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Could You Go a Week Without Yelling at Your Kids

For every mom out there saying, "Sure, no problem," there are thousands more shouting, "Impossible!" Here's how a confirmed yeller got through seven whole days using her inside voice.

Day 4: It's a tone thing

I go way easier on my kids today to make up for the pizza episode. When I find a trail of Goldfish crumbs across the living room, I don't conduct an interrogation; I Dustbust. When Maggie insists on wearing a tutu to the library even though it's 40 degrees outside, I let her wear it stuffed under her coat. I start to actually feel the calm I'm working so hard to project. I even think my kids are more peaceful. When David comes home, I meet him at the door to tell him my progress.

ME: "I didn't yell today! For real!" I shoo the kids upstairs while he raids the refrigerator.
DAVID: "Wow — good for you."
ME: "Kids! I said turn the TV off! Move it!" He sticks his head around the fridge door.
DAVID: "Uh. You're yelling."
ME: "That's not yelling!"
DAVID: "It's kind of yelling."
ME: "This! Isn't yelling! It's how I talk!" David smirks like someone who has just had his point made for him. "How else do I get them to brush their teeth the first dozen times I ask?"
DAVID: "Well, it's not only about decibel level."
ME: "What is it, a tone thing?"
DAVID: "If you notice, I don't really talk to the kids like you do."
ME: "If you notice, you don't really take care of the kids like I do." You can probably guess how the rest of the evening went: not so much volume, lots of "tone."

Day 5: Thar she blows!

Okay. Yesterday I thought I wasn't yelling and maybe I was, but today, I do not yell, in decibel or in tone. I smile and ask nicely, no matter how many times I have to repeat myself. This may be considered success, but I'm so stressed from the effort that I might blow a gasket. Then dinnertime arrives.

"I didn't want ketchup on my hamburger!" Seamus howls. "I wanted it NEXT to my hamburger! It's RUINED, and YOU RUINED IT, MOMMY!" I stand still, gripping the kitchen counter, but it's not working — probably because he can see that Mommy Teapot is about to boil over.

Later my friend AJ tells me, "When one of my kids really gets going, I whip out the camera and tell them I want to capture the moment."

"And they stop whining?!" I ask.

"Sorta," she says. "At least it gives me something to do besides throttling them." Huh. I've been meaning to take more pictures of the kids....

Day 6: The simple truth

My friend Cece calls from Chicago at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. As soon as I answer the phone, all three of my children start pulling on my pajamas wanting their second breakfast — you know, the one kids demand as soon as you finish dumping out the cereal they didn't eat 20 minutes earlier.

"I will make you French toast, but I'm on the phone," I hiss, and after a few minutes trying to catch up with Cece, crack eggs, and break up three fights, I hang up and tell them how disappointed I am in what I must admit is a slightly raised voice. The rest of the day, I focus mostly on the kids, and things go more smoothly.

Suddenly I realize: multitasking causes yelling. If I don't attempt to do anything besides parent my kids — including getting dressed and using the bathroom — why, I won't have to yell!

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