24 answers

Help, I Yell Too Much

So here is my question, I have a 5 year old little girl who never listens to me. It seems the only way to get her to respond is to yell. I can tell her over and over again to do something but she wont respond until I yell. Last night she came to me in the middle fo the night crying because she thinks she's a bad kid, and doesn't want to be! Help! We talked about how she isn't a bad kid, she just needs to listen more, which she agrees to when she is calm, but she is very stubborn and if I tell her to do something she doesn't want to, then its like the whole discussion about listening goes out the window.

We are extreamly busy, and sometimes that just can't be helped, and I understand that can be a part of the problem, but cirumstances are not going to change anytime soon. I want to be able to tell her to do something and it not turn into a yelling match. She refuses to sit in time out, she will arch her back and run off the seat or stairs or wherever we have tried to put her. So what have you other moms found helpful? any tricks to getting kids to listen?

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

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Consequences. Take her favorite things away when she does not listen until she does. As for not staying in timeout... I have had to resort to a "baby crib" with my children and the kids I watch when they do not want to do as I have asked. The baby crib is simply a pack-n-play. They don't like the idea of being a baby so when told that if they don't behave, they will be put in the crib like a baby, they usually respond. It's better than them throwing a fit and running around the house teaching the younger ones how to get out of it. Good Luck hun!

I loved Love & Logic, but it doesn't seem to have a fix for my sons' problem. They tune us out completely! They don't hear me if I don't yell. I ask them nicely to do something, and even if they're looking at me, it just doesn't register. AFter 4 tries, I get upset and yell it, and then their eyes seem to open, and suddenly they can hear me, and they act like, "well, why didn't you just say so in the first place?"

But I hate it.

I use Love & Logic for other things, though.

I'm glad you asked. I've been meaning to do it myself!

I just wanted to say that I'm glad you posted this. I really needed to hear all of the suggestions you got also. Thanks everyone! I really like the chore chart idea with stars and X's.

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It can sure be tough, can't it! I have a tendancy to be a yeller too, and have made a concerted effort to try and keep cool. One thing that has helped the most is 'natural consequences' or Love and Logic.

If she won't pick up her things by XX time, she loses them. They go in the trash. If she can't take care of her things, then she doesn't deserve them.

She doesn't clear her dishes from the table, she doesn't get anything more to eat. She doesn't get dressed in the morning, then she goes in PJs, undies or whatever she has on.

She fights over something, she loses it. She doesn't finish a chore, a friend will and SHE'LL have to pay with a toy or her own money.

Be calm, explain that you don't want to yell, and now you won't. But it will be hard for her to learn the new world order, so to speak. You'll work together.

If she can't play nicely somewhere or starts to sass, you leave.

As an aside, my DD has lost nearly everything in her room several times and DS lost his door (yes, the door to his room) when he wouldn't stop playing with it. GL!

3 moms found this helpful

Hi A.,

I recommend the book Kids Are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso ... it's excellent. I was never a huge fan of time out. I used it some, but it was usually so I did lose my mind in the process of figuring out how to deal with something. My best suggestion is to make the punishment fit the crime. If she won't get dressed for school, church, whatever, take her "as is". I've done it and it works. If she won't pick up her toys, you do it, but now they belong to you until she demonstrates she's responsible enough to pick up after herself. If she won't wash her hands before dinner ... no dinner until she does. Her room is messy, no guests, no playmates. You only wash the clothes that make it into the hamper. You can do this! It takes a little practice and a little patience, but it works. Nothing is 100%, but this very effective and you are teaching responsibility.

Best wishes,

1 mom found this helpful

I grew up with yelling parents and it did a LOT of damage to me. Do whatever it takes to stop yelling. Kids absorb everything as their fault. She's only 5. A lot of this is age-typical behavior. I second the "Parenting With Love and Logic" book. Yelling doesn't get you anywhere. It makes your kids scared of you and damages their self-esteem. I refuse to resort to yelling because I know how bad it made me feel as a kid. Believe me I get pretty frustrated at times but I regain my self control and remember that yelling just makes the situation worse. Sometimes I even whisper when I feel like yelling. One thing to bear in mind is that your kids won't listen unless you ALWAYS do what you say you'll do to follow up. I wish you good luck. Parenting is so hard!

1 mom found this helpful

I'd stick with the timeouts... they really do work. Ever seen SuperNanny? For the kid who won't stay in time out (they do it to test you and see how far they can push you) you just keep putting them back there. With our daughter we tell her why she's getting a time out and then tell her she has to sit on her timeout mat until we come get her (she stays for 1 minute for every year of her age). If she gets up we SILENTLY get her and put her back in time out and her time starts over. You keep repeating the process until she stays for her entire time out without getting up. Silent is key... any attention (eye contact, yelling, re-explaining, any talking at all) is desirable to a kid, so silently replacing then is far more effective. You have to be consistent and actually go get her and return her to time out or she's think they don't mean anything and that you don't really mean it when you give her one. It could take an hour to get her to sit through her first time out, but it will be worth it once she does. Use time outs to replace the need to yell. Also, when you're asking her to do something get on eye level with her, say her name and then make you request. If she refuses warn her that she'll get a time out for not listening and request again. If she still refuses follow through with the time out and when time out is over she needs to correct the behavior that earned her the time out, which means doing what you asked her to... even it takes an hour to get through time out.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi A., I've found great success with the book 123 Magic....WHEN IVE USED IT. The basic premise is that you don't get worked up, which of course is easier said than done with the little ones. Anyways, in your situation, you'd tell her once, then count her calmly, "That's 1, that's 2, That's 3 you need to have a time out" You mentioned that the time out seat or spot doesn't work for you and I agree, my four year old turns it into a game, so instead of her having a time out, she loses a valued posession for 1 day. Now, she listens on 1 or 2. I highly recommend you read the book because of the psychology explained in it, but that is a brief synopsis.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with putting back in time out. I have to do that a lot because I don't have a good listener either. The other things I do are putting toys in time out and not just because he didn't pick them up. I do it with the favorite toys that will be missed and he has to earn them back.

I also do a reward chart and one of the things is being a good listener. He gets dots and can spend them on toys. If he earns a dot for something and immediately changes his behavior to negative eg one for listening but then totally ignores me, the dot gets crossed out. To him that is the worst thing that could happen and he usually corrects his behavior so I will reconsider crossing out the dot.

We also do time outs in his room if he is throwing a fit. It may not seem like punishment since he has toys there but he gets lonely and wants to come out and is also mad that we sent him there rather than it being his choice. We ignore him yelling until he is calmed down and then tell him he can play elsewhere in the house again. We then talk about why he had to go to his room and didn't get the attention he wanted.

I was a single mom for 4 years and I know it's hard. Alot of the problem has been transitions since we were so busy. A five minute then two minute warning has helped immensely.

1 mom found this helpful

First of all, realize that there is not going to be a "magic fix." You've spent years getting into this pattern, it's not going to changed over night, so pick your method and committ to stick with it for at least 3 months to give it a chance to work.

Pick your battles. If it's something that isn't a big deal, let it go. Time outs (and other discipline) loose effectiveness when over-used.

Here's what I do with my kids. I ask them to do something. If they don't listen or they decide to not obey, I give them a warning and start counting down. Like "If I get to 0 before you do ____ you'll loose ____" (a priviledge they enjoy). Sometimes I'll start at 5, more often now at 3 since they are used to it.
Here's the big thing, though. You MUST follow through. There's no halves or quarters when counting - just 3,2,1,0. And then enforce the consequence. I've taken away toys, games, t.v. priviledges, etc. The kids now know that I mean business and they generally will cooperate.

Use timeouts for behavior that you need to stop right away, like hitting, yelling, etc. Give her the warning. "You need to stop right now. If I get to 0 there will be a time out." Count fairly quickly. When she gets a time out, you're going to have to sit with her and make sure she stays. For most kids, putting them back in the timeout spot and starting over the timer is the best strategy. (I have one very difficult child who I've had to physically hold in timeout till he stopped screaming/fighting me, but that's an extreme case). Be prepared to spend an hour on a 5 minute time out at first. Just take her back to the spot and tell her that the time is starting over and she can't get up until the timer goes off (use a kitchen timer for timeouts!).

Stick with it. At first, things might feel worse. She's testing her limits. But once she realizes you mean business, she will begin to cooperate better. Be calm yourself. We tend to yell when we get frustrated or impatient, and then she knows she's pushed your buttons! (Payoff for her!). If you need to take a deep breath or two to keep from yelling, do it. Even in front of her, if you're right there. She will see that she can't push your buttons any more. And, once you have it implemented and going, it won't be so difficult to use the same strategy with your younger girl when she starts testing her limits.

1 mom found this helpful

What works well for me is a countdown with a clear consequence, similar to what another poster mentioned. I say something like "if you don't sit down and eat, I'm going to take your dish away and clean up. 5...4...3...2.." If she doesn't do it by the time I reach zero, I follow the consequence. It works really well. In the parking lot, I say "hold my hand please or I have to carry you. 5, 4..." The less patient I am the faster I count. My DD knows when she hears counting that I'm serious and the consequence is coming. I think otherwise, it is hard for her to tell the difference between a request (could you please pick up your blocks) and a rule like pick up blocks before bed. Good luck and I hope you find something that works for you.

1 mom found this helpful

Two words....Love & Logic! You can find books a your local bookstore!

Hey A.--
With my five year old we gave him a chore chart. He gets stars for doing well and x's for making poor choices. The first week he had lots of x's and did not like it one bit. At the end of the week if he has more stars than x's he gets a quarter per star or some sort of treat. If he has more x's we take one of his toys. Everytime he doesn't cooperate the x's start stacking up. He tested at first but now gets that we mean business. We don't get emotional when this happens....just keep adding x's. This put him in charge and ended the power struggles. His "chores" include taking his plate to the sink after eating, listening, respecting other's (particularly his little brother's) personal space, listening, respecting, telling the truth, bringing school stuff in from the car, and picking up his toys.

Hope this helps!

I absolutely encourage love and logic both as a mother and a teacher. Try whispering...works wonders with a room full of first graders!

I've been in your shoes . . . . how frustrating it can be, huh?
I have found that with my son, even if things are really busy, I need to take a few "time-outs" with him throughout the day (or evening). In his case, it dramatically changes the way he acts. When we're so busy, he does what he does to get my attention cause he feels like he's not getting any. I know busy is busy, but even when things are super hectic, take even just 5 minutes, read her a book, talk about the book or anything else and then get back to what you need to do. Another thing that I've found that helps with my son is to think through what I have to do, and think of ways he can help, and that way we are doing something together, even though this are so busy. It's been a way for him to take pride in what's going on at home and he just seems to listen more and be part of postive things. Just some random thoughts. Good luck!

Well, there are a couple of questions here.

One is, "Who's in charge?" To your child's way of thinking, apparently, Mama isn't really in charge until Mama yells - the rest of her talking is just preliminaries. Until the yelling starts, daughter can do what she wants and it's really all right with Mama.

The other question here is, "Am I loved?" Don't be shocked or offended that this question would even be brought up. We're talking about human beings, after all.

And perhaps it's necessary to address the second question before addressing the first, or at least at the same time. Children always want attention (oh, you noticed?), and they feel that negative attention is better than none at all. Children also have this HUGE need to know they're loved - and I'm sure you love her even when she's at her worst. I'm also sure she loves you even when you're at your worst. The reason I'm thinking about this idea is because of your daughter's crying at night over being bad.

What can you do to bring out the love part, and teach her that obedience is crucial but that your love is not conditional upon it? You have to take the initiative on this, because you're the grownup. Children don't know how to ask the right questions or how really to express themselves in words, so they do it with actions. They don't always understand the actions, either.

Is there any possible way you can take an hour out every week to be with *each daughter separately*? You must have a very complicated life - all single mothers do - but is there any way you can arrange some regular sitting and just have a little time with this girl whom you love so much? This would NOT be a reward for good behavior; it would be an event that can always be counted on. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. The time is what counts, even if it's just walking to the park, or staying at home and having a tea party or reading books... a time of no other people, no yelling, no clashing of wills, just fun and love. It would be good for both of you. If you can work it out, make it a top-priority time with *each* of your girls. Don't allow ANYTHING but an emergency trip to the hospital to interfere with mommy-daughter time.

All other things being equal, when this is established, I'm thinking perhaps her rebellion - or some of it - may start to be mitigated, and so might your yelling.

I hope you'll get more concrete, practical help from other moms who have been where you are now. I can't do anything but give you some vague ideas. Being a mother is definitely not for wimps, whether you're a single parent or a married one!

Read Love and Logic, I think it will really help give you ideas to get her to behave without yelling. It's all about consequences for the decisions that she makes, and of course follow through on your end.

I think its great that you realize that there is a problema nd that you can sit and talk with your daughter. My daughter is 6 and for a while it was as though we just yelled.. I started something new, I use the privilage system, when she is heading out to play with a friend I tell her " i will give you a 3 min warning before you need to coe in if I then have to ask you more than once to come in when it's time then you loose your privlages, wether it s movie, tv, music, playing with friends, dessert, ect she lost privilages 3 x before she realized I was serious. its kind of a bribing tool but it works for me.

Oh, honey, I feel your pain.
You've gotten a lot of good comments but I want to throw mine on the pile. Get your hands on a copy of "How to Talk So Kids Will LIsten and Listen so Kids Will Talk" right away. It changed my life. I struggle with yelling and keeping patient in general, but the concepts in this book have diffused SO many potential confrontations and helped us have a peaceful family instead of just a loud, ineffective, frustrated family.
Something I have learned about asking children to do something is that it really matters how you ask. This is one of the concepts of the book, but it helped a LOT to start sentences with "I need you to," "I want you to," "I expect you to," "It's time to. . . ," "Let's. . . " or "It's important that you. . ." It's also important to be very specific because they are young and easily distracted and have not had as much experience in doing things as adults have had, BUT they still deserve respect and parents need to model respect.
So instead of saying "Jane, clean your room!" say "Jane, I need you to put the toys in the baskets and the books on the shelf. Thank you for helping."
It's also good to make observations and clearly state what you see, rather than waste energy and patience getting worked up about the bigger issue or assigning blame, which makes people defensive. So instead of saying "You always leave your clothes on the floor!" say "I see some dirty clothes on the floor that should be in the hamper. Jane, I need you to put them in the hamper. Thank you for helping us keep our house tidy."
I say "it's time to. . ." quite a lot and it is an energy saver because it makes an announcement without giving a choice when there isn't one or setting the stage for unwelcome negotiations. I used to say "Hey, are you guys ready for a bath?" and they'd say "Ummm, no," and I'd get all mad and yell at them to get upstairs to the tub this instant. Now I say "OK, guys, in five minutes it will be time for a bath," and then "It's time for a bath! Go upstairs and I'll come help you. Do you want coconut soap or orange soap tonight?" It works a lot better.
I have also learned not to react right away to the start of drama, but to just listen and validate. It sounds hokey, but it's really not hard and we all need it so desperately. So if my three year old screams and throws his toy because he couldn't make it work right and says "I hate that toy!" rather than telling him to shush and get over it and stop throwing his toys I say, "Oh, buddy, you are so frustrated! You really wanted that to work and it just wouldn't do it.I feel upset when that happens to me, too." He calms down almost immediately and is more open to happy distractions, including picking up the toy.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is in cheap paperback and is probably at the library. It's short with lots of simple "cartoon" illustrations so it wouldn't take you long to read. Most of all, it doesn't involve complicated "systems" or manipulative mind games, just effective ways to talk to your children so you can listen to each other without getting loud or losing your temper.
I don't use time outs in a punitive way very often. I sometimes say I am upset and *I* need a time out to be by myself for a few minutes, or I suggest that my sons have time apart for a little while ("I can tell he is really bothering you. Please go to your room to read and I'll keep your brother downstairs with me so you can have a break.") but I am not sold on the idea of pushing kids away when they are falling apart. I know many people disagree with me, but I think if it is used often it can accidentally send a message of conditional love ("I only love you when you are pleasant and well-behaved"). My oldest son (age 7) has occasionally given himself a time out and said "I need a break so I can stop being angry" and I am glad to hear him self-regulate like that. I think with lots of time IN and positive attention, many behavior problems fade. Even if you're busy, you can try to be present when you're with your kids, and thank them often for their contributions to the family ("Thank you for helping your sister find her shoes! That is very helpful! Thank you for riding so quietly in your car seat! That really helps me think about where to park the car!"). Words of affirmation are a vital way of expressing love to children, and so is cuddly physical contact.
I am deeply impressed that you have realized there is a problem. (It took me too long and I am regretful about that.) You are obviously a devoted, sensitive mother.
I am still working on keeping my cool with my children and I know my hardest moments are almost always when my husband has been gone at work all day and all night and I am simply burning out. Single motherhood is hard, work so cut yourself some slack.
If I lose it, I try to remember to apologize as soon as I can and tell my children that I am working on controlling myself because it's not OK to yell at people or animals when you're upset. I feel it's important to model apology even if I can't model perfect calmness all the time. When I'm having a hard moment I sometimes say "I am getting upset and feel like yelling because I am tired and dinner isn't ready, but it's not OK to yell. I need you to help me set the table so we can eat!"
Hang in there. Go get a copy of "How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk." It's really worth looking at because it addresses so much of what's bothering you.

Try a book by Dr. Leman, "Have a New Kid by Friday." It really has helped me. I just couldn't fight any more, and while we still have our moments, they are few and far between.


I loved Love & Logic, but it doesn't seem to have a fix for my sons' problem. They tune us out completely! They don't hear me if I don't yell. I ask them nicely to do something, and even if they're looking at me, it just doesn't register. AFter 4 tries, I get upset and yell it, and then their eyes seem to open, and suddenly they can hear me, and they act like, "well, why didn't you just say so in the first place?"

But I hate it.

I use Love & Logic for other things, though.

I'm glad you asked. I've been meaning to do it myself!

A., I HIGHLY recommend going out to www.alwaysanally.com and get the book by the same name. The principles in there will change your life!

Hi A.,

How I read this, is that you've created a pattern or cycle with your girls, and they don't think you're really serious, until you yell.

As a previous person mentioned, it's going to take awhile to change the behavior response to something different, so don't expect it to change overnight.

Children like to have guidelines and you need to help them stay inside of them. Be consistent, even if it wears you down to your last bit of sanity in a day ;-) Consistency, consistency, consistency....

Also, give them choices. But, don't let them decide what the choices are. Tell them, you can do this or you can do that. This way, they feel like they're having some control in the decision making.

Lastly, pray and ask for guidance from the Lord, He will never fail you!

God bless,

Consequences. Take her favorite things away when she does not listen until she does. As for not staying in timeout... I have had to resort to a "baby crib" with my children and the kids I watch when they do not want to do as I have asked. The baby crib is simply a pack-n-play. They don't like the idea of being a baby so when told that if they don't behave, they will be put in the crib like a baby, they usually respond. It's better than them throwing a fit and running around the house teaching the younger ones how to get out of it. Good Luck hun!

I just wanted to say that I'm glad you posted this. I really needed to hear all of the suggestions you got also. Thanks everyone! I really like the chore chart idea with stars and X's.

You have had some great responses about creating good consequences (Lori W), being consistent, and staying calm.

Part of my journey out of yelling at my kids was working my own anger issues. I found that I had years of stored up anger that was usually coming out sideways onto my kids through yelling all the time. One, I read 1-2-3 Magic and, like Cookie, the psychology behind staying quiet during your discipline process really helped. But, then I still had all the anger. So I started taking 'mommy time-outs'. I would go into my room and anger journal. I simply had 9x12 sketchbooks that I poured my anger into. I found that it was much more effective in getting me to the root of my own stuff and kept me from taking it out on my children.

Aimee C talked about yelling doing damage and I fully agree because I believe that children do blame themselves and that our anger at them isn't ever really justified. Our anger is the result of years of not being able to express feelings, being a victim, of always giving ourselves away and never having time for ourselves, etc.

Children generally misbehave out of egocentricity (the world revolves around them) rather than just to piss us off. When we get our "buttons" pushed that means that the child just pushed the button of an old recording in your head (that was made way before that child was born) that says something like: your not good enough, the world isn't fair, you are not in control and should be, you are worthless, etc. We don't even realize the old tape is playing. We just feel the result of that message and that is the feeling of anger. I found that when I am feeling extreme anger and frustration I am in 'vicitm mode'--I feel completely powerless. I then resource that by doing my anger journaling, calling a friend to work through the underlying issue, and am really gentle with myself and release the judgment that I 'shouldn't' be where I am.

I also educated myself on good discipline techniques to support myself in overcoming my feelings of powerlessness. A great technique that I was given by a child psychologist that worked with my youngest was "holding time-out". What you do is set up two chairs one directly behind the other. You sit in the back chair with the child sitting in the chair in front of you (thier back is to you). You cross the childs arms in front of them and hold their wrists with just your thumb and middle finger making a circle around their wrist. The folded/crossed arms makes it difficult for the child to move and allows you to hold their wrists with minimal pressure. Plus, using two chairs, with you behind the child, means the child can't kick you or head-butt you. This technique worked wonders for my youngest. He too was stubborn and often refused to stay in time out. I only had to use holding time outs a few times consistently before he got the message. He is now 13 years old and still remembers how effective they were. Best wishes A., being a mom is the hardest job on the planet and being a single mom is...! In support of You, T.

So first and foremost, I was introduced to a site called FlyLady.com. When I first got on there, I thought it was just a site for getting your house in order. Low and behold after a month or so of being on the site, I find that the freak outs and yelling in the house with me and my children has become almost obsolete. Basically I have found how to organize myself and three children, keep some basic routines and enjoy my day instead of fighting through it.

That being said, I have one VERY stubborn little boy. Like your daughter he would not listen, not sit in time out, he would continually scream or run off. It is mind-boggling.

I did not give up on putting him on the couch (our time-out area). When he got up, I set him back on it. I also would take some of his favorite things away if he continued to get up and run away. I never wavered! After about a month he would sit in time out with no problems, just some crying. It has been 6 months since our time-out bout and I haven't used the couch in probably 2 months.

In short, just stick to your guns. I have learned lately not to yell just respond. If something isn't done or I am not being listened to, something gets taken away - period!

Good luck to you.

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