This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Do You Yell?

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Do You Yell?

These photos are from our beautiful family session last year with Alex Davis Photography

If you're feeling frazzled, and you find yourself yelling at your children, only to feel completely overwhelmed with guilt and self loathing, which leads to more frazzled feelings and eventually more yelling...well this post is for you. 

The other day I shared on my Instagram stories a little bit of my struggle to keep my frustration and yelling in check with my kids. Ugh, it's such a terrible thing to admit to isn't it? I don't think anyone is happy to admit they yell at their kids, but from what I've read (and based on the response I got) I do think it is something the majority of us struggle with, at least from time to time. In my little confessional of sorts I asked for tips, tricks and book recommendations that have helped people get their yelling under control.

I had so many people respond that I decided to do an Instagram live chat about it (which was really fun!) and several people asked for a follow up blog post as well. So here it is. Please share any additional thoughts, books, strategies or tips you may have below.

Keep in mind that everyone is different! What works for one person, won't work for another. Same with the books, articles, etc. Make sure you read through the book's premise and the reviews before making any commitments. And good gravy, I am certainly no expert! And this isn't meant to replace actual professional advice. 

You're in Good Company
As usual when you share something like this there is the fear of judgment, but there is also the hope for understanding. I was grateful to receive the latter. Like most people I feel bad about this weakness, but over the years I've also tried to keep it in perspective and realize that a lot of parents struggle with this. Good parents. If you too struggle with yelling at your kids, well you're in good company. Without trying to minimize or justify the action, it's important to know you're not alone. Here are some things people shared with me. Maybe you can relate:

“I feel like there’s something wrong with me sometimes!”

“I’m tired of being the yelling monster… I always say sorry when I feel I took the easy way by yelling…”

“Some days I feel bi-polar because I apologize for yelling and then switch back to yelling within like an hour…but at least that’s better than being angry the whole day right?”

“I hate myself the moment my eyes turn to lasers and my voice gets loud and out of control.”

"I feel like I have to yell at them in order for the to do things around the chores..."

Loving Kindness + Non Judgmental Observation
I really, really believe the first step is letting go of all the self hatred. We think that by berating ourselves it’s somehow going to help, but just like with other people the best way for a habit to change is fostered in an environment of loving kindness and observing without judgment. A dear friend of mine has taught me about this principle and while it can seem counter intuitive (shouldn't we be upset at ourselves when we do something we're ashamed of?) studies show that people are more likely to change a habit they know is not good for them, when they're observe that habit without judgment. Another word for this is mindfulness.

My friend also taught me the importance of changing your thought patterns about yourself. Instead of getting down on yourself for being "a bad mom" even if you feel justified because you truly regret what you did, instead think of a true, positive opposite. Example: "I'm such a terrible mother, I yelled at my kids again. I am such a monster." Replace that thought with, "I love my kids a lot and I know I would do anything for them." Kindness, even towards ourselves is a much more positive force for change than beating ourselves up. 

Here are some of the common difficulties and challenges we face when we start yelling.

--Single mom/never having a break

--No time for self care

--Sensory overload--Too much constant noise, screaming, touching, children pulling on us, etc.

--Being caught off guard and reacting in the moment

Here is a list of books, websites and articles people shared that have helped them. Most of these are books unless otherwise noted. (Also, full disclosure, the links to Amazon are affiliate links.)

I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary and Joy Lundberg

No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel 

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid by Dr. Laura Markham

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Just Tell Me What to Say and You're Not the Boss of Me by Betsey Brown Braun

No Spanking, No Time outs, No Problem (article) by Olga Khazan

Growing Up Mindful by Christopher Willard, PsyD

Other Strategies: 
Here are some other strategies that people wrote in to me about. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for you. In fact, I just read a wonderful book called Better than Before by Gretchen Ruben about habit formation and how each of us are motivated differently to create good habits. We are after all trying to form a new and better habit by not yelling. 

My friend Miranda of Live Free Creative Co wrote a post recently discussing how she was going to get her yelling under control. She said, "Basically the way that I try not to yell at my kids is by deciding that I'm not going to yell at them. And then re-deciding that again every single day."

"I was a yeller and I hated that I was a yeller... Once I really stepped back, I decided to really look at my life. And decided that I needed to say no more and really say yes to the things that brought joy to our family and our home. Helping friends out with kid was well intentioned but often brought more stress for me, which made me yell more. Being on the PTA board at the girls' school--we have 4 girls--while it was well intentioned, it brought more stress. So I made a choice to evaluate the extras in our life and to say no more.... As I began to say no more and yes more to my girls, my family and the things that truly brought me joy, the easier it was for me not to yell."

"I've also noticed that my temper is shorter in coordination with my cycle--not just when I'm getting close to my period but also when it's around ovulation time. I assume it's just the hormone spike. But being aware of that helps me keep my cool a little more."

"My most successful (but not perfect) response to kid frustration is, "I'm not going to yell, but if you don't follow my directions right now, you will have a consequence" in a voice softer than normal."

Letting your kids know you’re reaching the breaking point! “My husband reminds me it’s OK for your children to know your limit and what is too far…” Another mom said something similar, "We do this thing where I give my kid the you want mean mommy or nice mommy today? And so she knows I'm getting frustrated but she gets to option of whether she wants me to behave or if she wants to get in trouble."

"I've made progress (we're working on progress not perfection right?) now that ahead of time I've decide I'm not going to cream and yell. I walk away if I can and breathe. I grab him and hug him a lot instead of yell. I talk quietly instead of yell. I came up with 4-5 strategies to use when I feel like I'm going to use it. I wrote them down in my journal and review them often. It has helped...but again I still snap sometimes!"

"It helps me to have my husband take the kids out to play while I made dinner. I think my spirit needs that quiet alone time to recharge between work and home..."


Wow, that was some great insight and advice. I am eager to jump into a couple of those parenting books and so is my husband. We recognize that while we love our kids and they know we love them, there is a lot of room for improvement in our parenting. I hope this was helpful for you as well.

Lastly I just want to say that sometimes we really do need more than just a book, an article, or even a break for a day or two. Sometimes we need help on a bigger scale, like counseling, therapy or even medication. If your dark days seem to outnumber the light ones I would encourage you to seek help--start by talking to a trusted friend or loved one. One of the reasons I was so eager to talk about this is that in my experience the worst thing you can do is keep negative and scary thoughts inside. Yes I don't want the whole world knowing I yell at my kids, but at the same time the shame of it and treating it like a secret makes it worse. We're so afraid to let bad thoughts or habits be spoken out loud, as if speaking them out loud give them actual life or something. But I don't think speaking them out loud gives them life, I think keeping them inside is actually what gives them life and helps them grow. Good things need air and sunshine to grow... bad things are the opposite, they need secret and darkness to grow. Just something to think about. 

As always I'd love to hear your thoughts, feelings and suggestions below! TLM has always been an extremely kind and supportive space, I hope that we can continue to have that kindness and support here. XO


  1. Great post! This is definitely something I'm working on and you gave some great resources. I especially love the idea of mindfulness.

    1. Yes! I really need to continue working on mindfulness as well as I think it makes a huge difference.

  2. This is such a valuable post. The hardest part of yelling to my kids is the shame. Reading this reminded me about the not being alone part... and gives me hope.

    Extra props to you for keeping it real and admitting to parenting room for improvement. So many mommy blogs (though I don't think yours fits into the typical mommy blog, in a good way) can leave us readers feeling so far less than perfect.

    One last thing: I started 'How to Talk so your Kids will Listen..." and though I was finding it made a lot of sense, I felt a good chunk of the advice was hard to implement with my four year old. I just found out they came out with a version for litle kids! So for those with 2-7 year olds, this should be the better version:
    "How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7"

    1. YES. The shame really does make it that much more difficult. When we think we're the only ones... it really is such a terrible feeling. And thanks for the other book recommendations!

  3. Also would suggest any books by Ross Green

  4. I also find I am so conscious of when my son (9) doesn't get enough sleep and reacts badly to things because of that, and yet I'm less conscious of my own tiredness and how i react badly if I haven't had enough sleep. Not enough sleep for me = more yell-y. Not enough sleep for him = doing things that make me want to yell ;) Also screen time. He tries to squeeze in screen time before school and we just can't. Everytime we try, it ends with us running late because he hasn't done what is needed first despite promising he had. So no screens in the morning. Would be good for me to follow this too! Great post.

    1. Right???? I know that I really need to be more cognizant of my sleep schedule.

  5. A great book to read with your children is 'When mum turned into a monster ' by Joanna Harrison. I identified with the mother! I think it helped the kids to understand their behaviour can influence yours.

    1. That's so funny because one of my kids just checked out a book like this but it's about the teacher who is a monster... and I was like, "Oh, I can relate to that teacher a little bit.."

  6. Este S.10:28 AM

    One trick I found very helpful (and still do as my 15 1/2 year old just got her learner's permit for driving) is to force yourself to start your response with a term of endearment. It sounds crazy, but if you make yourself say "sweetheart" or "Honey" or "My lovely girls" it diffuses a lot of the anger and frustration and you can sometimes calm down. It's (almost!) impossible to yell or talk in the mean voice when you are using those words.

    1. Good trick. I'll give it a try.

  7. I have found that there is this belief, especially prevalent among LDS moms, that if you have children, this means you have to be with them basically 24/7. I'm not sure if it's more of this idea of "this is what you wanted"...therefore you should want it ALL the time OR "you chose to have these children"...therefore you alone must take care of them every moment of their lives because they are your responsibility. Either way, I think it's damaging. I mean, everyone needs a break! And I'm not talking about an hour once a week. I know a few mothers DO want to spend nearly all their time with their kids (which is awesome) but many could use a substantial break (which is also awesome). Whether you can afford to hire childcare for a day or two a week to just have time to yourself, work a part-time job, or even just work a part-time job in the evenings when your partner is home, I wish mothers would give themselves emotional permission to take some time away from their small kids. And to make changes as needed. I currently work 4 days a week and I have 3 small children. While I don't love being away from them THAT much, I'm pregnant with #4 and my patience wears thin VERY quickly when I'm pregnant and I know it's better for my mental health and probably for my children for me to work until baby is born. We are lucky enough to have a nanny (who's been with us for 2+ years) who really loves our children so even though I am a bit sad to not spend more time with my kids right now, I'm comforted that they're spending the day with someone who really cares for them...and I know I wouldn't be doing a great job at that in my current state anyway. Anyway, I find I can be a lot more patient with my kids when I'm not with them for 16 hours straight! All day with the kids = high probability for me of yelling at least once! I know it's not possible for all families, especially those with children with special needs. And I hope this doesn't come across as either snobby or that I don't love my children. I do - I really do! I am just a miserable person when pregnant (and I'm super excited that this is our last...19 weeks to go! :).

    1. I agree. I think this was especially true as this really did seem to happen with many of the moms around me when I was growing up. I know of several of my friends moms who lived, breathed and did everything for their kids and (while I obviously don't really know this part since I didn't live there and we were already school aged) it seemed they never took a break! I will say it's even been a struggle with my husband at times (and myself) to shift away from this mentality. I think he saw his mom as one of those "she did it all" moms and thought that was how it was supposed to be. I actually do have a sitter twice a week so I can work on my blog, art and even just have some time to myself, but it's been years in the making. And it wasn't just a shift in him, I had to stop feeling guilt over it as well and let myself do this. Like you I am a much better mom not just when I've had a break from my kids, but when I feel fulfilled in other areas of my life.

    2. Oh my gosh I hope you didn't read my comment as an "accusation"! :/ I wasn't commenting about your mothering - just a general observation of people I know personally - and something I've been working through myself these last 6+ years of mothering. I would never judge another mother - least of all one I've never met! Anyway, I'm glad you have time set aside to follow your own interests. It's so important to be able to do that! (Though I find it's sadly often hard for mothers to identify what those interests are - especially those of us who are not exactly creative types or if you haven't followed your own interests for so long that you've forgotten what they are). Anyway, thank you for your honest post and your blog in general! It's one of my faves :)

    3. RBC--I wasn't offended at all! Just agreeing with you and telling you that the mindset is deeply ingrained, even when you want to break out of it.

  8. Anonymous11:09 AM