This Little Miggy Stayed Home: The Yelling Drug

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Yelling Drug

Last summer we traveled to Texas for the Mr. to do an internship.  We got to stay with his cousins who live there, and who lived in NYC with us during our first year.  B's cousin is Dave, and Dave is married to Amber.  They have 3 beautiful children.  Amber is one of those angel of those moms who is always calm and always has her act together.  Scripture study every night?  Done.  Family home evening on Monday night?  Done.  Dave is a very busy oral surgery resident and during our week long visit I think he came home 3 or 4 times total.  Busy.  Therefore Amber is often left to do the parenting gig solo for long stretches at a time.  

As we were sitting around one night talking about parenting, I was praising her wonderful mothering abilities.  She truly is one of my mom mentors.  Ever the humble mom, she confided that she recently went through a yelling phase with her kids.  She said she was yelling a lot for some reason and really had to nip it in the bud.  Of course Dave laughed and said Amber's yelling "phase" was like a week.  Nevertheless, she didn't want to continue doing so.  Then she said something that has really stuck with me.  She said, Well it's so tempting to yell because it actually worked, they actually listened.  

My mind really mulled this information over and over and this is what I came up with.  

Yelling is like a drug.  It's most effective it's first use.  Each subsequent use is less and less effective, but more and more addictive.   

Having grown up in a 'yelling' home and thus being someone who still struggles not to yell from time to time, I have thought about this topic a lot.  I know it's not good, I know I didn't like it as a child, but I've had a hard time putting my finger on why yelling is so harmful or negative.  For someone like Amber, someone who really never yells, this happened to be effective because her children never see her like that and therefore mommy must have meant business.  It was the first time she used the drug and yowza! those children listened up real quick.  However, the whole reason her comment struck me was that I grew up around yelling and I can tell you it is not effective at all, especially when it is done frequently.    

Having never used drugs myself, I've heard that with most drugs you're always chasing that first high.  The longer you continue to use, the less effective the sensation becomes.  Therefore you're using more frequently and in larger doses...which should translate to a really great high, but as your body becomes more and more used to this foreign substance the sensation is less and less effective, but the negative effects are becoming more and more apparent.  Again, so I've heard.       

So for parents who yell and yell and yell their children become used to it and they stop responding the way you want them to.  When your drug of choice isn't working anymore you have to increase the frequency of use, or start yelling even louder.  There might be occasional short term success, but no lasting positive results.  In fact every time you submit to the drug  you  lose credibility with your loved ones.  Thus lessening the results you wanted {obedience, respect} and increasing negative results you didn't want {disobedience, disrespect}.  

Being a mom is stressful at times.  Like most parents I have, on occasion, given in to the yelling drug.  Of course I'm never proud of losing my cool, but I also just assumed it would happen from time to time {and realistically, it will}. However since that conversation with Amber, I've never looked at it the same way.  Each time I've yelled I think to myself I've just lost credibility with my loved ones.  I was not more effective, I was less effective.  Having looked at it from this perspective has really helped me make the conscious effort not to yell.  Of course prayer helps too.  

It might be tempting to think well if I only yell every once in a while, then it will be effective with no long lasting negative results.  However, when you submit to something like the yelling drug, promising only to do it in small doses you can never really know for sure if you're in control of it or if it's in control of you.  And, like using drugs, it's simply a substitute for the real thing--a cheap imitation.  It's fake respect earned through fear instead of love.  A weakness masked as strength.  
I'm certainly no parenting expert, and I really know nothing about child psychology but I think we all learn little lessons from time to time that might be valuable to share with others--I hope this will be helpful for someone else as this idea and lesson has been helpful for me.     


  1. That's a good point. I wish I could say I've never had yelling phases. I haven't yelled in awhile, though and it seems like the less I yell, the less I need to yell. When I yell it just escalates my own stress and seems to make things worse.
    I may need some New York advice from you. I think I am going to attempt a day trip out there and ned help figuring out where to park my car, etc.Are you going to Heather Ward's shower?

  2. i love it. it's like an epiphany. that metaphor totally works and i appreciate you sharing it. parenting is a tough gig sometimes.

  3. This is brilliant. should publish this little number in some sort of parenting magazine.

  4. I totally feel the same way. I too grew up in a yelling home or a really loud voice home and it is so second nature to digress to yelling. I find myself wanting to do the things that I vowed as a child I would never do to my kids. Then I feel bad.

  5. I am echoing the brilliant remark and yes, a parenting magazine, or blog --- like momformation or babycenter or something. I liked it.

    I needed it.

    I grew up in a yelling house too. Mostly my mom -- 95% my mom. Just today, Max was doing something he wasn't supposed to do and I yelled NO!!! MAX!!!! He got really scared and shied his face away from me and got really quiet. I told him I was sorry and he hugged me and buried his face into my side. I said "are you okay?" and he said he was scared. I said, "scared of what?" And then ..... the worst thing of all....

    He pointed at me.

    My heart broke.

    Thank you. I need to work on this too.

  6. Great Post Amy. I think you are so right, although I'm not really there with Daphne yet. With yelling and hitting, you have to do it louder or harder each time to make an impact, and the message is lost along the way. All they can think about it the punishment, not the desired outcome. I remember studying with my mom for a spelling test once, and she yelled at me for the right answer. I couldn't think a thing about spelling, only about not getting in trouble...she didn't yell a lot, my parents definitely commanded respect without any of that. I hope my children are just as afraid to "disappoint" me and Will as I was to disappoint (i.e. get in trouble) my parents!

  7. This was something that I always used to do when my older kids were little--in frustration, and since I was married to an abusive man, I would take it out on my little ones---not even realizing it.

    But now I am married to an amazing sensitive quiet man, and with my little guy, I hardly ever yell---and when I do---he usually starts crying because it is so harsh.

    I sometimes wish that I could go back and be the kind of Mom then that I am now...but I can't, so I just try to never repeat those days.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. Even without firsthand experience as a mom, I can see the wisdom.

  9. Oh boy, so very true. I grew up in a yelling home too, and promised I never WOULD. But I do, on occasion. And always regret it.

    Yelling = drugs. I like it. This post gets a gold star.

  10. I found your blog and I think this post in incredibly awesome!!! I think you should submit this to Parenting Magazine for sure! You might be able to get some money for this so that would be a plus right?

  11. this post made such an impact on me. i kept it as "new" in my reader and i have reread it several times. i even shared your philosophy with a few people i know and a couple of strangers i was talking to at the gym. i hate yelling at my kids but it is so nice to be listened to once in a while that it IS addictive. but the subsequent guilt, tears and fear that follow are not worth it.
    pat yourself on the back. you have made an impact for good on the world.

  12. Thanks for everyone's feedback. I'm happy that this was helpful for others. I hesitated to even post this blog.... so I'm glad I did. Thanks.

  13. Such a meaningful post. This is something I've been concentrating my efforts on this year {new years resolution!} ever since I lost my voice last year and saw the effect my silence had on the kids. Your post has given me an entirely new perspective and increased motivation! Thanks!

    You asked about the Ensign article-- you mean the one about the the child trying to carry the milk into the house alone? Or a different one? There have been so many that have spoken to me over the years!