Could you go a week without yelling?

I have an essay in this month’s Redbook magazine on the week I spent attempting not to yell at my children. The Redbook website has it posted under the heading “How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids,” and I only wish this essay told you how to do that, because then I would read it and maybe learn something. 

I did not stop yelling at my kids for a week. I did, however, yell less, and I figured out a lot about when– and why– I yell.  (It’s not random; I have my triggers.)

I took this challenge about two months ago, and wrote then– as I was about to begin— that I was a yeller who, at least, felt bad about it. After taking this week-long challenge, and reflecting on what I’ve learned over several rewrites, I think I can say I’m a recovering yeller. Now my kids, on the other hand? The three of them tend to express their every thought at Dora-the-Explorer volume; and as one of my favorite humorists, James Lileks, has pointed out, Dora sounds like she was raised in a metal foundry.

Don’t your eardrums bleed a little just looking at her?

I don’t want to reproduce the article too much here, but these were a few of my takeaways:

–the more I multitask, the more I yell. (Do one thing at a time.)
–the earlier I am awoken, the more I yell. (Go to bed twenty minutes earlier, Mama.)
–the more I insist on adherence to very specific standards, the more I yell. (Quit while I’m ahead.)

How about you? Are you a yeller? Are you trying to cut back? Any tips?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy S. October 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

I completely agree with the part about multitasking and yelling. I simply cannot do one with the other. I need to learn not to answer my husbands phone calls home when the kids are splashing in the bathtub and the dog is trying to jump in. It's just too much for me to handle and I yell! Cooking is another disaster for me. I'm sure everyones had a whiny toddler hanging on their leg, while the 5 yr old wants to ask a million questions and you have 2 too many things going on the stove. I could just explode! Yes, it would be nice to stop yelling at my kids or even yell less would be perfect. Let me know when you find the answer!! LOL!


Anonymous October 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I yell when I feel overwhelmed. It falsely makes me feel like I've gained back some control over whatever the situation is. And I yell to intimidate my husband, kids, whoever is in my line of fire, to do what I think they should be doing. It's so ugly and I've tried my best to stop this horrible habit. I've managed to control it somewhat and found out when I don't yell, no one listens. Lose/Lose.


Lynnelle October 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Loved your article!! I to am a yeller!! Since your last post about this I've been trying to do less of it. I to notice that is more my moods and less what the kids have done.


Driven Mama October 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I yell when I am in a time crunch. Usually J and I are trying to get out the door in the morning (really, elementary school's first bell is at 7:35?) or trying to get him fed, showered, homeworked, read, cuddled, Bibled, prayed and asleep by 8:30. It's too much in too short of a time.
The clear solution is forcing myself up earlier in the morning and being better prepared the night before. Iron and lay out the next day's clothes, have backpacks at the front door, make sure there actually are eggs and milk in the fridge, have dinner planned in advance, etc. etc.
Fortunately, J is a smart, charming cookie and occasionally he'll push my buttons and then smile and then all I can do is laugh, calm down, and talk it out with him. Occasionally.
Let's see if I can stop yelling tonight and tomorrow (baby steps)…..wish me luck.


Joanna October 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I just had my third child (all 4 and under), and enlisted my sis-in-law's help to take the kids to the library, (our first outing without dad) and she found your book on the shelf and handed it to me while I was checking out. She said the picture on the front looked like me. 🙂 I started reading it while nursing/pumping, and just finished it. I LOVED it. Thank you so much for putting into words all of the things we moms with young kiddos think, but are not sure we should talk about. I grew up in Scranton as well (Clarks Summit, actually) and honestly laughed and cried with recognition at so many of your stories. I really thought I was the only one so many of those things happened to. 🙂 Thanks so much for this book – I am recommending it to my mommy friends!


Amy Wilson October 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Amy S- Maybe the article should have been called "Can I stop multitasking for a week?" since that might be the real problem. I think that would be totally impossible, however, unless my kids could go to school naked and hungry in the mornings.

Anonymous, you're right, I yell when I feel overwhelmed and want to regain control. But you're also right that not-yelling doesn't mean blithe obedience, either. I think there are times we all have to raise our voices.

Driven Mama, my oldest has his first communion this year, and I'm supposed to be fitting in time to say the Apostles' Creed together, morning and night, so I hear you on the Bibling/praying task.

Joanna, so glad you liked the book!


Theresa October 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I can't agree enough with your thoughts Amy and the comments left by others here. Yelling around my house is usually the result of my unrealistic expectations for compliance, having to be somewhere on time, doing too many things at once, or being plain old tired.

However, I have found the worst instances of yelling, the times when I feel like I have really lost the plot, occur when I am feeling resentful of the lack of time I have for myself. I have come to realize that when I am really losing my marbles, I need to schedule a hair appointment and a night of wine drinking with my sister. I find these times have a lasting and calming effect and reset the yell-o-meter, for a couple of weeks anyway.


Anonymous November 7, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I am NOT a yeller, having observed other parents yell a lot, and having observed that it doesn't work. When you yell at a kid, all they are thinking is, "Mom is mad at me." I save my raised voice for times it is really important, e.g. "Get away from the stove!"

I will admit, though, to "snapping" once in awhile when the noise level is so loud I can't drive. I don't tolerate everyone else yelling.


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