August 10, 2007

Yelling at Kids!

Yelling at Kids Teaches!

Yelling at kids teaches kids that people do not mean what they say until they yell.
Yelling at kids teaches children to yell back.
Yelling at kids teaches kid to yell at others.
Yelling at kids teaches kids to ignore respectful and dignified requests when people speak to them in other tones of voice.
Yelling at kids teaches kids that they are not worthy of speaking to in civil tones.
Yelling at kids teaches them that a reasonable way to relieve stress is to yell at others.

Kids Learn More from our Actions than from our Words!

The point here is that yelling at kids teaches them lots of stuff, but it rarely, if ever, teaches them anything of much value. I do not think that yelling indelibly scars children unduly, nor does it do them irreparable psychological damage; but it certainly does not help them to learn productive ways of interacting with the world.

I guess that you could say that I am opposed to yelling at kids for the same reason that I am opposed to punishment; it simply does not work in any way that is even close to the way that it is intended. Yelling teaches lots of thing but rarely enhances the lesson in the words that are yelled.

A Personal Experience

I was sent to my room thousands of times for teasing my sisters. I was told to go in my room and think about how to treat my sisters. I did. I thought about how I was going to get them out behind the barn just as soon as I got out of my room and hold their heads under water in the horse trough for tattling on me. Sending me to my room did not teach me how to get along with my sisters. The desired or intended result was a far cry from the real outcome. My parents intention in sending me to my room was to teach me how to treat my sisters in a much nicer manner but what they got was far different from what they intended. Yelling at kids brings about a very similar kind of outcome.

A child who is yelled at on a regular basis simply learns that he doesn’t have to listen to instructions delivered in a quiet and dignified voice.

Teaching Does NOT Require Intent!

When we are with kids we are teaching every minute we are in their presence! Even though we may have no intention to teach nor any idea about what we want to teach… we are teaching just the same. Kids learn our language at their own pace and other than a little work on some specific vocabulary they learn it quite completely with little intent on our part. Kids rapidly learn the tense of verbs and they often learn it from parents who cannot intellectually define the tenses of the verbs that they taught to their kids! The point is that kids learn many things from us without us intending to teach them.

Kids in France speak French. Kids in Japan speak Japanese. However, take the French girl and raise her in the Japanese home and she would speak Japanese! Raise the Japanese kid in the French home and he will speak French. Raise them in my home and both will speak English. Language acquisition may be genetic. All normal human beings speak; but the specific language that they speak is learned! Kids learn the language that they are exposed to.

Children Learn What they Are Exposed To

Not only do kids learn the spoken language they are exposed to, but they also learn to interpret and use all of the non-verbal ways of communication. They learn what a civil tone of voice means. They learn what words like “please” and “thank you” mean.

Children raised in the presence of adults who rarely say things in a conversational tone and who never enforce anything said in that conversational tone learn that adults rarely mean what they say in a conversational tone! Kids who hear yelling all of the time, begin to feel that yelling is normal conversation. They will react to this language just as naturally as kids in France react to French. If yelled commands are the norm then kids begin to learn that yelled commands are normal so then they react to them in a like manner. Kids can, and do, even learn that yelled commands need not be listened to while civilly expressed commands can be ignored. I witness that dynamic in many homes.

In working with a family for the 20/20 program I found a couple with a son who didn’t seem to obey many commands or requests for action from his parents. I watched a week of tape from their home and discovered an amazing thing. Every time his mother or father said his middle name in a loud and yelling tone of voice, his head turned and he listened to what they said and he usually did it! A shouted, “Joe!” did not get his attention or action. An equally loud, “Joseph!” was just as ineffective. “Young man!” expressed in a conversational tone of voice did little to interrupt his play and did not even get the boy to look up.

But when his parents said “Joseph Alex!” in a loud, yelling kind of voice, he quite often listened and usually complied! Why? Their actions had taught him that when they said his middle name in a shouted voice, his time of ignoring was done! At this point, he knew that they would enforce the following command, so he complied.

Children Learn What Your Actions Teach

Joseph Alex had learned exactly what his mom and dad had unintentionally taught him. Even though they did not intend to teach him to ignore conversational tones of voice; their actions had taught him.

It was pretty simple to restructure effective communication in that family. All that the parents had to do was to duplicate their actions that they had previously used with their son when they shouted his middle name. Only in the restructured situation they had to do it with their first civil and polite request for “Joseph Alex” to perform some desired action.

Say It Civilly and Politely… but Enforce It!

It did not take long before Joseph was willingly obeying dignified and respectful commands. By using a little thought and planning, his parents had taught him a new language! The first step lay in restructuring their own plan of action and in taking control of what they were teaching their son. And man, let me tell you, they all felt much more calm and less stressed.


This brings us to another very important reason why yelling at kids is highly ineffective. Yelling destroys the dignity of both the parent and the child. Kids can learn to respond to calm demeanor just as easily as they can learn to respond to yelling. When parents yell at kids the stress level of everyone in the home goes up, but “yelling-related stress” increases for no one more than the parent. I learned this simple concept while teaching.

One day, while I was teaching at Walla Walla High School, I had had a particularly tough day of being angry and loud with students and was feeling really stressed out by my ineffective interaction with my students. (The kids were probably OK with it… they had learned the “language” of that guy who yells during third period!) My stress level was near the breaking point. In my frustration, I sought out the council of Lola Whitner, a master teacher who taught in the room next to mine. I said to her, “Lola, how do you do it. You are sixty-five years old, you are a perfect lady, you are barely five feet tall, you speak to kids in a respectful conversational, tone and yet the same students that I feel compelled to yell at are so quiet and respectful with you, and you never raise your voice. Help me. I must learn to do what you do!”

Very quietly she replied, “You have quite a temper, Mac. I can hear you through the walls. (She chuckled as she said that.) However, I have one question for you; can you ever control your temper? Can you ever speak quietly and respectfully to your students?”

“Well, yes, sometimes I can control my temper,” I replied. “But often I just blow up.”

“Well, Mac,” she replied very calmly, “If you control your temper some of the time then you can control it. Now that we have established that you are capable of controlling your temper may I point out to you that if you do not control your temper it is a choice! Why don’t you choose to control it all of the time?”

Her simple question changed my life forever! I finally realized that my actions were my choice! I never yelled in anger in a class ever again! I chose to be different and I was! The biggest thing that changed was my feeling of control and power over my life. I once and for all preserved my dignity and the dignity of my students by choosing to not yell; by choosing to speak in a civil, dignified, respectful, and polite manner. They rapidly learned that even though I was not yelling, I still meant what I was saying. My classroom became a respectful, dignified, and relaxed place; just like Lola’s.

I was recently asked what would be my short-term suggestion as a solution for parents who found themselves yelling at their kids, and I have none.

No "Short-Term Solutions" or "Quick-Fixes"

I do not put much stock in short-term solutions to life-long types of problems. Lola did not propose a short-term solution to my problem and and a short-term solution would have been of little value to me. Therefore, I would not suggest a "quick-fix" for anyone else.

The solution to the problem of yelling at kids lies in changing your manner of speaking to children forever. The long-term, life-changing solution does not involve going into a room and shouting, or hitting a punching bag. The solution does not lie in counting to ten or leaving the room. The solution lies in deciding to be different, today, tomorrow, and forever. The solution lies in letting the calm of self-control waft over you. The solution to yelling at your children lies in committing to a plan of action for how you will act before the yell-triggering situation arises; and then following your plan. This plan will bring dignity and peace to a family.

Now, to augment this new found self-control derived by deciding to be calm, dignified, and respectful, and committing to a plan of speaking in a conversational voice, it is necessary to anticipate the situations or circumstances where you are tempted to yell. The situations are always quite predictable. Identify those times and then develop a very specific plan of action for those situations. Actually practice the words that you will say and the manner in which you will say them.

The Situation!

For example, let’s say that one time when you have lost control and yelled in the past was when you would ask your kids to help with setting the table for dinner. At this time they would previously drive you crazy when they would just ignore your requests for help. So you would resort to yelling with little if any change in their behavior. Build a plan for this specific situation.

The Plan!

Rather than standing in the kitchen and yelling, as you have previously done with little results, go to where your kids are and say respectfully, “I need your help. Would you please get up now and come in and set the table? Look at me kids. I am smiling and I am speaking in a polite tone of voice. I even said ‘please’, but I really mean it.”

If they do not immediately start to move to set the table, move squarely in front of them and ask politely in a calm tone, “Excuse me, but what did I just ask you to do?” (You may have to point out to them that you just asked a question that you wish to have answered because they are now in their Ignore-Mom-or-Dad-mode.) Stay right in front of them and wait for their answer. As soon as they can repeat what you have said, say, “OK, so you know what you are to do and I am going to wait right here until you start, so please get started right now.” All of this is said in a respectful and pleasant tone of voice at a conversational volume.

Be Patient

It may even take weeks for this new dignified approach to begin to take hold because the kids have literally had years ignoring your conversational statements and years of hearing you yell at them. It will take time to “learn the new language” that you are speaking!

All too often I find that parents are looking for gimmicks or tricks to use with their kids, when what really works is to make simple and fundamental changes in their own ways of thinking and acting. Usually the people who yell at their kids are the same ones who will become the most upset if their kids were ever to yell back. It is pretty easy to get caught in a trap of holding higher standards for kids’ behavior than we hold for our own behavior.

Some Key Questions

Now, before we leave this topic of yelling at kids, I would like to throw out some questions for the consideration of anyone who is choosing to yell at a child.

“On what basis have you decided that you are justified in yelling at your kids?”

To follow up that question here are a few more to answer.

“Is it justifiable to yell at kids because you are older?”

“Do you deem it justifiable to yell at your kids because you are bigger?

“Do you view it to be reasonable to yell at your kids because you are the parent and have parental authority?”

“Do you feel justified in yelling at your children because you are older and have more life experience?”

It would seem to me that all of these would constitute reasons for you to NOT yell at your kids. “Is there any viable justification for yelling at a child?”

Yes, I will grant you that it might be justifiable to yell at a kid if he was running toward the street and a truck was coming, or if she was reaching for a boiling pan of water on the stove; but short of an emergency, is there any reasonable justification for yelling at children? If not, then why not adopt the ideas above and take the action to stop it?

In closing let me just say that there are millions of well-adjusted adults who were yelled at as kids. I would simply say that they arrived as well-adjusted adults in spite of the yelling and not because of the yelling.

Do not ever use the old fallacy of, “It was done to me, therefore is justifiable for me to do it to my kids!” as an excuse for your actions. Do what works. Yelling simply does not work very well. Having a plan for dignity and civility works. Use it!


Anonymous said...

Mr. Bledsoe, do you ever visit homes like you did with Joseph Alex or like The Nanny? I feel like I have screwed up so badly that I will never be able to get my situation with my kids changed, like why even start? I will check your blogs for a response as I am too embarrassed to give you my information.

Beth Mansfield said...

Mac - Thanks so much for the words of wisdom. I came from a family of yellers and it has been a sore spot with my husband when I raise my voice at our 4yo. I needed to see it in print to get it through my head that yelling teaches nothing. Time to put my loud voice on mute and get in front of my daughter to communicate. Thank you.

Mac said...

In response to your question about home visits; no I actually do not make home visits. However, I do not feel that a home visit is really necessary. Thousands upon thousands of families make the needed changes in their lives by starting Parenting with Digniy classes and learning to be better parents by simply learning some new and effective techniques.

Also, if you would like to describe your situation I would love to try giving you some specific help either in this blog or in an e-mail. Give that a try!

Please remember that no situation is hopeless and that the only time you fail with a child is the last time that you try!


amanda said...

I am really glad I stumbled upon your blog today. I am very impressed by this particular post because -- dare I admit it? -- I am a yeller. I definitely need to learn to control that, I need to change my actions...never has that been more clear to me than it is now after reading your post. Thanks for the eye opener!

Anonymous said...

Hello. I am glad I found your site. I have been soul searching since my return from a vacation with my two daughters. In the past I have let my anger get the best of me with my oldest daughter who is four. I have spanked her numorous times where my hand is sore the next day and as soon as the action is done I feel very guilty. My parents never spanked me. Why do I do it? And my biggest question is how do I fix it. I see her when she does something like playing with scissors and I see her she drops them and begins to cry. I think she is afraid of my outburst. I have tried to talk to her but I am so afraid that she will cry and expect a spanking now. What can I do. I feel awful.

Mac said...

Dear Awful Feeling Mom,

First, let me say that you are more than half of the way to correcting your ineffective action of spanking your daughters because you recognize that, not only is it not working to shape the desired behavior, but it is also bringing about some undesirable behaviors in your daughters.

Recognizing the problem is always the first step.

Then the second step is to seek help, and you are also doing that!

So now all that you need to do is to take the third step of replacing the ineffective behavior with effective action!

Now for some help with step three:

First of all, let me answer your very good question, "Why do I do it?"

I honestly believe that you are spanking your daughter because you are waiting until the children's behavior is going on before you try to make any plan of action. Then, once you have waited, you even say it yourself, you get angry. Nobody can think of effective techniques when they are angry. So what happens is that you are just reacting... and doing it out of anger. Rarely does that produce any effective problem solving.

I will tell you that I had a similar problem when I was teaching school. I would wait until a student was acting in an inappropriate manner, and I would then lose my temper and get angry. Once angry, I almost always did something that first, was not effective and secondly, always made me feel terrible and out of control.

Then one day I sought the advice of a master teacher named Lola Whitner who taught in the room next to me. I asked Lola, “How do you get those students to listen to you and behave appropriately?”

Her very succinct answer changed my life forever! She asked me, “Can you ever control your temper?”

I answered, “Well, yes; sometimes.”

Then she said, “So… you CAN control it! So when you don’t, it is a choice. Why don’t you just choose to control it all of the time?”

What a revelation! I got to choose to control my temper? Wow, I had never thought of it that way. So I did it; I chose to be calm for the rest of my teaching career! Never again did I ever yell at students again. Boy was that a relief! And I could not believe the calm and sense of control that choice to be calm produced in me.

Once I chose to be calm and knew that I could do it, the next step of taking effective action became quite simple for me. At this point, all I needed to do was to lay out some effective techniques BEFORE going to class and I was off and rolling as a ten-times more effective teacher.

Make a commitment to yourself that you will control your temper. You do not need to stop and count to ten or anything silly like that; just make up your mind that you will be in control and then do it! Those are your actions and ONLY YOU can control them.

Next, you need to lay out a plan of action BEFORE your children are doing something that you do not want them to do. Anticipate some of the most common things that are “tripping your trigger” right now, and lay out your plan of action. If you need a place to start, please go to our Five Rules for Parents on our website ( ), in either of my books ( ) or in our DVD Curriculum ( ).

Make a decision to be calm and lay out your plan!




Anonymous said...

I just yelled at my children! I have a 9 and a 12 year old. I expect their help with certain household chores like doing the dishes and taking out the trash. I have a schedule in place and posted on the refridgerator so that they can refer to it to see their chores for the day. I have a rewards system in place for compliance. But it's just not working. So I resorted to yelling - which I know doesn't help. How can I get my kids to do their chores and stop the yelling? Thanks for your help.

Mac said...

Dear Anonymous,

Well, yo9u are proving to me that what I have written and what I teach is pretty accurate… specifically, yelling does not work. You have also found one other way that does not work and that is for YOU to put up a list of chores you want done.

So, you need to get creative and figure out some way to work with your children that does work. You know them better that anyone so you are the best qualified to make that call.

That being said, I am going to offer a suggestion that other families have found to work.

Hold a family meeting. At this meeting have each person name chores that need to be done around he home. Once you have a pretty complete list of the necessary chores, write each chore on a slip of paper. Then hold a “draft” to select the chores that will be done by each person. Draw numbers from a hat and the person who draws number one chooses a chore first by taking that slip of paper. Then the person with the number two takes the next chore. As the adult, when it is your turn to choose, you pick two chores because as an adult it is probably fair to expect you to do a little more than the children.

Now once the chores are divided up, tape them on the front of the fridge or some other place n the home that is visible to all. It seems that the key here is that you are n9ow not the bad guy! The list was composed by all members of your family. Then let the children enforce the completion of the chores. They even get to point out to you if there is a chore that is your responsibility that you have not completed. At the end of the week, any person with an uncompleted chore must pick one additional chore at the next draft.

Get creative, but do not ever say that you have tried everything… because you have not. Ll you have done is to try two things that did not work. If you discover some other creative method of getting your children to choose to do chores, let me know and I promise to share that technique with others.


Anonymous said...

I came across this today and am going to print your article. I have read (and own) your book, and watched your DVD, but my husband, who is the yeller, hasn't (and won't). I have three teenagers and I think we have a great relationship, they are awesome kids, but I am concerned that my husband, who is an executive and works long hours, comes home tired and out of patience. Since he micro-manages at work, he brings that attitude home, and can't see that his kids are drifting away from him. I'm going to leave this right where he can see it, perhaps a small bit will enter his tired brain, and he will see the light.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mac
I have two children they are 11 months apart 2 & 3 years old. I am having such a struggle with not yelling or spanking. I know this aproach does not work. It did not work for me as a child. I love my children more then anything in the world. I do not want to break their spirits by yelling. Children are very special. I am glad I read your info. I know for the most part its common sense. What else can I do?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mac, I found your blog as I looked for sites dealing with parents yelling at kids. My mother yelled at my brother and me constantly, from the time that we were very young until even after I was married. I have some real scars from this. The problem is that I find myself yelling at my kids when I am under a great deal of stress. Right now I am pregnant with our third child while my husband is deployed for the second time. I am at home alone with a four year old and a two year old. They are great kids, but by the end of the day I am so tired that I have no patience left, and sometimes I lose my temper. It only happens at times like this, when I'm feeling a lot of fatigue and pressure. I feel so guilty about yelling, because I don't want to damage my kids as I was damaged. I'm going to follow up on some of your suggestions, taking some time tonight to figure out what, specifically, makes me lose my temper, and what I can do to avoid those triggers. If there is anything else you would recommend, please let me know.

Mac said...

Dear mother and wife of a deployed soldier,

First, would you please tell your husband a huge "THANK YOU" for me! He is making a huge sacrifice for our freedom and I am one who understands that freedom is not free!

Next, I wiant to say "THANK YOU" to you for your sacrifice also. Often the spouses at home are making some of the greatest sacrifices, and I want you to know that I appreciate what you are doing for our country!

Now, for your issues with your children and yelling...

First, I must say that I can definitely sympathize with you. Wow, pregnant with a four year-old and a two year-old and on your own... you are amazing! It is amazing that you are seeking help. It is amazing that you make it through each day. That being said, you will get through this tough time.

First, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for realizing that yelling does not work! Now repeat these words, "The ideas in my head will rule my world!" This is true whether you realize it or not. It is just like the law of gravity! Whether you can state the actual formula or not the law still works!

Now, here is the exciting part, and the idea that is going to help you: you get to control the ideas that live in your head! YOU ARE IN CONTROL! It was so amazing when I learned that I got to control my temper and that I got to control how I spoke to the students in my classroom.

You have already decided what it is that you want; you want to speak to your children in a civil tone of voice and you want to control your anger when you are tired.

So here is the next step, you need to say that to yourself in a personal, present, and positive statement! This is in chapter 10 of my book, Parenting with Dignity and it is in tapes 7 & 8 in our Parenting with Dignity DVD Curriculum.)

You need to structure the ideas that you have chosen to rule your world. Say these statements to yourself to yourself, "I always speak to my children in a calm tone of voice!" "I always react to my children with patience." "When I speak to my children with patience and talk to them in calm tones I am teaching them to respond to those kinds of requests!"

You will not believe how much peace of mind this will give you. Write these down on a piece of paper and put them some place where you can get to them easily. Then, every time that you are beginning to feel out of control, go get the piece of paper and read these statements to yourself. By doing this you are structuring the ideas that YOU choose to rule your world!

Then take a deep breath and do exactly what you said you are going to do.

If you would like to discuss this please give me a call at (406) 752-8035.


Mac Bledsoe

Bec said...

Dear Mac, thank you for writing this. I think the comments are things that I know already, but sometimes one needs to read it in black and white to realise it. I have 2 step children. I have known my partner for a year a half and we are getting married in a week and a half :)

The children are 5(boy) and 8 (girl). I have always got on well with children, and never yelled, but I've found that I look after the kids most in the household. Their Dad works a lot at home, and I tend to be the one who picks them up after school, looks after them more etc. My partner tends to shout a bit at the kids, and I have adopted it! How stupid I know. Anyway, it doesn't work, I know it doesn't, but like you say - being calm doesn't work at first, and shouting does get them to do some stuff. But I don't want to. It makes me upset, obviously makes them upset too. I have said today I will not do it. I say it every day though then end up shouting. Silly hey. I guess it is like giving up smoking or something. I've never had anything to give up before. It is so hard. I don't know if I find it harder because they are not mine - or is that just an excuse!? I want to stop - so I guess I just have to do it? Like you did at the school. How long do you think it really takes? I have probably got worse, for the last half a year I think, but their mum and dad have shouted at them a lot. I obviously cant control their mum, but can help my partner. By the way, in school time we have them Monday and Tuesday and then swap Fri-Suns each week. It is a lot of changing for the kids, and their mum has no discipline, they are the bosses at her house!!

Anyway, if you have any tips for a step mum, I would be grateful. Thank you.

Bec :)

Mac said...

Dear Bec,

You ask, "How long do you think it really takes?"

My answer is very simple; the change in your action should be immediate! All you must do is to decide to always speak to your stepchildren with respect, dignity, and a calm demeanor!

My research has taught me that there is no success that ever comes from partial action. You simply must decide how it is that you choose to act, forever, and then do it!

Please read and study Rule #1 in my "Five Rules for Parents" either in our DVD Parenting with Dignity curriculum, in either of my books, or on our Parent's Workbook on our website ( ). any one of these sources will expalin in detail why you must focus on what it is that you want TO DO rather than attempting to quit the action that you do NOT want to do!

Please let me know how it goes.



Bec said...

Hi again,

Thank you for the quick reply. :) You are of course right. I've started working through some of the workbooks of yours. They make a lot of sense. Yesterday I was extremely calm. I spoke to the kids with respect, and I didn't raise my voice once. It made me feel good, but also nervous. I was desperately making sure I didn't raise my voice, and was nervous I would fail. But I didn't. :-)

I just read the bit about the 'don't try and get obedience'. It made a lot of sense, although I'd never really thought of it. Thank you for the material you have written. It is the first thing I have managed to find that is actually giving good advice!

I will keep you posted with how it goes. Thanks again.

From a more smiley Bec :)

Mac said...

Dear Bec,

I am pleased to hear of your progress. Keep using your calm, dignified, and respectful manner with your kids and you will be amazeed at the results.

Your children will not only be more likely to do as you are asking or instructing, but in the process they will be learning to listen to and respond to polite requests!

But here is the biggest benefit of your new approach... not only will your children learn to respond to your dignified manner but they will be learning to treat others in a dignified manner. This is huge.

It is amazing how powerful it is to know that the ideas in your head do rule your world. When you choose to have a calm and dignified demeanor with your children... you have that manner! In response you are allowing your children to choose to do the same.

I would suggest that you begin to discuss with your children what you are doing and why. let them in on the secret! begin to teach them that the ideas in their heads rule their world. Empower them to make the big decisions that bring them the outcomes that they desire.

Good going Bec!



Anonymous said...

Mr. Bledsoe, thank you for being so open and genuine regarding this topic. I probably go to sleep every night feeling guilty because ive yelled at my kids at some point in the day. I want so badly to have a good relationship with them. They are at daycare most of the week so when i get them which is at night they are hungry and cranky and fight (ages 2 and 4) and cry, and i get so frusterated and overwhelmed i end up yelling and your right it only makes the situation worse AND more stressfull. Do you have any advice to get my world with my two precious kids back in order. Im to the point where i want to stop daycare because I want to raise them myself and figure out how to work around it. I miss them when im not with them and frusterated when i am? Help

Feels helpless

lehoanglan99 said...

I came across your site today at a perfect time! I need advice on how to discipline my 4 y.o. daughter (I am a first time adoptive parent, only for 5 months). My daughter is bright and also strong-willed. She doesn't comply easily without explaination. I tried time-in/time-out with her, but it is like a joke, she resists time-out, just walks away. Punitive time-outs works a little, but not without some tantrums. Lately, she starts to yell back at me when she doesn't want to listen. I blame it on myself, because I yell at her sometimes when I cannot get her to listen. Yelling and some spanking worked, but I know it only works at the time and is not a good long-term solution. She is a good kid,very happy, affectionate, but when her strong-willed personality kicks in, it is quite challenging for a first-time parent.
thanks very much

Anonymous said...

I'm a yeller too. I'm raising 3 boys 9,6, and 3. In my house, I yell all the time. I think that when I yell I'm being efficient while being frustrated. My kids look at me with empty faces all the time like "what's his issue?" I feel sad for them and I'm trying to find ways to stop my awful behaivor. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. I'm making your blog my new homepage for my internet browser.

dana said...

So I have 5 children. I'm an extreme yeller and find they are too. Sometimes I think my children don't even know how to talk to each other, probably because it seems I don't ever talk to them. So, here's the problem. I feel like I have to yell now because there's no way they can hear me talking over their yelling. They are 10,8,8,4 and 1...they are all sweet kids when one or two on one, but all of them together is complete choas. Please help!!

Mac said...


There is hope for you! You have taught your children to only respond when you yell, so now you need to teach them to respond to dignified and respectful requests for action.

Please go back and read the other posts and if you still have questions e-mail me at



Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It is empowering.
What is the next step after you are standing in front of your child and making your request politely and they still refuse to do what you are asking them to do (e.g. the dishes, come to the table, etc.)?

Mac said...

That is a really great question and it was the one I immediately asked myself when I first began to speak in a calm, dignified, and polite manner to my students in stead of yelling... and you know what I learned?

I learned that it was a very, very rare occasion that I ever met any resistance from my students, once I began to speak in a dignified, polite, and calm manner!

On those very rare occasions when I would meet up with a student that did not immediately comply, I would simply go up to that student and with a smile on my face, I would just say, "Please look at me, I am smiling! And... I am speaking very politely and very calmly... but I want you to know that I still mean what I am saying! So would you get please get busy and do what I asked you to do?"

At that point, only two students in the next 18 years, on two separate occasions, ever refused to do what I requested. I dealt with both instances individually.

Try speaking politely, calmly, and with great dignity when making requests of your children. At first you may occasionally need to repeat what you said, but remain calm and simply repeat your request.

If you ever feel like your children are ignoring you, very calmly and politely ask them, "Would you please repeat what I just said to you?" If they cannot repeat your request, simply say, "I will repeat this for you one more time... and when I am finished, I will ask you to repeat my instructions back to me, so listen carefully this time."

Once they have repeated your polite and respectful request, simply ask your child one more question; Ask, "Is there a good, sound reason why you will not honor my request?" This gives your child a chance to air any possible disagreement.

Then say, "OK, get busy!"

Let me know how it goes!


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I disagree. I yell and I get a response from my kids. If I say things nicely they don't respond, lol... You can't hit them but yelling is the only thing that you can do and get a quicker response. For instance, if my child was to run into the street and I told him nicely not too and he does it anyway then what do you do, there is nothing else to do except to yell at him. I tried the communication thing and it doesn't work with a child who has ADHD. I've kept quiet when he curses at me and hits me for no apparent reason. He also kicks my little maltese dog for no apparant reason and you expect me not to yell at him. Please get real! No hitting the kids now no yelling, lol... Is this a joke.

Mac said...

Dear Anonymous,
Hey, I support your right to disagree, at least you are thinking and have an opinion! If you were a student in my classroom I would welcome your disagreement, at least until you began to yell, and then I would ask you to either speak in a dignified manner or leave. But I would not yell at you nor would I permit you to yell at me.
I would certainly agree that yelling might be appropriate if a child was running toward a street where a truck is approaching. However, I would contend that if you are always yelling at your children, the yell you used to warn them of the truck would not have much impact... "Oh, that is just Mom yelling! She does that all the time."
I taught thousands of children with ADD AD/HD (and kids with many other learning disabilities as well) and I found that speaking politely to them worked very well. Occasionally, I had to realize that they were not focused on me and I would need to get their attention before speaking to them; but the respectful manner of speaking seemed to work best with them.
Let me ask you a question or two. If I were there with you, would you yell at me if you wanted me to answer one of your questions? If your answer is "NO!" then I would ask you, "why would you speak in a respectful manner to me and not to your children? Are they not equally deserving of dignified behavior from you?"
Please do not get me wrong; I am not suggesting to you that you might damage your children by yelling at them. I am not some "Dr. Spock spin off" who is worried about your child's "fragile little psyche." I just do not think that yelling works.

Yelling teaches!
Yelling teaches kids to not listen to polite utterances.
Yelling teaches kids that spoken requests do not need to be listened to.
Yelling teaches kids to yell at others.

If you wait until your child has kicked the dog to teach appropriate treatment of pets, you have missed the point. You child needs the instruction from you BEFORE he does the inappropriate thing.
If you yell at him after he has done something like that you have taught him that he has the ultimate power over you... at any given moment he can get you to stop what you are doing and yell at him. He can change your behavior and he can make you act in a very undignified manner!
You need to know that there is almost no difference between the brain wave patterns of children being given a reward and the brain wave patterns of children being shouted at, scolded, or spanked. To the child there is very little difference. If they cannot get attention in an appropriate manner, they will immediately jump to something that will elicit your yelling behavior. It is power.
Keep thinking. Keep learning. Keep an open mind. For about eight years I yelled at students in my classroom and it never worked to do anything but raise the tension level in my classroom. Many of the kids lovers to push my buttons and get me to yell.
Then one day I decided to speak politely and in a dignified manner to my students. Wow, what a difference! Occasionally I would need to let my students know that even though I was speaking politely and in a respectful manner, I still meant what I said.

So many people listen to me and think that I am promoting permissiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would challenge you to ask any of my former students if they ever got the feeling that I was permissive. None would tell you that. They would all tell you that I had the very highest expectations for their performance and their behavior... and they would tell you that I did not feel it was necessary to yell at them to hold my standards high.

I contend that the same is true for you.