Do you yell at your children?

Cherished. Adored. And yelled at from time to time.

I’m got a confession to make… I yell at my children.

I’ve been putting off telling you all, since I know what the backlash will be. Some of you will write calm but vicious emails. Many of you will ‘unlike’ me on Facebook. But still, I feel the need to confess.

You see I’m concerned that society is getting awfully confused about anger and that we’re sending our kids such strange messages about how to handle it. So while we aim for aggression free homes, our kids are playing increasingly violent games and then heading out onto the streets as ‘youth’ (I love that word), getting drunk and beating the shit out of each other.

Let’s get this straight – under NO circumstance do I condone violence. I applaud public policy that tackles domestic violence. Everyone deserves the right to live in a non-abusive home.

And perhaps there lies the problem. We’re so focused on removing serious aggression from society that we’re now unable to freely discuss anger and parenting. It’s become totally taboo. If I admit that I can’t totally control my impulses and I do yell at my kids, I am a bad parent.

So do you yell at your kids?

I seriously ‘lose it’ about once a month. It’s never for no reason. It’s after the kids have been requested and warned. Then warned again. And then yet again they are still not doing as I asked. And what I’m asking is reasonable. And they’re still not doing it despite my best and calmest efforts. And I lose it.

I don’t use swear words. I don’t call them demeaning names or degrade them. I don’t hit them. But I yell and let them know that they have pushed me beyond my limits.

Sound familiar?

I was raised in a really happy and loving home with a glorious mother who had some fairly volatile moments. I remember them. They terrified me. But I learnt to behave myself and learnt to respect that all humans, no matter how much you love them and they love you, have limits. You can only push so far. She’d warn us if she was having a ‘bad day’ and we would tred carefully. I find myself doing this with my own kids – “you know what kids – some days, you can get away with getting paint on the carpet. But not today. Don’t try it today.”

I’m wondering what’s so bad about teaching kids the skill of ‘reading’ people. Of understanding that the world isn’t sanitized. You can’t always predict people. You need emotional perception in order to develop skills to successfully negotiate school, work, public transport, life.

I’m not sure how much a totally calm home environment helps. Because we all feel anger. And whether we like it or not, anger gets expressed in a variety of ways. Surely it’s good to understand it. Know what it feels like. Know when it’s safe to express it and when it’s not. Know how to love and respect people. Know when you can and can’t push them.

What do you think?

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32 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Debs said,

    you yell once a month, you’re a better parent than I am!!!!

  2. 3

    Renee Mills said,

    yes i yell sometimes at my child i think its perfectly normal to raise your voice especially if they are in danger or something i need to warn them not to touch

  3. 4

    Squee said,

    Oh yes I do! I’m a rather passionate person on both ends of the scale. It’s who I am, it’s not going to change. I sometimes feel terribly guilty after I yell and it probably doesn’t help the situation at times. But if I don’t get it out it will just fester inside until I totally explode irrationally. A 4pm glass of wine sometimes helps too…! Good on you for being honest – and you’re no alone!

  4. 5

    Moppit said,

    Yep I yell, because I’m human and I have feelings and emotions that need to be conveyed. However it is never without reason and always with warning first, so no you’re not alone.

  5. 6

    No worries here, I think it helps for your kids to see how you regain control and become calm again though, kids need to see emotional intelligence and conflict resolution as well as have a secure and loving safe space. Pretending to be Supermum doesn’t help them, they need to know you as a whole person to understand how emotions work.

    Don’t be so afraid of a backlash either, I have found mums who set an unrealistic standard for themselves and everyone else come down to earth eventually.

  6. 7

    Mel B said,

    You are most definitely not alone…
    I have a 6 month old and an almost three year old. I love them to bits (and way more than just to the moon and back) but seriously, they test me! Ok well maybe not the 6 month old so much (except for sleep deprivation torture) but Miss Almost-Three certainly does her bit. And yes, I do my best but I lose it at times and have a big yell fest at least once a week, and if PMS is thrown into the bargain, probably more often…
    But like you, it’s after multiple warnings or in our case when Miss has jumped onto her brother or emptied her milk cup for the third time that day. I also never cal names or belittle, it’s more along the lines of stop whatever you are doing and listen to me… It doesn’t help the situation, in fact she generally laughs at me! And I feel guilty for yelling. Guilt. Since having children, I’m an expert.
    I don’t think yelling helps the situation, but it does let off all the pressure that’s been building up. I don’t love my children any less because I yell.
    I’d be surprised (and in awe) of anyone who manages NOT to yell at their kids occasionally. I’d love to know their tricks for keeping calm.

    • 8

      wendyblume said,

      I agree, I don’t think yelling does help the situation – and I do always feel guilty later. But then part of me is angry that I feel guilty, because I also don’t think that they should be able to run amok without consequence either. Extremely tricky to get the balance right.

      • 9

        wendyblume said,

        And goodluck Mel B – I think the 6 month/3 year old combination was my most difficult time. It gets much easier and better – I assure you! Many more of the glorious moments rather than the hideous ones.

  7. 10

    Momo said,

    Yes, I yell when those buttons are pushed (twin 3-year-olds find endless ways to push them!), also because I am human. Though I do wonder with my offspring if in fact we are all part baboon!!!! I think in a house otherwise filled with love, support and nurturing the occasional cross moment – or freakout when a dozen eggs are smashed in the loungeroom – is part of the normal spectrum.

    • 11

      wendyblume said,

      Ha! a dozen eggs in the loungeroom! Lordy. I remember a glass of milk being knocked right over my upholstered chairs, across the floor and the washing basket with folded cleans clothes in it… The kid in question was SO mortified and I actually didn’t yell that time – the phrase ‘crying over spilled milk came to mind.

  8. 12

    Kylie D said,

    As a trained childcare worker, I have the tools to remain calm, even when 20 children are out of control. I have been taught to use positive language, tell children what you WANT them to do and try to refrain from using negative words. Guess what???? I STILL yell at MY kids. You can only ask them to do something so many times before you go insane. And most of the time, it actually doesn’t register with them that I am mad. My son even laughs, like he was happy to push my buttons. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it, if most of the time you are showering them with love 🙂

  9. 13

    Cath said,

    I didn’t yell at my first born until she was 3 years old… and when I eventually raised my voice at her (trying for the shock value), she just yelled right back at me.

    These days with four I find myself yelling quite a bit more when buttons have been repeatedly pushed…. similar to most of the comments here.

    But I *nearly* always apologise and talk to them about it. Yes I lost it, and I’m sorry because I really don’t like yelling and having my emotions out of control. Kids get that nobody is perfect – I think it is important to admit to having made a mistake though (modelling behaviour you want them to adopt).

    We’re only human….

  10. 14

    Jane said,

    Excellent post. I know some people can manage to be totally scary and convey anger really quietly but I’m not one of them. So refreshing to read this and everyone’s comments. We make lots of noise sometimes for happy reasons too!

  11. 16

    Ros said,

    Yep, I yell. And i’m a pretty patient person. But kids just break you sometimes! One of mine (5yo boy) cries when i yell, just can’t cope with my anger (he’s gonna have to learn to if he keeps not doing what i ask when I ask nicely!) and my 3yo girl, well, sometimes it’s the only way to actually make her listen and do…really works quite effectively on her. And I still feel guilty after, even though I don’t actually say anything mean or that i’m ever ashamed of. And the worst thing, when i really lose it, it’s MY throat that ends up sore! Hate that! Oh, and I think that anyone who denies yelling or judges those that do, are just lying and probably use other worse ways. Like those who swear that their babies slept thru the night every night from 2 weeks of age…lying to themselves and trying to make the rest of us feel bad.

  12. 17

    Yet bet I do. I never raised my voice, in my life, until I had kids. It still is very uncomfortable for me and feels weird. I have never felt so frustrated or angry though, about anything. i don’t know what it is that makes me so angry about them. I think it might be because I feel like I lose my authority over them and they’re not listening, over and over again. I always, always, apologise after everyone’s calmed down though. I’d like them to grow up thinking it’s okay to express your anger and have a voice, unlike me, who never did and now finds it very hard to express themselves.

    Anne @ Domesblissity

  13. 18

    JB said,

    Funny, I was just discussing this the other day, when every single mum in my son’s class admitted to yelling on occasion (even the most chilled out mum, which surprised us all). The only person I know who says she would never yell has an incredibly naughty child!

  14. 19

    *Joins the yells at kids corner* So glad I am not alone here. I too have the guilts for yelling, but I would prefer to learn that bottling up emotions is not the best way, not is pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t. I would rather my littlies learn that it is okay to yell at home when angry or frustrated than think that home is not a place where they can express themselves and feel the need to do it out on the streets while drunk.

    Yes, sometimes there are better ways to express yourself, and I am getting better at that, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

    Wendy, this makes you feel a lot more human to me, really, there is not going to be any unfriending you happening in this house. It makes me feel like if another real mother can get her kids eating vegies, then maybe I can too. Thank you for being so honest and open with your readers.

    • 20

      wendyblume said,

      Thanks Claire for making me feel so much better! I nearly didn’t post this today. I usually only post if I’ve got a recipe or worksheet to give away. But really glad that I did (although I do promise to post a recipe later in the week). I am just a regular mum. I only run this site because getting my kids to love healthy food was a battle that I feel I’ve won and I now I think it’s possible for everyone else, too.

  15. 21

    Jacki said,

    I’m so glad you wrote this post and I really hope no-one writes you a nasty email! I think it’s human nature to express our anger when we’ve been pushed too far. Sure, it’s not ideal and there ARE better ways of expressing ourselves but I don’t think there’s any point feeling guilty if it’s a rare thing. I sometimes yell at my 2 and 3 year olds when they’re really pushing my buttons, but I always apologise later and we have a chat about why I yelled at them. I actually think it’s helping them learn boundaries…. Hopefully!

  16. 22

    Vicki said,

    Thankyou for posting this. Just this morning I felt like the worst mom in the world and hoping that I wasn’t about to raise an unbalanced emotionally scared child, all because Iyelled not just twice in one day, but twice in one month. it is always nice to know that your not alone in what in what is really normal mother behaviour.

  17. 23

    Miss moo said,

    A friend recently commented how calm I am with my kids which made me laugh. I told her she should talk to ms neighbors. Sometimes I wonder what they must think as I yell at my boys. But I always talk to them afterwards and explain what made me so angry and we kiss and cuddle and make up. I think it’s healthy.

  18. 24

    A Keeper said,

    I get angry and I yell, I also have a loud voice normally too – so do my kids. I always explain to them why though, keep pushing mummy’s buttons and eventually you’re going to hit the explode button. I always, ALWAYS tell them I love them, even when I’m angry at them, it’s their behaviour that has upset/angered me. My daughter even told me a week ago ‘I still love you when you’re cranky mummy’. They get it. We’re only human and they will come across people that will get angry at them later on, and yell and unfortunately be nasty, are we not helping to prepare a bit of a thicker skin for the reality of the world???

  19. 25

    Treena said,

    I have to agree that I yell at my kids if I’m provoked enough. Once I’ve calmed down, like a lot of the other commentors on here, I will explain why I yelled and that I am sorry for it and lets all try to avoid a situation like that again. My 3yo hates it and asks me not to get angry mummy when she sees that I’m nearing the edge and I really hate that she gets scared so I try really hard to calm down and explain to her that mummy will get angry if you keep being naughty and don’t listen to me. But still from time to time I yell and know that everyone else does too and those that don’t admit it are just kidding themselves with their holier then thou attitude.

  20. 26

    Elise said,

    Thanks for such an honest post. I always feel better as a mother when I hear other mothers “telling it like it is” instead of telling us how it should be all the time. I yell, but fortunately its not that often any more because my son has a better understanding of limits now. When he was little 2 – 4 years, I really struggled with setting limits and not wanting to yell at him and then after a while I would explode through total frustration and it became like a vicious cycle that I really hated and felt so bad as a mother. Then I learnt to accept that it is ok and actually reasonable for me to get angry and for him to see that. So when his behaviour is out of line, I tell him what I expect him to do, if it continues I warn him what the consequence for him will be and then if it continues again I warn that “I can feel myself getting angry” and the consequence is implemented. Depending on what has occurred I may yell by then as well. But the difference is I actually feel a lot better about the way in which I have yelled, because he has had clear warnings and I haven’t bottled everything up and exploded. Moments later I can then talk about what happened and why it got to the point that I felt the need to yell. Such less guilt this way and in actual fact I feel ok about it because he has to know limits and have clear boundaries. Thanks again for your post.

  21. 27

    Rachel Connie said,

    Thanks.
    I too yell at my beautiful girls. I aim for perfect parenting, but as I’m not perfect and don’t live in a perfect world, it is unlikely that I will hit the heights I am putting pressure on myself to achieve.
    My kids also sometimes watch too much TV and sometimes get too many pre packaged snacks.
    As an outsider, I view you as a Super Mum, who can DO and HAVE IT ALL. It’s great to know that you are not perfect either!

    • 28

      wendyblume said,

      Funny! No one is perfect. Except maybe Sarah Murdoch. She seems pretty close!!!! Wonder if she yells at her kids? Actually, here’s my tip for parenting perfection. Just blog about your successes! Xx

  22. 29

    goccediacqua said,

    Nice to see the reactions are so positive! I know when my kids were little, and I felt overwhelmed, one of the most comforting things for me was when other mothers admitted their failings (and those of their children!).
    I am another one who yells, feels guilty, and yet does it again. I have comforted myself over the years with the thought that at least I am being real with my kids. Which must mean they know the love is real too. I don’t like fakeness, and I think being supercalm all the time must surely mean people are hiding their real feelings.
    Now my kids are teenagers, they tell me the explanations are much worse than the yelling.

    • 30

      wendyblume said,

      I hadn’t thought about it in terms of ‘fakeness’ but you’re right. There’s something I don’t trust about total control.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Much appreciated.

  23. 31

    Wendy said,

    What a great post! I yelled at my three boys (less than 4 years between them all) as they were growing up. Sometimes for no reason except I was having a bad day. I never name-called, swore or belittled them. I only apologised if they was no reason for my yelling.
    I now have three young men who understand that people can have bad days, and don’t take it personally. And their future partners will thank me for raising men who are sensitive to (and can cope with) women’s uncontrollable monthly mood swings lol

  24. 32

    Katy said,

    I used to yell at my baby… but my baby has now been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. She yells back, and she’s 6. She will not accept boundaries, consequenses have no meaning and it just seems like every day is a bad day. God forbid she gets told no. So I have to find other ways to deal with her.

    There is no way my household is ever going to be super calm or quiet. But at least I don’t see myself as a bad parent anymore. I thought the reason she was like that was because of me, but it’s not. She has always been like that – stubborn and defiant, but I’m trying to see it more as persistance and determination.


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