All a Matter of Semantics
Eating too much pirate booty...

Are You a Yeller?

The first time that Chance stuffed so much toilet paper into the toilet that it overflowed I explained to him that you don’t play with the toilet, pointed out the big, very visible mess and told him he wasn’t to do it again. The second time he overflowed the toilet I had a “serious discussion” with him about why the toilet is not a toy and how we use toilet paper properly. The third time I walked into the bathroom as he’s feeding the end of the toilet paper roll into the water and getting ready to flush (you know how they do that? spin the roll quickly as you flush so it continuously feeds?)… which, coincidently, was only TWO HOURS after the second overflow incident… I lost it. I started yelling. Not abusive yelling or name-calling, but pretty much along the lines of everything I had said before… in a much louder voice.

“CHANCE! What did I tell you?! The toilet is NOT a toy!”

And that final time he stopped, looked at my face, and listened.

I have really mixed emotions about yelling. I grew up in a very loud family so I don’t think being loud is necessarily a problem. There’s a difference between verbal abuse and, um, expressing oneself in a loud tone (and I’ve had experience with both so I’m keenly aware of that difference).  However, as a “modern mother” my first knee-jerk reaction after I’ve yelled, regardless, is to feel guilty and doubt myself. Am I just being mean? Why can’t I be more patient? Does he really understand? 

But I’m also honest enough to admit that while I’m yelling, while I’m mad, I feel pretty darned justified. 

(And I feel guilty just typing that.)

I’ve watched the teachers at my son’s preschool quite a bit. They’re really good at always talking in a calm, quiet voice, reinforcing good behavior as needed, correcting bad behavior gently. I seriously do not understand how they do it! All day long. In those same calm voices! 

I think for 75-80% of the time I’m patient and creative enough to work around the toddler misbehaviors. We have a lot of hugs and affection, we have a lot of fun, even on bad days. But there are times when I lose it.  When my voice level ratchets up and I’m yelling. There are moments when I know my son is purposely pushing my buttons. And then there are other days where I’m just not at my best and I don’t feel like being victimized by my child’s bad behavior. 

(And I feel guilty typing that, too.)

Because good moms should always be patient, right? Not to mention proactive and effective enough as parents that any incidences that might result in yelling would be headed off. Really good, modern moms, who are up on the latest research and child-rearing techniques, know how to minimize their child’s bad behavior altogether… while whipping up cookies and multi-tasking the fuck out of the housework.

(Yeah, sometimes the research makes me feel a little marginalized.)

Because research says that yelling really isn’t all that effective.

Except… except…

…sometimes it is.  Sometimes raising your voice gets your child’s attention when they are so busy tuning you out. Sometimes yelling makes them realize you’re not playing while they’ve been gleefully shrieking in disobedience.  

Ugh. Not that I feel any better knowing that yelling sometimes works. 

So what I’d like to know is how many other parents out there yell?  Does anyone have a yelling, or anti-yelling, philosophy? 

On a completely different note, I was very saddened to hear of Heath Ledger's death.  As those of you who read me know I'm not one to follow the lives of celebrities, but I have always been incredibly impressed by Heath Ledger's talent and role choices.  That he left behind a young daughter, to miss seeing her grow up, I just find terribly sad.

 - the weirdgirl




Heath Ledger? So very sad. I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around it, especially since it's starting to look like it was probably an accidental overdose. His daughter and my son are the same age. It's too terrible.

Now, as far as the yelling... I could have written this post, my lord. I try so VERY VERY hard to be all patient and calm and blah blah blah but there are times when yelling is the only thing that convinces him I am serious this time, no fooling, honestly you little twerp, stop poking that cat in the eye with a crayon.

Remember how when we were kids we got yelled at AND spanked? Funny how much times have changed...


Ditto on Heath Ledger. As far as the yelling goes I think it's good for you and him. There should be a little fear mixed with the relationship otherwise kids would just run all over us. I'm not sure about your feelings toward spanking.Fred knows that after a stern command has been given, the next time means a swat with the hand (never anything else like my parents did).

the weirdgirl

Hi Hannah - it is amazing how different things were when we were kids! I remember getting my ass beat (not just spanked) and of course, we don't want to go down that route, but it'd be nice to not feel immediately guilty over just yelling. And yet, I still feel guilty. It's like we've gone too far the other direction, you know? And what is up with toddlers harassing pets?! Doesn't that drive you nuts?

Hey Bill - You know, I'm trying not to spank (though I've done it twice)... not because I have anything against it when used appropriately, but because my son can be aggressive with other kids (which is a whole other post). It's not that he's a bully, but he's REALLY rough and tumble, he shakes off pain, and his idea of "fun wrestling" - that he can do with adults - hurts the other kids. Plus, monkey see monkey do, especially with him. We've been making a big effort to monitor what he sees on TV, how we play with him, etc. I know if I spank him, he's going to try to spank someone at school. However, I've known other parents who've used the swat on the butt really effectively. I think it depends on the kid.

Isn't it sad that we're a generation of parents who seem to be experiencing a lot of guilt, not because we've done anything wrong, but because we're trying so hard to avoid what our parents did (i.e. kicking the crap out of us)? And even more sad? I don't think our parents' generation feels any guilt at all.


Sometimes you have to yell to get their attention so that they realize THIS IS IMPORTANT. Not that I did it very often, but still... sometimes it had to be done. It's effective if it isn't used often.

Heath Ledger. Of course, I do not know him, but I am deeply saddened by his death. Such a talent. And I feel very sad for his family, especially his young daughter.


Oh man, am I a yeller! Doesn't get the same response as it used to now. Guess maybe I should switch to whispering just to shake things up.

red pen mama

The wall I have run into with yelling is that now my 3-year-old yells at me. sigh.

So, I am trying to turn it down. Sometimes I DO whisper just to get my toddler's attention. I still blow my top. Sometimes, I just leave the room if I can, count to ten, and try to start over. It's hard not to yell for me. But I'm working on it.

I don't feel guilty about it, though. I feel guilty that my yelling may be causing my children anxiety. Not the yelling itself. Sometimes it's damn therapeutic for me.

oh, well. my mantra right now is "I'm doing the best I can with what I got."



I have always been a quiet and low-key person. I was never a yeller. But one day, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my little toddler daughter heading towards an electrical socket with a metal fork. My wife and I both saw it at the same time, but we were both too far away from her to have gotten up and grabbed her.

Then, some strange demon leapt into my lungs, and in a HUGE voice that I didn't know that I had, I YELLED my daughter's name. She looked up stunned, stopped dead in her tracks, and sat down on the floor to cry.

Which made me feel bad, but not as bad as if her fork had reached the socket.

Yelling is merely a tool in the bag-o-tricks. Use it wisely.


I'm definitely a yeller. Sometimes it is the only way I'm heard over all my kids. Other times it doesn't work at all but it makes me feel better.


Oh gawd, I could have written that post. I grew up in a loud family, too. As a matter of fact they're still loud. When you come from that environment it can be hard to get a handle on it as an adult... loud-ness just feels normal. I try really hard not to yell too, just like you but sometimes it just comes out. And then I feel guilty. Just like you. My youngest is a master at pushing my buttons, she's equally as good at pulling my heart strings immediately thereafter. I bought Taming the Spirited Child by Michael Popkin from and it's a great book for this. Not a lot of new material, most I already knew but the couple of phrases I learned from the book have made all the difference. I highly recommend it for any "modern mom" who needs a little refresher. ;)

Glad I found you, clicked through BlogHer ads. :)

the weirdgirl

KC, lately I feel like I'm yelling a lot more. Sigh. Comes with the age I guess. The other parents were right... three is much worse than two.

Lisa, I've been trying whispering. I'll let you know how that goes!

RPM, strangely, I don't think my son feels much anxiety at all. Can I learn that trick?

Muddleman, thanks for the support! I appreciate it.

Slackermom, they should have Yelling Therapy classes for moms (and dads). Wouldn't that be cool? We could all just stand in a room and work through our frustrations.

Diana, wow, sounds like our kids are similar! I'm going to check out that book. Thanks for the tip!

This is why I love the blogging world. You can always find new answers, tips, advice, and, most importantly, commiseration! You people rock!


I yell, too. I try not to do it all the time, but sometimes it's just got to happen. I mean, what the hell? Just because I'm a mom means I can no longer get pissed off and raise my voice? Not a chance.


I didn't realize I was a yeller until my husband brought it to my attention the other night. Raising my voice just seems like second nature to me and I'm not even aware when I am doing it. My toddler hardly seems phased by it, I'm assuming my yelling has turned into white noise at this point. I don't see anything wrong with it, there is no abusive action in raising your voice, right?


Yelling "sometimes works"--but for how long, and at what cost?


Yes, yelling sometimes works--but for how long, and at what cost?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)