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Parenting Without Yelling

It was the end of a long and stressful week. Jen finally got home from what felt like the world’s worst workday and wanted nothing more than to unwind with a glass of wine and a hot bath. She walked into the bathroom and discovered that in the time it took her to pour her favorite Merlot, her 3-year old daughter decided to go all Picasso on the floor with her brand new lipstick. Jen felt her heart rate rise, her face get hot, and her jaw clench as she balled up her fist, opened her mouth, and let out a huge…sigh. She calmly called her daughter into the room, resisted the urge to chug her Merlot, and instead placed it on the counter. As a sweet little girl walks into the room with her head and one pigtail hanging low, Jen bends down to eye-level, and clasps her daughter’s tiny hands. Sometimes parenting without yelling was a little harder than expected.

“Charlotte, did you make a mess of mommy’s floor?”

“Yes mommy, I liked the pretty red marker.”

“Well, you made quite a mess in here and now mommy can’t use her red marker anymore. Do you think that makes me a little sad?”

“Uh huh”

“Should you have played with my things without asking?”

“No ma’am”

“The next time you see something of mommy’s that you’d like to play with what are you going to do?

“Ask mommy”

“That’s right, good girl. Now can you apologize please?”

“I’m sorry mommy.”

“Thank you sweetheart. Mommy’s going to get a rag and show you how to clean this up.”


It’s hard to believe this mom didn’t immediately start yelling as soon as she found the mess her daughter made, especially because it’s probably all she really wanted to do. But she didn’t yell. She didn’t have to. And neither do the rest of us.

As mothers we are often presented with disciplinary situations that not only test our patience but our ability to maintain control of our emotions.  Even if we had a blissfully serene day, coming home to a lipstick-covered bathroom might cause us to blow a fuse. The fact is, unless you need to quickly prevent your child from doing something dangerous, yelling is simply unnecessary in everyday discipline. Easier said than done sometimes but these simple reminders can help you address any bad behavior with a loving heart, a calm voice, and NO yelling.

1. Stop and breathe

One of the easiest ways to calm yourself down and keep from lashing out in anger is to stop and take a deep breath whenever you feel your blood begin to boil. When our kids do something wrong, especially a repeat offense, it can be extremely difficult not to follow our gut instinct and yell. By pausing to take a breath as soon as you feel frustration or anger, you can avoid yelling and opt for a more loving and effective disciplinary action.

2. Am I projecting?

Much like Jen’s situation above, there are a number of day-to-day stressors that effect how we are feeling before we even encounter bad behavior from our kids. If you find yourself wanting to yell and scream because your son didn’t take the trash out, ask yourself if you’re son’s behavior is really worth your anger or if, just maybe, the forty-five minutes of bumper to bumper traffic and rude driver who cut you off and flipped you the bird might be having an effect on how you are reacting. Projecting anger onto your children isn’t fair to them and doesn’t solve the issue at hand. Make sure you are giving the appropriate reaction to whatever it is they’ve done wrong and not treating them like they just lit the house on fire.

3. Not yelling doesn’t mean you can’t be serious

But how can I get my point across and let my child know I’m serious if I don’t raise my voice? Before trying to answer this question, think about how you feel when you get yelled at. You probably become upset, uncomfortable, and unhappy with the person doing the yelling. You’re also more likely to remember the fact that they yelled instead of why they yelled. This is how mature adults react to unnecessary raised voices, so just think about how a child reacts. All they hear and focus on is the anger in your voice which means the bad behavior you’re trying to correct gets completely lost. Speaking to your child in a soft, firm voice with direct eye contact is a perfectly effective way to get your point across. Not only are you both able to express your feelings in a more controlled and calm manner but when they aren’t focused on how mad mommy is, they can instead focus on behaving the way mommy wants them to behave. Plus staring into their sweet faces can be quite therapeutic and help bring your blood from a boil to a slow simmer.

It’s natural to have the urge to yell. Parents deal with a lot of pressure and stress and sometimes it seems like the only way to get things out. But when it comes to disciplining your children, it’s important to fight the urge and shoot for a calm and loving form of discipline. You’ll both feel better at the end of the day.

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