be honest, we yell when we're mad 99% of the time. Rarely do I yell with a smile, and frankly, neither do any of the other parents I know. I yell when I am frustrated, but is that my kid's fault or my own inability to keep a perspective on what's going on? Honestly - I'm the adult, aren't I the one who is repsonsible for calming the chaos? It's funny how we wouldn't thinking of yelling at our friends when they piss us off without concern for ruining the relationship or fear of them yelling back, but we think it is more than acceptable to yell at othese people who we are entrusted to raise into happy, centered, well adjusted human beings. Think about it.

    Posted by Stephanie in JP October 27, 09 12:53 PM
  1. I'm not a parent, but I was a kid. And my mom was a yeller. It has damaged my adult relationship with my mother. I am just not as close to her as I'm sure she would like, and I have very bad, sad memories of her tirades. Unfortunately, they color the really good memories. It's not a question of forgiveness - I don't hold a grudge, just that the bond was damaged as it was forming and there is just no way to go back and undo it.

    I don't presume to tell people how to raise their kids, but I thought some might want to know that yelling could result in more ... or less ... than they want.

    Posted by Susan October 27, 09 01:20 PM
  1. Oh please. Yelling is not automatically abuse. The term 'child abuse' has been applied to so much that is just a difference of parenting opinion that it is becoming a catchall phrase for "You don't do it my way, so you're wrong." I've heard people be accused of 'child abuse' for keeping their thermostat at 63 F in the winter, or buying used clothing or shoes for their kids. Let's keep the term for ACTUAL abuse.

    As I said before, if you are being demeaning or insulting to your kid, or deliberately trying to scare them, that's not necessary. But raising my voice to get them to not throw that ball which is going to contact something breakable in my living room is NOT abuse. If one kicks his brother for no reason and I raise my voice to tell him to go to his room right now, how is that abusive? I should just let him kick his brother and smile? I should whisper "Oh sweetie, you shouldn't have done that" while his brother cries? Sorry, he needs to know that I do not approve of his behavior, and that he needs to stop NOW.

    Posted by BMS October 27, 09 01:25 PM
  1. I found the article and comments very interesting. I too yell at my children and after get upset with myself for resorting to that behavior.

    One of the comments really gave me an ah ha moment... I wouldn't yell at my co-workers or friends if they weren't listening to me. I can't say I will never yell at my children again but I will think twice before I do and give them the respect I would to another adult - even when they are acting like a child!

    Thanks for posting this article so I know I'm not alone out there!

    Posted by Mom of 4 October 27, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Yelling does not equal abuse.
    My DD is just 10. I ask her to do something, get no response, ask her again, get no response, and again, then yup, I'm going to raise my voice. I try to keep the yelling to a minimum, I'm not demeaning her, I'm not putting her down, I'm not abusing her. I'm making her pay attention to her parent. When I do need to yell, it also ends up with a consequence. If I have to ask her more than once to turn off the TV and end up raising my voice, then the number of times I have to ask equals the number of days without TV.

    Posted by MP October 27, 09 03:04 PM
  1. I don't have or want kids. I do have dogs which are totally different beasts (literally) but somewhat toddler like in their thinking, I'm told. The most I can say is that yelling seems to be a reactive state. Sometimes it's the only option for that point in time. It seems better to find ways to prevent cases where yelling is needed than it is to try to come up with alternatives. I don't think yelling, itself is a problem and if you never yell, your kids will be in a for a sorry surprise the first time they encounter it in an authority, but I do think it's good to minimize the likelihood of needing to yell. For instance, if my dog doesn't come when I've called, it may be because I haven't really shaped the situation correctly. I might call to come in from playing in the yard, the same way I call them when I want to clip the nails or I may be calling them in too soon and not given them a chance to run off their energy and do their business.

    Instead, I can find ways to equate calling them with good responses. I can call them when it's time for dinner, when it's time for a treat or just to give them a big kiss. And I can avoid calling them that same way when bad things are going to happen, like getting nails cut, baths, or um, I guess that's it for bad things for dogs, tough life. In time, being called means good things and if I reinforce that (not with bribes but with affirmation) it should remain effective. At least, it's effective in dogs, with kids, YMMV.

    So for me, I look at the situation and think, "this is something that causes me frustration, what can I do in the future to avoid being frustrated." Sometimes, it means letting it go (eh, maybe the dogs don't need to go out, pee and be back in 5 mins flat, let it go and let them have some fun) other times, it means slowly reshaping the behavior (I don't like the dogs rushing the door when I let them out, let's make a game where they have to sit and wait before getting the reward, ie, going out)

    Kids are clearly more complicated but instead of berating oneself for a reaction to the moment it might be better to think of it as a chance to come up with ways to improve the situation for the future.

    Posted by Marnie October 27, 09 03:23 PM
  1. I'm an expectant mother and have worked with difficult adolescents ("emotionally and psychologically challenged") and have found through my work and other experiences that yelling isn't effective and just makes the situation worse/more chaotic and out of control. I definitely understand the impulse to do so and I hope I am able to avoid doing this with my own kids but it helps to remember that it doesn't really do what you want it to do (though it may "feel good" for a brief moment of release). I need to be a model of behavior and appropriate expression of emotions is a vital skill. I also need to stay in control because I'm the adult. My father used corporal punishment and my mother yelled -- I'm hoping I can find some other ways to parent my children without using shame and fear.That said, no one is perfect and we all have to give ourselves some time out to regroup at times.

    Posted by ExpectantMom October 27, 09 03:40 PM
  1. I believe Children have no fear. When I was a child we listened because that was our only option. Today children are always on the computer, on-line at chat rooms, watching tv and they zone out their parents or anyone else including their siblings. Texting is the worst! You try to have a conversation with your child and they ignore you, of course anyone would be yelling, it makes you feel like you don't exsist and Yes, I yell, we all yell, Life is hectic, and sometimes hard. There are alot of parents that both work, single parents, no parents at all. Life is Hard and the one's that don't have children, don't have a clue!

    Posted by yellmom October 27, 09 04:39 PM
  1. Yelling may not be abuse, but like swearing it smacks of ignorance and a lack of control. I have an active two year old and I have never yelled at her and she listens to me just fine. Get down to your child's level and tell them what they are doing is unacceptable and you will not tolerate it. Inform your child of what the appropriate behavior is or what you expect of them. If after a warning they don't listen you need to give them a consequence. For us it is a short time out on the stairs or wherever we are we find a spot. She responds to this because we don't give her another choice. She knows that her actions have consequences and if she doesn't do what mom and dad ask there will be a consequence. You don't need to yell if you have done the work in teaching your child that they need to listen to you. Yelling makes you look dumb and out of control.

    Posted by Calm, cool and collected Dad October 27, 09 10:28 PM
  1. "Yelling makes you look dumb and out of control. "

    19, Calm dad: And how does insulting other people for the sake of getting your point across look?

    Posted by lzo October 28, 09 09:28 AM
  1. I am in charge of getting my daughter up and to daycare in the morning. Mom goes to work very early, and does the pick up and dinner, I tend to work later. We share bath and bedtime activities at night of our current child, 2 and 1/2 months shy of her 3rd birthday.

    Many days I feel that my daughter is much smarter than me and she is amazing to watch absorb and learn from her environments. However, at 6am in the morning we do breakfast in front of the TV most mornings and she ignores my requests to eat with a smile!! She knows exactly what she is doing, and likes the attention. Then my attention used to work its way into yelling, she would fake a cry and tell me I hurt her feelings to solicit hugs from me. Again smiling!!

    I have stopped yelling, and begun eliminating the distractions. First the TV. Then dolls. But most importantly, I ask her to use her words to tell me what she needs. "Use your words, are you done with Breakfast?" "What do you want to wear today". I do it at her eye level, with lots of hugs, but even more patience on my part, with constant reminders. I still yell from time to time.

    It was extremely funny to watch my daughter yell at her Dora doll and put it in a time out and tell her that "IT IS NOT OK" because it sounded a lot like my wife and I, but then we thought about it for like 0.5 seconds and realized that we're building this little monster, and loving every day with her. But she is not there just for our entertainment. I have sworn in her presents, she repeats its and smiles at us as she does it, b/c she can tell it was a bad word with the inflection in our voice as it came out. We now have replaced the OH Sh** word or worse with "Oh boogers!" and our daughter uses the phrase appropriately.

    It is that intellegence that we have begun to approach our daughter and asking her to explain what she wants with her words and work with her to get her to what we want. We use the elimination technique to start, then we dangle the carrot as well... "if you finish your dinner before 6:30 we can watch Phineus and Ferb before bath, or we can read 3 books tonight"

    It is the hardest thing I have ever loved to do. It requires a tremendous amount of personal work. I still resort to yelling from time to time... my mom could yell the roof off a house when I was young. She tells me that I was really mischievous as a child and my daughter is my punishment!!! So now I actually encourage the behavior so my daughter will do it in front of me and we can laugh at it together.

    My point. I still yell some, she still loves me back!!

    Posted by Anyonecanbeafather butDadsarespecial October 28, 09 09:59 AM
  1. I think there is a distinction between being a rageaholic and yelling at times that it is necessary to get your child's attention. I work hard every day to exercise patience. It does not come naturally for me. But I also think that I have guilt that I need not have when I do yell. Discipline is in a child's best interest and a large part of the job as a parent. I do not buy in to that whole "you would not yell at a friend" argument. My friends are adults. They do not depend on me to keep them safe and teach them how to function in the world. And frankly, if friends aggravated me half as much as my children do at times, I would have far fewer friends.
    I believe that if I were to give in to my natural tendencies to frequently yell, then my kids would quickly learn to disregard me, or just flat out resent me, and raising my voice would lose any impact that it does have in getting a situation under control. So my goal is to have my yelling be the exception rather than the rule.
    And when it gets too frustrating I throw Bill Cosby's "Himself" into the DVD player. "Come here, come here, come HERE, COME HERE, HERE, HERE. HEEEEERE!!!" "Sit down, sit down, sit DOWN, SIT DOWN, SIT, SIT, SIT, SIIIIIITTTTT!!!" "My wife and I have five children, and the reason that we have five children is because we do not want six." Hilarious and therapeutic.

    Posted by mom of 2 October 28, 09 11:47 AM
  1. Yes, we yell at our kids occasionally. We also have children who are "extra-sensitive" to criticism and if we point out incorrect behavior in a calm reasoned tone they take that as yelling. We think their response is because they already know they are in the wrong and feel guilty and are upset with themselves and then when they hear our criticism it is an extra burden. I am unsure of how to react to this. I can't come up with an example right now, but I feel certain behaviors must be addressed immediately, and do not like having a child scream at me "You're yelling at me!! You always yell at me!!" when I was not yelling, but merely calmly trying to correct her. My sister has a similar problem with her sons.

    Posted by kj October 28, 09 12:49 PM
  1. For me its the shoes in the morning....put your shoes on, put your shoes on..are your shoes on? No...Put them on..put them ON! I fear its this point in time where I lose it. I just plain and simply lose it. Now question..do I put his shoes on for him in the morning to avoid this fight or do I allow my six yr old to suffer his own fate for not listening????

    Posted by Judgenot October 28, 09 02:30 PM
  1. Judgenot....I have the same issue with my son who is nine! My 7 year old is no problem. His clothes and shoes are on in seconds. The nine year old (who is a genius in many respects) just cannot get dressed. I tell him we're in a hurry, he can tell I'm rushing, he'll have one leg in his pants and if I leave the room and come back five minutes later I can find the pants on the bed, and he'll be reading or drawing, or writing "just one more thing!". Then we have the same scenario with the shoes and coat. I know part of it is that he is very creative and does stop thinking, but I just don't know why he can't get that it would be so much easier on everyone if he just put the darn things on!

    Posted by Mom2boys October 28, 09 05:27 PM
  1. Mom2boys - LOL - I am so with you on that one! My 2 cents - my mother was a yeller and it has definitely impacted my relationship her. Yet I am a yeller too and while it fills me with guilt, here is the difference. After a rampage where I know I've lost control, I take the time to seek out my son, apologize, talk over why I lost control and how we can work on the problem that caused the yelling, and end with a hug and some special time together. I know that if my mother had even once apologized or just sat down and tried to work out a solution together and listened to what I had to say, it would have made all the difference in the world.

    Posted by Cordelia October 29, 09 10:36 AM
  1. Cordelia & Mom2boys, I used to have the same problem until we had the Olympics one year when they were old enough to understand. That year we would use a timer to see how long they took (like they'd seen in the Olympic sports) to get dressed, or have a shower, or put their shoes on. Then they would try to beat their record and it became a game! Soon they realised they could do it faster!
    Worth a try. Might work. Good luck!

    Posted by Mum of 2 teens November 4, 09 02:02 AM
  1. I am finding myself yelling back at the teens when they start yelling at me, then I have to yell for them to calm down, then start giving them deductions off allowance for every smart-alec comment until finally it is back down to reasonable tones. sometimes the kids (or teens) start it, and it is just disrespectful. I agree that sometimes we just have to yell, they won't take you seriously sometimes, but don't insult them, and hopefully yelling isn't a common occurrence

    Posted by R.L. December 20, 09 05:42 AM
  1. One of the commentors above made me think of the reason parents yell at their kids (I do it as my twin 11 yr old daughters and/or husband appear to aspire in making me raise my voice). They brought up the thought that we show respect to our friends or co-workers when they don't listen or do what's asked, buy dealing with the problem in other ways. The key word here is respect. When a child doesn't hear our "normal voice" or respond quickly to our directive, we are being shown disrespect. Perhaps I will try to yell "RESPECT ME" next time I start getting the urge to raise my voice! If our friends aggravated us as much as our children can, we’d probably all have a lot fewer friends. The problem with this comparison is that these are our family members, not just friends and we live with them 24/7 and can’t just “not be friends with them”! If our co-workers were that aggravating we would either request a change of positions in the company, fire them if we were the boss, find a new job if not the boss or become self-employed. So we can’t use that as a comparison. We can’t find a new position in the family, we can’t fire our children, we can’t realistically find a new family (although divorce and/or re-marrying sometimes accomplishes just that) and all parents are self-employed by their family!
    I’d love to hear some other realistic philosophies.

    Posted by MVG,a work at home Mom March 4, 10 09:35 AM
  1. Whoever complains about their kids not listening to them because they're busy with computers and cell phones- Are you kidding me? Did you not realize that as a parent you are PAYING for them to use any of those things, and as a PARENT you can tell them to stop? Don't whine about how your kid's too busy texting to listen to you. Take that damn phone away- I'm sure they'll be all ears after that. And yes, when people lose it and start yelling, they look stupid. I've seen kids play around with their parents once they start yelling, because they know they're in control of the parent's emotions once they push them to that point. They can calm them down, but it's much more interesting to them to know they can get the best of you. My advice is to step back and think before you make decisions based on your emotions- don't let your kid own your emotions. And for the parents who whine and don't take control- grow up. Remember- who's really in control?

    Posted by Aggravated Reader September 18, 10 06:06 PM
  1. So does any parent out there have an effective "flag" that they can get to go up when they start to lose it (yell and lose their temper)? Make your self go outside? Walk away? Take three deep breaths? How do you put up the flag before you lose your temper? The key work here is "lose". How do you get yourself to see that its the time to walk away? Next thing you know, your swearing and saying mean things to a kid that is good and sweet except he is just not listening and its the 4th time you'v told him to speed up because the bus will be there in 5 minutes....How do we creat a flag that will pop up in our face as we are about to lose it?

    Posted by Amom October 15, 10 11:37 PM
  1. Blah, blah, blah, I read this looking for alternatives and found a pro-con debate about yelling. What are the alternatives...and don't tell me "behave like an adult." that's just not helpful. Let's hear some real alternatives. Situation: the kid is asked nicely one, then two times to brush their teeth. What do you do next? I come from a family of yellers and didn't learn any alternatives, except for spankings and beatings which are all out the question for me. More scared of that than yelling, but still would like some acceptable ideas that help me get my kids to say brush their teeth the first or second time I ask...or at least a real approach on handling the third time.

    Posted by Debelo November 21, 10 01:48 PM
  1. how does one stop yelling at their kids? time outs sometimes work or they wont stay in them. what about when the grandparents are yelling at the kids as well, or putting their hands on the grandchildren? how does one deal with that and stay finanicially afloat? to be honest, i dont care if i look dumb or out of control when i yell at my kids in public. i am too anger to think about pleasing everyone around to care, especially for the single stay at home mothers around, maybe they understand. i understand yelling does not get anywhere, but putting down other parents just continues the cycle. thank you aggravated. try to have 3 kids on your own living at your parents with little income. be grateful!

    Posted by Beth May 9, 12 12:52 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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