How to stop yelling at your kids

One part of parenting that no one enjoys is disciplining your children. The way you discipline your kids is a very personal parenting choice. But what happens when you aren’t the one disciplining your child? What happens when someone else yells at your child? And, more importantly, how do yo tell someone not to yell at your kid?

In extreme situations, like your child being in harms’ way, then it’s acceptable for a stranger to yell at your little one. But what if a stranger yells at your child because your kid is being too loud at a restaurant or a store? Or if a stranger yells at your child because they don’t like their behavior on the playground? Would you be able to jump into action and confront the other adult immediately or would you be so shocked that you’d say nothing? How about if it’s family member that is yelling at your child?

It’s a sticky situation, but it happens a lot. So rather than go home and think for three days about what you should have said to that person or have the situation escalate immediately, it’s important to think about what happened, what was said, and how you can handle the situation with you and your child’s best interest in mind. To help you the next time someone barks at your child, here are three to tell someone "thanks, but no thanks."

Be Present

What This Looks Like: Be close to the situation and engaged with your kids.

Why this works: Sometimes your presence is enough to deter any negative comments from another person. While giving your children some independence is a good thing, being relatively close to your kids and present. This means not being on your phone for long periods of time or fully engaged in a conversation with someone else.

When to use it: When you’re in a public setting such as a playground or park and another person is making comments to your children about their behavior.

Assess The Situation Before You Respond

What this looks like: Ask questions like "What’s going on here?" and "What seems to be the issue?" Make sure you have the full story before you react.

Why this works: It gives yourself time to access the situation. Was the other person out of line? What was said? It also gives you time to access your child’s feelings and figure out the next best steps.

When to use it: When you weren’t around to see what exactly happend and you need to buy yourself a few minutes to compose yourself.

Be Direct

What This Looks Like: In a calm but firm manner, tell the other person "This is my child and I will handle disciplining them." If it escalates, walk away.

Why It Works: Often times, people don’t expect direct responses from other people and can be shocked that you address their behavior. It’s also important for your kids to see you stand up for them but not to get into an arguing match

When To Use It: When someone has clearly overstepped their boundaries by yelling at your child.

Talk Directly To Your Child

What this looks like: Ask your child "Are you OK? Do you want to leave?"

Why it works: In any situation, your child is the more important than the other person. This is why you should deal with your child’s needs first before moving on to the person that yelled at them. Also if the adult sees how upset your child is, they may think twice before yelling again.

When to use it: When your child is visibly upset from being yelled at.

Difffuse With Humor

What to say: "Oh my goodness everyone is being so silly around here!"

Why it works: These can be very uncomfortable situations and humor has a way to diffuse the tension.

When to use it: When it’s a minor situation that you just want to be over, or you’re not comfortable with confrontation. Your sanity and your child’s happiness are the first priority

Be Passive Agressive

What to say: "We don’t yell at strangers. It’s not very nice."

Why it works: Passive aggressive comments are so difficult to compete with, because the other person doesn’t always know how to respond. It also makes you seem like you are keeping your cool, even if you’re not.

When to use it: When you are dealing with someone that seems to be OK with a yelling match and you are not.

Set Boundaries

What this looks like: Saying "When you are taking care of my kids, I’d like you to use the same discipline techniques that we use."

Why this works: If you are asking friends and family to care for your kids, telling them exactly how discipline works in your house and that you’d like that to carry over in their care eliminates any questions on what works for you and what doesn’t.

When to use this: With anyone that will be caring for your child for long periods of time.

This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.

There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 105,723 times.

When you feel angry, do you tend to express yourself by shouting? If so, you’ve probably noticed that this habit is ruining your relationships with others—and it probably doesn’t help you get your way or make you feel better, either. Change your communication habits when angry by first learning to diffuse your feelings in an appropriate way. Then, go back to the drawing board and state your needs calmly and rationally. Once you’ve dealt with your anger in the moment, look for ways to cope with your anger better in the long term.

How to stop yelling at your kids

  • Learning to stop yourself before or when you start yelling can prevent you from saying something you’ll regret or jeopardizing your relationships.

How to stop yelling at your kids

How to stop yelling at your kids

  • You can count aloud or silently to yourself, depending on your preference.

How to stop yelling at your kids

Calming Yourself Outside:
Tell the other person that you need to leave for a few minutes. Say something like, “I need to calm down and I can’t do that here. I’m going for a walk.” It might feel abrupt, but the important thing is to get yourself out of the room before you say something you regret. You can apologize when you get back.
Take a walk. Set a fast pace to burn off steam. Focus on your legs moving and your heart pumping, taking deep breaths. The movement will calm your body down and, eventually, your mind too.
Force yourself to notice 3 things around you. It may be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling angry, but force yourself to look at the sky, the leaves on the trees, or the cars passing by. Distracting yourself for even a moment can break the momentum of your anger.

How to stop yelling at your kids

Calming Stretches:
Twist your body gently from side to side. Hold your arms up comfortably, with your elbows bent. Twist your torso from your hips, turning on one foot, then swing slowly to the other side to loosen up your whole body.
Bend and touch your toes. Bend forward from your hips, keeping your spine straight, and reach your fingers to your toes. Let your head and neck fall forward and relax. It’s ok if you can’t reach all the way to your toes—just reach as far as you can. This surrendering pose helps you let go of your anger.
Open up your hips. Place your feet wider than shoulders-width apart and bend at your knees. Place your hands just above your knees and straighten one arm. Lean your body the other way to feel a stretch in that hip and groin. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch sides. Many people carry a lot of tension in their hips, so stretching them out can unlock that anxiety.

How to stop yelling at your kids

I believe it’s very useful knowing how to deal with someone yelling at you, since there are a lot of difficult or even impossible people out there who have no problem with being rude to the ones around them. This situation can be extremely unpleasant, especially if the person who is shouting at you is someone you care deeply about, like a family member, one of your friends or even your significant other. No matter what you did that made the other person so upset, I believe that yelling is not justified and that you can learn how to solve a conflict by being more assertive. Taylor Swift was absolutely right when she said that “If you’re yelling you’re the one who’s lost control of the conversation.” So, here are a few pretty useful tips on how to deal with someone yelling at you that will help you remain calm in order to solve that conflict in no time:

1 Say Nothing

One of the best tips I could give you on how to deal with someone yelling at you is to advise to try to just stay calm and say nothing. Look that person straight in the eyes and just sit there in absolute silence, in order to show them how much their behavior is bothering you and how offensive it is. They will notice your attitude and they will just run out of steam and realize that the way they approach that situation is actually wrong.

2 Explain Why Their Behavior is Bothering You

I know it can be hard sometimes to remain calm when someone is shouting at you, but it’s essential to do it so you can explain the other person why their behavior is bothering you. You could tell them how hard it is to concentrate on what they are saying if they are screaming, because you are not able to focus and understand the meaning of their words. Maybe this way, they will understand that what they are doing is wrong and they might even apologize for their inappropriate behavior.

3 Touch Them

Well, this works only if you are close to that person, because if you two are almost total strangers, they might misinterpret your behavior as being inappropriate or even hostile. So, be careful to whom you are doing this! If they are one of your friends or your significant other, you could try to gently touch their face because by doing this, you’ll show them how much you care about them and how much they mean to you. If they are not so close to you, then you could try touching their arm as a friendly gesture or one of good will. This trick always works, since it’s rather hard to yell at someone who is being friendly and kind to you, or someone who is showing you how important you are to them.

4 Walk Away

When someone is yelling at you, one of the simplest and most effective things you can do is to simply walk away and show that person how much their attitude is bothering you. Of course, you can’t do that if the person shouting is one of your parents, your significant other or your boss, because you will only seem disrespectful and make them even angrier. On the other hand, by walking away, you will give the other person some time to calm down and re-evaluate the situation. Just be careful not to hurt their feelings if you choose to do this.

5 Ask Them to Stop

Another very easy way to diffuse a yeller is by simply asking them to stop, by telling them that they are making you feel uncomfortable and that you cannot pay attention to what they are saying. Some people might not even be aware of how they are behaving. You will only help them realize that their behavior is inappropriate, and that even if they are upset or angry, they should still control their temper and behave in a more assertive manner.

6 Talk Softly

I know this may seem a bit silly but I assure you that it really works. Apparently, a lot of research showd that if you talk very softly when someone is yelling at you, even to the point where they ask you to speak a little louder, you will distract the yeller from the thing that is bothering them or stressing them out. They will shift their attention to your conversation because they will try to understand the meaning of your words, and this might make them calm down and use a proper tone of voice.

7 Don’t Back Talk

I know how tempting this may be sometimes, especially when someone is yelling at you, but try to control your urges and don’t snap back at the other person, because you will only make them angrier and they won’t even listen to what you have to say. Just keep your comments to yourself and search for other ways to deal with that situation.

I know how difficult it can be sometimes to restrain yourself when you’re dealing with someone who’s yelling at you but it’s not impossible. With a bit of practice and with a lot of patience, you will learn how to behave in a more assertive manner and how to control your temper in every situation, so you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. How do you deal with someone who’s shouting at you? Please share your advice with us in the comments section! I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

How to become your own "emotion coach" to stop yelling and start connecting.

“Dr. Laura, I know I should stop yelling, but I can’t. And I can’t imagine getting my kids to listen if I don’t yell at them. Can you move in with me for a week?!” –Cheralynn

Like Cheralynn, most parents think they “should” stop yelling, but they don’t believe there’s another way to get their child’s attention. After all, it’s our job to teach them, and how else can we get them to listen? It’s not like yelling hurts them; they barely listen, they roll their eyes. Of course they know we love them, even if we yell. Right?

Wrong. The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we’re trying to teach. What’s more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice.

If your child doesn’t seem afraid of your anger, it’s an indication that he’s seen too much of it and has developed defenses against it—and against you. The unfortunate result is a child who is less likely to want to behave.

Whether or not they show it, our anger pushes kids of all ages away from us. Yelling at them practically guarantees that they’ll have an “attitude” by the time they’re ten, and that yelling fights will be the norm during their teen years. And as kids harden their hearts to us, they become more open to the pressures of the peer group. We lose our influence with them just when we need it most.

But believe it or not, there are homes where parents don’t raise their voices in anger at their children. I don’t mean a cold household, where no emotion is expressed—we all know that’s not good for anyone. And I don’t mean these parents have perfect children, or are perfect parents. There’s no such thing. These are homes where the parents DO get their buttons pushed and get mad, but are aware enough of their own emotions so they don’t take them out on their kids.

Do you think, like Cheralynn, that you’d need your own private emotion coach in order to stop yelling? Luckily, you already have one—yourself! In fact, the only way to become the parent you want to be is to “parent” yourself compassionately. For most of us, that means re-parenting, learning to coach ourselves lovingly through our own emotions, so we don’t take them out on our children. How?

1. Commit to your child that you’ll use a respectful voice. (Who else will keep you accountable?) Tell your kids that you’re learning, so you’ll make mistakes—but that you’ll get better and better at it.

2. Realize that your No. 1 job as a parent is to manage your own emotions, so you’re modeling emotional regulation and can help your child learn to manage his emotions. Kids learn empathy when we empathize with them. They learn to scream at us when we raise our voice at them.

3. Remember that kids will act like kids—that’s their job! They’re immature humans, learning the ropes. They push on limits to see what’s solid. They experiment with power so they can learn to use it responsibly. Their frontal cortex won’t be fully developed until age 25, so their emotions often take over, which means they can’t think straight when they’re upset. And, like other humans, they don’t like feeling controlled.

4. Stop gathering “kindling”—those resentments you start to pile up when you’re having a bad day. Once you have enough kindling, a firestorm is inevitable. Instead, stop, take responsibility for your own mood, give yourself what you need to feel better, and shift yourself to a happier place.

5. Offer empathy when your child expresses emotion—any emotion—so she’ll start to accept her own feelings, which is the first step in learning to manage them. Once children can manage their emotions, they can manage their behavior. Feeling understood also keeps kids from going off the deep end with their upsets so often.

6. Stay connected and see things from your child’s perspective, even while you’re setting limits. When kids believe we’re on their side, they want to “behave,” so they’re more accepting of our limits, and they don’t push our buttons as often.

7. When you get angry, stop. Shut your mouth. Don’t take any action or make any decisions. Breathe deeply. If you’re already yelling, stop in mid-sentence. Don’t continue until you’re calm.

8. Breathe and just notice your feelings. Remove yourself from the situation if possible; otherwise, run some water and splash it on your face to shift your attention from your child to your inner state. Under that anger is fear, and sadness, and disappointment. Let all that well up, and just breathe. Let the tears come if you need to. Once you let yourself feel what’s under the anger—without taking action—the anger just melts away.

9. Find your own wisdom. From this calmer place, imagine there’s an angel on your shoulder who sees things objectively and wants what’s best for everyone in the situation. This is your own personal parenting coach. What does she say? Can she give you a mantra to see things differently, like “I don’t have to “win” here. I can let him save face.” What would she suggest to get things on a better path? What can you do right now? (Don’t skip this step. Research shows it works!)

10. Take positive action from this calmer place. That might mean you ask your child for a do-over. It might mean you apologize. It might mean you help your cranky child with her feelings, so she can have a good cry and you can all have a better day. It might mean you blow off the housework and just snuggle under the covers with your kids and a pile of books until everyone feels better. Just take one step toward helping everyone feel, and do, better—including you.

The bad news? This is hard. It takes tremendous self-control, and you’ll find yourself messing up over and over again. Don’t give up.

The good news? It works. It gets easier and easier to stop while you’re yelling, and then to stop even before you open your mouth. Just keep moving in the right direction. At some point, you’ll realize that it’s been months since you yelled at anyone.

The better news? Your child will transform, right in front of your eyes. You’ll see him working hard to control himself when he gets angry, instead of lashing out. You’ll see him cooperating more. And you’ll see him “listen”—when you haven’t even raised your voice.

Hey parents: Raise your hand if you’ve ever yelled at your kids (this is the Internet; no one’s looking). After you’ve made your ten-trillionth request to “please stop torturing your little sister,” it’s easy for enlightened parenting techniques to evaporate in a cloud of overwhelmed frustration. Result: yelling.

The problem is, yelling never feels good, for anyone. When was the last time you felt better after someone yelled at you, or you yelled at them? New research suggests that yelling at kids can be just as harmful as hitting them; in the two-year study, effects from harsh physical and verbal discipline were found to be frighteningly similar. A child who is yelled at is more likely to exhibit problem behavior, thereby eliciting more yelling. It’s a sad cycle.

If you’re a parent who frequently yells at your kids, see if any of these excuses resonate:

But. my kids don’t listen if I don’t yell. “Kids are actually going to listen less when you yell at them,” says Joseph Shrand, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Outsmarting Anger: 7 Strategies for Defusing Our Most Dangerous Emotion. “As soon as you begin to raise your voice, you activate their limbic system, which is an ancient part of the brain that’s responsible for, among other things, the fight-or-flight response.” The result may be the opposite of what you’re hoping for, as your kids will freeze up, fight back or run away. Try communicating a request instead of a command, and see if you notice the difference.

But. shouting is the only way I get respect from my kids. It may seem like shouting garners respect, but it actually does more harm than good. “You’re basically saying, ‘You have no value to me,'” says Shrand, “and a human being, in their heart of hearts, simply wants to feel valued by another human being.”

But. if I don’t yell, they won’t take me seriously. Yelling generates fear, not respect, so yelling at your child may actually be a form of bullying. Instead, try Shrand’s “Stop, Look and Listen” method: Stop what you’re doing. Make eye contact with your kids, showing them they’re valuable. Then listen to what they’re saying, talking with them, not at them. “It’s much cooler to discover who your kid is than to try to mold them into who you want them to be,” he observes.


But. I can’t help it! I just lose my temper sometimes. You can help it, though. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: If you were in the middle of screaming at your kids and someone you really respected (your boss, the president of your co-op board, Michelle Obama) suddenly knocked on your door, wouldn’t you immediately stop the yell-fest? Blowing your top makes kids feel alienated, devalued and distant. Instead, take a deep breath and consider what you want to see happen. Approaching the situation from a calmer angle will create better results without causing emotional damage.

But. I don’t have time to reason with them. Talking with kids doesn’t take more (or less) time than yelling at them. Remaining calm conserves energy, giving us emotional resources to work with our kids instead of against them.

But. if I don’t yell, I might spank them. “For parents who have hit their children,” says Shrand, “it’s important to step back and recognize that the way to get anyone to do anything is through respect and communication. When someone feels trusting, they will want to do things for you in a way that you’d never be able to get them to do through force.”

But. the damage is done; I’ve been yelling for years! “The brain is remarkably fluid,” says Shrand. “It’s maturing, it’s evolving, it’s creating new connections. this is called ‘neuroplasticity.'” In other words, it’s never too late to change your approach. Remember: Showing your kids respect can rekindle their sense of self-worth. “When is the last time you got angry with someone who was treating you with respect?” asks Shrand. “Respect leads to trust, and trust allows us all to unleash our unlimited human potential.”

Short answer: You’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of shouting matches.


How to stop yelling at your kids

When kids misbehave, yelling can feel like the natural response. Yelling and shouting at your kids might feel like a release, serve as a form of discipline, or seem like only way to get a kid’s attention, especially when you’re stressed. But the psychological effects of yelling at a child are real, be they a toddler or a middle schooler, and experts consider it downright damaging. If actual communication is your goal, you’ll need to learn how to stop yelling at your kids in favor of more effective methods.

As provocative as some behaviors may seem, they rarely warrant yelling. The truth is, yelling at child doesn’t suddenly trigger remorse and contriteness, but it might result in harmful psychological effects. As hard as it can be to resist the temptation to scream, ultimately, yelling at kids is deeply unhelpful.

According to Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist, founder of Aha! Parenting, and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, yelling is a parenting “technique” we can do without. Thankfully, she has some anti-yelling rules to remember, and tips for helping us learn how to stop yelling at our kids, no matter how frustrated we may feel in the moment.

The Psychological Effects of Yelling at Kids: Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response

The psychological effects of yelling at children, especially younger ones, are real. Dr. Markham says that while parents who yell at their kids aren’t ruining their kids’ brains, per se, they are changing them. “Let’s say during a soothing experience [the brain’s] neurotransmitters respond by sending out soothing biochemicals that we’re safe. That’s when a child is building neural pathways to calm down.” When parents yell at their toddler, who has an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex and little executive function, the opposite happens. Their body interprets their resulting fear as danger and reacts as such. “The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation,” she says. If they’re responding to a parent’s yelling like that repeatedly, the behavior becomes ingrained and informs how they treat others. If you’re yelling at your toddler every day, you’re not exactly priming them for healthy communication skills.

Yelling at Kids Is Never Communicating

Nobody (except for a small percentage of sadists) enjoys being yelled at. So why would kids? “When parents start yelling at kids, they acquiesce on the outside, but the child isn’t more open to your influence, they’re less so,” says Dr. Markham. Younger kids and toddlers may bawl; older kids will get a glazed-over look — but both are shutting down instead of listening. That’s not communication. Yelling at kids might get them to stop what they’re doing, but you’re not likely to get through to them when your voice is raised. In short, yelling at kids doesn’t work.

Grown-Ups Are Scary When They Shout

The nature of the parent-child relationship makes for a one sided power dynamic, and as the person with the power, parents have a responsibility to take extra care with how they communicate with their child. Because parents hold absolute power over young kids, it’s important to avoid turning your anger into full-on despotic control. To kids, parents are humans twice their size who provide everything they need to live: food, shelter, love, Paw Patrol. When the person they trust most frightens them, whether by yelling or other means, it rocks their sense of security. “They’ve done studies where people were filmed yelling. When it was played back to the subjects, they couldn’t believe how twisted their faces got,” says Dr. Markham. Being screamed at by their parents can be seriously stressful for kids. A 3-year-old may appear to push buttons and give off an attitude like an adult, but they still don’t have the emotional maturity to be treated like one. Learning how to stop yelling in favor of more age appropriate strategies will be more effective in the long run.

Replace Yelling and Screaming with Humor

Ironically, humor can be a much more effective and not as hardline alternative to yelling. “If the parent responds with a sense of humor, you still maintain your authority and keep them connected to you,” says Dr. Markham. Laughter seems like a more welcomed outcome than cowering.

Not Yelling at Kids Isn’t About “Letting Them Off Easy”

Parents may feel like they’re putting their foot down and delivering adequate discipline when they yell at their kids. What they’re really doing is exacerbating the problem. When parents yell at toddlers they create fear, which prevents kids from learning from the situation or recognizing that their parents are trying to protect them. Scaring a kid at the moment may get them to knock off what they’re doing, but it’s also eroding trust in the relationship. Learning how to slow your reaction and stop yelling at your kids isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

How to Stop Yelling at Kids

  • Recognize your triggers.
  • Remember young children aren’t trying to push your buttons. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Consider that yelling teaches children that adversity can only be met with a raised and angry voice.
  • Use humor to help a kid disengage from problematic behavior. Laughter is better than yelling and tears.
  • Train yourself to raise your voice only in crucial situations where a child might get hurt.
  • Focus on calm dialogue. Yelling shuts down communication and often prevents lessons from being learned.

Parents Who Yell at Kids Train Kids to Yell

“Normalize” is a word that gets thrown about a lot these days, but parents shouldn’t underestimate how much power they have over what behavior children learn is acceptable. Parents who constantly yell and shout make that behavior normal for a kid, and eventually, kids will adapt to it. As easy as it is in the moment to yell at a kid, the long term effects could backfire. Dr. Markham notes that if a child doesn’t bat an eye when they’re being scolded, that’s a good indicator that there’s too much scolding going on. Instead, parents need to first and foremost be models of self-regulation. In essence, to really get a kid to behave, grown-ups have to behave first. Learning to resist the urge to yell in response to every instance of bad behavior is a good place to start.

When It’s Okay to Yell at Kids

While the majority of the time yelling isn’t prescriptive, “there are times it’s great to raise your voice,” says Dr. Markham. “When you have kids hitting each other, like siblings, or there’s a real danger.” These are instances when shocking them by shouting works, but Markham says that once you get a kid’s attention you should modulate your voice. Basically, yell to warn, but speak to explain.

Nobody is going to stifle themselves around their kids all the time, nor should they. That’s not what it’s like to be a person. But failing to do so on a daily basis and constantly yelling and shouting is probably a less than productive long-term parenting strategy.

It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak.

How to stop yelling at your kids

By Stephen Marche

The use of spanking to discipline children has been in decline for 50 years. But yelling? Almost everybody still yells at their kids sometimes, even the parents who know it doesn’t work. Yelling may be the most widespread parental stupidity around today.

Households with regular shouting incidents tend to have children with lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression. A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development demonstrated that yelling produces results similar to physical punishment in children: increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression along with an increase in behavioral problems.

How many times in your parenting life have you thought to yourself, after yelling at your kids, “Well, that was a good decision. ”?

It doesn’t make you look authoritative. It makes you look out of control to your kids. It makes you look weak. And you’re yelling, let’s be honest, because you are weak. Yelling, even more than spanking, is the response of a person who doesn’t know what else to do.

But most parents — myself included — find it hard to imagine how to get through the day without yelling. The new research on yelling presents parents with twin problems: What do I do instead? And how do I stop?

Yelling to stop your kids from running into traffic is not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about yelling as a form of correction. Yelling for correction is ineffective as a tool and merely imprints the habit of yelling onto the children. We yell at our kids over the same stuff every day, and we yell at them some more because the original yelling doesn’t work. Put your clothes away. Come down for dinner. Don’t ride the dog. Stop hitting your brother.

The mere knowledge that yelling is bad, in itself, won’t help, said Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. Yelling is not a strategy, it’s a release.

“If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” Dr. Kazdin said. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.” There are other strategies, and they don’t involve screaming like a maniac.

Many think of positivity as a form of laziness, as if parents who are positive aren’t disciplining their children. But not yelling requires advance planning and discipline for the parents, which yelling doesn’t.

Dr. Kazdin promotes a program called the ABCs, which stands for antecedents, behaviors and consequences. The antecedent is the setup, telling a child, specifically, what you want them to do before you want them to do it. Behaviors are where the behavior is defined and shaped, modeled by the parent. And the consequence involves an expression of approval when that behavior is performed, an over-the top Broadway-style belt-it-to-the-back-row expression of praise with an accompanying physical gesture of approval.

So instead of yelling at your kid every night for the shoes strewn across the floor, ask him in the morning if he can put his shoes away when he comes home. Make sure when you come home that you put your own shoes away. And if your child puts his shoes away, or even puts them closer to where they’re supposed to be, tell him that he did a great job and then hug him.

The ABC method of praise is a highly specific technique. You have to be effusive, so you actually have to put a big dumb smile on your face and even wave your hands in the air. Next thing is you have to say, in a very high, cheerful voice, exactly what you’re praising. And then the third part is you have to touch the child and give him some kind of nonverbal praise. The silliness is a feature, not a bug. It makes the kid notice the praise that accompanies correct behavior. And that’s the point.

“We want to build habits,” Dr. Kazdin said. “The practice actually changes the brain, and in the process of that, the behaviors that you want to get rid of, having all kinds of temper tantrums and all the fights, all that just disappears.” Furthermore, he noted, “as a side effect, when you do these things, the parents’ depression and stress in fact go down and family relations pick up.”

If our kids behave better, then we won’t feel like yelling. And if we don’t yell, our kids will behave better.

The beauty of having a system is that instead of reacting after your kids do something bad, instead of waiting for them to mess up and then getting angry, you have a conscious plan. But planning requires discipline on the part of the parent, and it’s tough. “We know that humans have what’s called a negativity bias,” Dr. Kazdin says. “The technical term for that in psychology is ‘normal.’ This is something in the brain, in which through evolution we are very much sensitive to negative things in the environment.”

We are hard-wired to yell. It’s an evolutionary survival instinct that has turned on those it was meant to protect. It’s hard to abandon yelling, because it gives us the impression that we’re parenting.

In the 1960s, 94 percent of parents used physical punishment. A poll in 2010 found the number had declined to 22 percent. There are probably many reasons, including the influence of a number of childhood development educators. But surely one reason has to be that the reason to spank your kids evaporates if there’s a more effective way to change their behavior that doesn’t involve violence. Why spank if it doesn’t work? The same applies to yelling: Why are you yelling? It isn’t for the kids’ sake.

Ultimately, techniques of discipline have to be about effectiveness, about getting through the day while trying to get your kids to do what you want and not do what you don’t want. Praise works. Punishment doesn’t.

Stephen Marche is a novelist and the host of a parenting podcast available on Audible.

Four-year-olds and two-year-olds are not going to be “good” all the time. I am sure that your husband has unrealistic expectations regarding their age-appropriate behavior and their ability to behave like he wants them to. As opposed to saying that he is wrong and you are right regarding how you discipline your children, suggest to him that you both need to find better ways to parent your kids, especially in the arena of discipline. Your husband is screaming at your kids because he wasn’t taught a better way of dealing with them. You’ve heard the phrase, “When you know better, you do better.” Rather than tell him he is the problem and he needs to get help with his temper, suggest that you want to see a family therapist with him and maybe take some parenting classes, too, in an attempt to come together on how you parent the kids. Offer him praise for what he does well with the kids and admit to wanting and needing some help yourself. Tell him that you want to feel like you are a good team, that you support each other. Once you begin therapy and parenting classes, he’ll have the opportunity to learn different techniques of disciplining your kids.

Telling him that he has to change or you’ll leave him will not bring about the changes that your family needs. If he refuses every invitation of yours to go see someone together and continues to emotionally abuse the kids, then you’ll have to consider whether your kids will indeed be better off without his daily presence.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he’s been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and many other publications.

Stop me if you’ve ever been in a situation like this one. . .

You’ve had a long day—the kind where nothing seems to go right. Now, when you’re supposed to be enjoying family time, your kids will not stop bickering over the most insignificant things.

While they’re arguing over who can drink their water faster, you realize that you’ve finally had enough. You interject, pleading with them to stop because you’re afraid one of them might choke—and, let’s be honest, you just want a little peace and quiet.

Then it happens. Your sweet child turns to you and says, “Shut up, Mom.”

That’s your trigger. You take a deep breath and start yelling your head off. You’re human and you yell because you feel so disrespected, and it’s been such a hard day. . . a hard week. . . a hard month. . . a hard year!

You’d never yell at a friend, or a coworker, or a neighbor, so how could you possibly have it in you to yell at your child?

Understanding Why Parents Yell

There are several reasons why parents yell at their children. It could be:

  • an attempt to get your child to literally hear or listen to you
  • a way of asserting dominance
  • because you simply lost your temper

But unless you’re shouting in a crowd to get your child’s attention, yelling is never the best way to accomplish your parenting goals.

In my TEDx Talk, The Rebellion Is Here – We Created it, We Can Solve It, I talk about the external locus of control, or the thought process of using rewards and punishments to control behavior. When parents turn to controlling forms of discipline—like yelling—they’re relying on external factors to create what they believe will be well-behaved children.

If you’ve fallen into this trap before, give yourself some grace. Most people resort to this method of thinking, particularly in moments of stress. But it isn’t effective, and it certainly doesn’t lead to “better” behavior.

Overcoming the Instinct to Yell

Just as there’s an external locus of control, there’s an internal locus of control. The internal locus of control addresses underlying, unmet needs. It’s not about what’s happening on the outside; rather, it’s about everything going on inside that is causing undesirable behavior.

When children act out, it’s often their way of expressing an unmet need. This same logic can be applied to a parent who acts out by yelling, too.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t think logically when you’re completely mentally drained. Yelling or losing your temper is always a sign to check in with yourself, as a parent and as a person, to understand why you acted out.

As it turns out, yelling or other controlling forms of discipline don’t stop this cycle. In fact, they actually lead to your child acting out more, through retaliation, rebellion, and resentment.

Yelling can cause lasting psychological damage in children. And it never addresses the root of the problem. If you find yourself about to scream or shout, it’s probably best for everyone involved that you remove yourself from the situation and find a different outlet.

The next time you wind yourself up to yell, pause. Ask yourself how you might respond to that sort of discipline—and if it would cause you to change your behavior.

Instead, turn away, take a few deep breaths, and return to your child with a clearer head. You’ll have the opportunity to communicate with them in a manner that fosters security and connection.

At the end of the day, parents are all doing their best in difficult situations. But it’s important to remember that children are in that very same position. And when you find different ways of communicating with your child, it’s easier to remember that you’re both on the same team.

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

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If you are a parent, you’ve probably lost your temper with your kids and have yelled at them at some point. We parents are only human, and kids can sometimes be really good at pushing our buttons and challenging us with behavior problems such as defiance and backtalk.

Yelling and losing our cool, in other words, can sometimes happen. But if yelling is an all-too-frequent occurrence in your home, it may be time for you to take stock of what’s going on and consider some alternative ways to communicate with your child.

Reasons Yelling Is Not Effective

There are several reasons why yelling is not an ideal form of discipline and is, in fact, a common discipline mistake. The most important thing to ask yourself is what your child is learning when he is disciplined in this manner, and how he may be affected by being yelled at regularly. Here are some reasons why you may want to lower your voice and calm down before you discipline your child.

It Tells Kids That Aggression Is OK

Raising your voice may get your child’s attention in the immediate term, but it’s important to think about what yelling is teaching your child. When you raise your voice, your child learns that aggression is an acceptable way to communicate.

Just as spanking your child will teach her that hitting is a good way to discipline, your child will see yelling as something you should do to get your point across when there is a problem or a conflict.

Yelling Loses Its Effectiveness

Will yelling get your child's attention in the short term? Yes. But here's the thing: Raising your voice all the time can dull the effectiveness of yelling or using a firm tone of voice later on. It's akin to someone crying wolf all the time; eventually, you would tune it out. By raising your voice regularly, you are creating a situation where your child will be less likely to listen to you.

It's Not Respectful

How would you feel if your boss yelled at you when you made a mistake? What if your partner or a friend or family member spoke to you in this way during a fight? Would you feel defensive and hurt and angry or would you feel more inclined to hear what he or she was saying?

No matter what the person is trying to say, odds are you will be more inclined to hear that person out and really think about what is being said to you if you are treated with respect and spoken to in a cordial manner.

Your Child Will Retreat or Become Angry

Human beings have a natural reaction to being yelled at. We either retreat or respond in anger. These are the reactions you will get from your child when you lose your cool, and whether or not your child's behavior is corrected, you should ask yourself if it's worth the price.

You Losing Control of Your Own Emotions

Disapproval, disappointment, and displeasure: those are pretty powerful weapons in a parent's discipline arsenal. But yelling shows your child that you are not in control–something you definitely do not want when you are asserting authority.

Yelling May Be More Harmful Than We Think

Recent research has shown that yelling may be as harmful as spanking. (Some parents, of course, choose to spank, but many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, do not support spanking and point to research showing the negative effects of corporal punishment, especially when parents hit kids in anger.)

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that using harsh verbal discipline, which includes shouting, cursing, or using insults, may be just as damaging to kids as hitting them. They found that kids who had experienced harsh verbal discipline from parents were more likely to be depressed or exhibit antisocial or behavioral problems.​

Alternative Strategies

So how do we stop yelling, and what can we do instead to convey our unhappiness when kids misbehave? Here are some strategies to try:

Give Yourself a Time Out

When you find yourself losing your cool, take a few minutes (15, 20, or more–whatever it takes) to calm down and do something else. Then, you can revisit the problem when you can clearly explain to your child what you want her to do differently the next time and what the consequences will be if she does not follow your instructions.

(For example, if she didn’t set the table after you asked her to do it 5 times, explain to her that she will set the table right away the next time; if she does not listen, she will have to clear it and help load the dishwasher, too.) Taking time to calm yourself down is a great way to discipline with a Zen attitude.

Make It Easier for Them to Not Fail

Try to see things from your child’s point of view. If you ask him to do something while he’s in the middle of a video game or show you gave him permission to play or watch, it’s likely he won’t respond right away; give him a 10-minute heads up and let him know you want him to stop soon.

If he resorted to lying about something, find out why he did what he did before you react in anger. If he’s prone to dawdling, come up with ways to help him speed things up. In other words, set your child up to behave and figure out what went wrong when he doesn’t.

List the Things Your Child Does Right

The next time you are angry with your child, try this exercise: List all the things she does right. You can do this in your head while you're cooling off. Then, when it comes time to sit down and talk to your child about her behavior and what you expect her to do to fix it, you can also tell your child about all the things you think she is great at doing, and why you expect her to be able to do better next time.

Speak Gently to Maximize Your Impact

Once you have calmed down, sit down with your child and ask him for his full attention. Speak in a calm and clear manner (and keep it short for younger kids) and tell him why you are unhappy with his behavior and what you would like him to do differently going forward. Just as you would teach your child good manners by using those manners yourself, the way you speak to your child will be the way your child speaks to you.

Never Insult Your Child or Use Curses

Whatever the behavior problem is or how frustrating it may be, remember that words can be a very powerful tool that can easily become a weapon. Just as you can build a child’s confidence with encouragement, you can tear her down with insults or curses. Be very aware of what you say to your child as well as how you say it.