I don’t think it surprises anyone who knows me that I turned out to be a yeller mom. As a perfectionist with a side of control-freak tendencies, it kind of makes sense that I lose my cool when my kids dump their shit right by the front door immediately upon entry. Or leave dirty socks on the couch. Or forget to flush again. Or steal my good kitchen scissors. Or refuse to eat what I spent 90 minutes cooking and then promptly ask for a “treat.” You know this list—it probably looks a lot like yours.
Those of us who tend to fall on the “louder” side when it comes to mothering know that yelling isn’t always effective. We know it can be damaging to the peace and serenity and overall mental health of the household. We know it achieves pretty much nothing, and our kids start tuning us out if we yell too much. We know we should speak calmly, at their level, and explain why we are upset, assign fair consequences, and talk things out in a different way.
And many of us have tried all of that shit. Many of us have read the books and blog posts and attended parenting workshops and talked to experts. We’ve tried to find a different way. We’ve tried all the ways. We’ve created chore charts and listed various infractions and disciplinary measures that would be taken so our kids know what to expect. So they will do what we ask. So we won’t have to yell. We’ve disciplined with love and positivity and forgiveness, just like the books told us to do.
And yet, here we are. Here we fucking are on a goddamn Monday morning at 8:09 and the bus comes at 8:12 and one kid can only find one shoe (because heaven forbid we ever put our shoes ON THE SHOE RACK) and another is fighting for the 894th time about wearing a coat when it’s 18 degrees outside. And we’re yelling again. Because of course we are.
Of course, we aren’t calmly stooping down to the height of our sweet cherub children who know the morning routine and who know what time the bus comes and who know where their shoes should be and who know it’s effing winter. Of course, we aren’t slowly speaking to them in soft tones or pointing to the “before school chart” and saying things like, “How sad that we didn’t meet our goals of getting all of our jobs done before the bus came” but instead we’re like ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHY DO WE HAVE TO HAVE THE SAME DAMN FIGHT EVERY MORNING? ARE YOU NEW HERE?
And then our kids slink off to the bus stop and we feel like a rotten pile of crap for yelling. We again vow to do better. We vow to be kinder when we are frustrated. Even though we’ve failed every other time we made that vow, this time we really will make a change. Be a gentler parent. Quit yelling. (Or at least yelling as much.)
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
An article on Parents.com addresses this common problem between parents and kids. “Few, if any, parents start out yelling at their children,” the article states. “It usually develops as children misbehave, parents react with harsh verbal discipline, children react with worsening behavior, and parents escalate their yelling and criticism. Often the cycle spins out of control.”
The article further explains that excessive “harsh verbal discipline,” which is also called HVD, can lead to long-term damage in the parent-child relationship.
So by losing my shit after asking my kids to do something 982 times I’m actually doing more harm than good? I’m actually harming the bond between them and me and potentially causing further disciplinary problems? Awesome.
But honestly, for me, this is a personal issue too. I know that I have issues with control. And I know that I feel disrespected when I don’t have it. And I know that feeling disrespected leads to anger, which comes out through yelling.
10 years in, I’m still grasping for order and perfectionism and predictability and obedience in my household. Some days I get it. Somedays my kids cooperate, clean up, eat dinner, get along, brush their teeth, and go to bed without too much issue. But other days they turn into circus monkeys on Red Bull swinging from trapezes. Other days they conveniently “forget” they have homework until 3 minutes before bedtime. Other days they complain about having no clean underwear and see no connection to the 3-foot tall pile of dirty clothes in their closet.
And all the reading of blogs and parenting advice and vows I’ve made to myself and to my kids disintegrates into thin air. And rather than calmly saying, “Why do you think you have no clean underwear?” or “How can we solve this problem together?” it somehow comes out, “OH REALLY? WELL IF ANYONE OTHER THAN ME EVER THOUGHT TO THROW IN DAMN LOAD OF LAUNDRY…” and off the parenting cliff I’ve gone, yet again.
So yeah, I’m a yeller. I’m trying to stop (or at least cut down). I’ve been trying for about 10 years though. But who knows?! As my oldest becomes a tween and my daughter continues her trend of changing her outfit 16 times a day and my son maintains his “I don’t follow rules” stance on life—you never know! THIS could be my year! This could be the year it all clicks and I become that calm, sensible parent who assigns “effective consequences” rather than spewing pointless empty threats out into the air! And whose kids miraculously cooperate every day and do what I ask and I feel totally supported and fulfilled and appreciated. I mean, anything’s possible right?
Sigh. Off to another “parenting workshop” I go.
This article was originally published on