But…. yelling works so well….

I asked my son a simple question.

Do you know why I’m yelling?

His eyes were wide as he stared up into my face and shook his head.


I took a deep breath and sat down beside him. Then I said simply

Because it works.

I’ll bet this happens in your house too.  See if the whole thing sounds like a page from your life.

It was dinner time.

but yelling works for me

I was cooking dinner (like I do every night).  The kids finished their homework and are watching cartoons with the volume knob turned up slightly too loud (like they do every night).  When I went to drop something into the trashcan, I had to balance it on the top of the pile because the trash can was too full (like it is every night).  So quite naturally, I said to the world in general

Someone needs to empty the trash can.

Much to my shock (and annoyance) neither of my sons jumped up to instantly empty the trashcan.

I take a deep breath.  I realize I’ve made a tactical error.  Neither of my children are named “someone.”  I didn’t call them by name to get their attention.

So I call them by name.

W and R.  I need the garbage can emptied.  Now.

They both look up and make eye contact with me.  R looks at W and says “you do it.”  W looks at me and says “I did it last time. No fair.”

I realize I’ve made tactical error number two.  I assigned one task to two boys.   I rescue dinner from burning and turn back to try, once again, to get the trash emptied so I can finish cooking.  By this point, the boys know what is coming and have wandered off to another part of the house.  They left the television blaring.

W, please empty the trash can.  R, please feed the turtles.  Now.

No response.  I quickly wash my hands and grab the remote for the television.  “Off” seems like a good idea.  I’m struggling to get dinner finished, my kitchen counter is littered with trash, it’s too loud, I’m hungry, and my kids have pushed things a little too far.  From the other room, I hear protests.

MOM! We were watching that!

I’ve got nothing.  I’m done.  Whatever margin I had left has been used up trying to get the silly trash can emptied so I can cook dinner.  I just want to sit down and eat, but I can’t.


For about 15 seconds, I enjoyed the bliss of busy boys.  My trash got emptied (finally) and I was taking a mental victory lap.  But when W came back in, his face was a mask of tears.

That’s when it hit me.

I yelled.

mountain wear sand

I yelled.  Again.  Because nothing else seemed to work.

I wasn’t really even angry.  I was frustrated and tired and stressed, but I wasn’t angry.  I just wanted it done.

In my self-righteous indignation, I felt totally justified in yelling because it worked.  I had tried FOUR other things first, and none of them got my trash emptied.

My kids call it yelling.  I call it loud motivation.

From my perspective, it feels like my kids keep ignoring me until I finally yell.  Then they grudgingly take action to stop me yelling.

Is that really how I want to parent?

What if there was a better way?

  1. Pause the TV or wait for a commercial.
  2. Stand between child and TV.
  3. Call child by name and specifically assign task.

If I’d done that to begin with, the trash would have gotten taken out sooner and without yelling.  (I know this is true because I tested it.)

Yes.  Yelling works if all I care about is getting an empty trash can.

No.  Yelling doesn’t work when I look at the bigger picture.

There are better ways to motivate a child than to yell.

In tears, my son looked at me as I sat next to him.  Remember, I had just told him “I yell because it works.”  He gulped down his sobs and wailed

You don’t love me when you yell.

In tears, I looked down at my son.  I gulped down my sobs and whispered

I’m so sorry.

yelling gave me a headache

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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