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Why Yelling Doesn't Work

Why Yelling Doesn't Work

When I read posts on the site, I notice a common thread running through the questions moms post about setting limits with their children. Over and over again, moms want to know why what they're doing isn't working.

The "danger zone" just might be the answer.

A battle of wills, normal as it is, is one of the hardest things a parent and child deal with. Most parents believe that the battle is the child's fault. But when I look at a battle of wills, I see two sides, each one valid yet destined to collide with the other. Let me explain.

What Is the Danger Zone?

Suppose you read about a parenting tip you want to try. It resonates with you because it's gentle and firm at the same time. Halfway through using the new technique, your child's behavior seems to be getting worse. You wonder what could be making her react, especially since the method is calmer and more peaceful than the yelling she's used to. You begin to wonder if the method is failing and think about giving up.

The reason your child is reacting is because she wants the "old normal" to prevail. You know, the way it was yesterday and the day before, even though the old way involved yelling and punishing. To her, the old normal was familiar. You, on the other hand, are reaching for the "new normal," the way you want things to be from now on. Those two opposing points of view collide, creating the battle of wills.

The reason your child feels so uncomfortable is because you're so calm. When parents yell, children tend to retreat emotionally in order to withstand the yelling. The yelling prevents your child from feeling how firm you really are because she's busy protecting herself from the intensity of it. When you remove the yelling, your firmness takes center stage, and that's powerful. Feeling your authority and the unmovable boundary causes her to feel unsettled and throw everything she has into a battle of wills, hoping to make things return to what she perceives as normal.

After all of that, who wouldn't wonder if the method is failing? The truth is the method is not failing: parent and child are in the middle of the process. I call the middle of the process the danger zone. It's the place just before change occurs, the place when a parent wants to give up.

Hanging in There Pays Off

You have to push past the feeling of wanting to give up or you'll have to begin the method again at another time and endure the entire battle of wills all over again. You need to hang in there and remain calm so you can show your child that this is the way things are going to be from now on. If you lose your temper, or things get really out of hand, then stop, remember the danger zone, and begin again.

You can be supportive too. Tell her you know she doesn't like the new rule, but this is the way it's going to be. Invite her to sit on your lap or give her a hug, if she'll allow you to. Doing that helps her feel safe enough to make the shift to the new way of doing things.

So the next time you find yourself knee-deep in a battle of wills and you want to give up because you think the method is failing, know that you're in the danger zone, the middle of the process, and hang in there just a little while longer in order to create change.

Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Image Source: Shutterstock
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LisaDraeger1398726635 LisaDraeger1398726635 2 years

Great information. Hard to do. I too feel myself start to yell at times. And it amazes me the power of taking a step back and using the firm voice has on my 3 boys. Not yelling, but talking in a firm matter of fact way has helped me. I really start to think about the really loud moms I hear out in public, and I don't want to be that.

TracyBrooks1391312155 TracyBrooks1391312155 2 years
Great information! Last year I caught myself yelling at least once a day. I wanted to change so I started doing some research and it resulted with us at the doctor's office. After many tests, my son was diagnosed with extreme levels of combination ADHD. This means his executive function skills are lacking. Once I realized that he wants to do the right thing and has good intentions, I immediately stopped yelling and started exercising patience. This past year has been a total transformation in our house to say the least. This site had tons of useful information: Thanks for the post!
KimberlyGousse KimberlyGousse 4 years
I totally agree on this article of how to treat your child,(I use to work with Alzhimers Patiences and I treat my son the same way that you discribed it. On the other hand my husband and I yell at each other and that is hurting my son so I treat my husband the same way as my son even though he yells at me and my son and tells us demeaning words to us. As my mother says" kill them with kindness".
NicoleMislivec NicoleMislivec 4 years
Cathy R., as a daughter/granddaughter who has had much experience with guilt trips as both an adult and child, I don't agree. I believe guilt trips/silent treatment are a very passive/aggressive way of dealing with a conflict. And what good does it do? This just makes your child/grown child surcom to what YOU want from them without respecting the child or preparing/teaching them how to deal with real adult life/problems. Maybe that is something for you to think about.
LuanaAllen LuanaAllen 4 years
gonna try it.. thanku!! good timing.. :)
MichelleGamero MichelleGamero 5 years
Very insiteful. I'm in the middle of a divorce and my older two children are acting up and are pushing their limits, i usually have to yell at them to get their attention oí or for them to do chores. I'm gonna try this method and see how it works
JamiSimoneaux JamiSimoneaux 5 years
Thank goodness for all of you wonderful moms!!!! I thought I was the only one going thru this 4yr. Old stage with my daughter!! She brings me to tears a lot. We butt heads very often, she is very independent!!! I am definitely a yeller, it seems like that is the only way they listen...I will definitely try this
MarishaStaub MarishaStaub 5 years
Wow. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you!
JenniferThoma JenniferThoma 5 years
great info, perfect timing & my son is 14
DanielleDixon3264 DanielleDixon3264 5 years
Great article! I stopped yelling a few years ago because I noticed that the teachers at our daycare never yell, and the children there are always so well behaved! I also realized that if it is unacceptable for me to yell at other adults, including my spouse, then it should also be unacceptable to yell at the children! I never really thought about the psychology behind it in the way that you have described it, but it makes sense. Great article!
LindaHunter56134 LindaHunter56134 5 years
I loved this article even though I have known this information it was a great reminder especially since my 12 year old little girl with Asperger is trying very hard for independence but doesnt seem to know how to deal with all the emotions and of coarse the hormones. Thank You
DoraSifuentes DoraSifuentes 5 years
Just in time!!! Im hopjng following this will help me stay away from the yelling.
MelissaCaldeira MelissaCaldeira 5 years
Great timing with this article. I have a tendency to yell at my daughter, who is a VERY strong-willed 5 yr old, in order to be heard above her tantrums. I'm sure if I made an effort to stay calm, it would help her to calm down more quickly as well.
trina5538 trina5538 5 years
My life partner and I have 2 children and before I was a major yelling person I was brought up that way it was the way i knew but he was never yelled at so he did not believe in it so when I adopted the no yelling policy I could see the more positive change I sometimes slip and have to go back and apologize to my family but they remind me now that yelling does not fix the problem the children are ten now and we met when they were 4
trina5538 trina5538 5 years
My life partner and I have 2 children and before I was a major yeller I was brought up that way it was the way i knew but he was never yelled at so he did not believe in it so when I adopted the no yelling policy I could see the more positive change I sometimes slip and have to go back and apologize to my family but they remind me now that yelling does not fix the problem the children are ten now and we met when they were 4
HanaayubDallip HanaayubDallip 5 years
i have 5 princesses and 2 princes, im gonna try this..thanx for the tips...
JeanneJones97987 JeanneJones97987 5 years
My son is almost four and is frequently defiant. He can change from a sweet little guy to a monster for no reason I can find. I try giving my son choices and sometimes that works. I also try time outs but he throws things or hits his sister. What am I supposed to do when he hasn't even started the time out yet and is already misbehaving? Someone HELP!
GraceLubega GraceLubega 5 years
Thanks a lot i needed to know this,i am the yelling type and i have always thought that my son was the naughtiest,but i am putting a stop to that and start disciplining my child in a more calm, firm manner.
HulisaniMukwevho92574 HulisaniMukwevho92574 5 years
Thanks for the article, I will definetly try harder.
MelissaZehr MelissaZehr 5 years
Perfect timing for me to read this article! I felt you could have written this article based on me! Now I know to stick it out and get passed the "danger zone"...thank you!
BrendamalamboMiyanze BrendamalamboMiyanze 5 years
I was a good at yelling. But this advice has come at a right time. Thanks alot
PressyMathew PressyMathew 5 years
Its been so nice to know this helpful tip I have been a bad mom by yelling at my 5yr old daughter now i'll calm down....phew i can save lot of energy myself
SharonSilver SharonSilver 5 years
Thank you to everyone who posted about this article. There is so much more to come. Please add a comment telling me what topics you want me to write about. Who knows I might use your suggestion next!
TammyHammond60430 TammyHammond60430 5 years
I really enjoyed this article... we have been trying to stay calm with our kids,I tend to loose patience with them so I tend to yell, but I am trying to overcome this. Thanks for the advice!
aymancader aymancader 5 years
hi, i really need help in bringing up my kid who is three, always ends up hurting anybody if whatever he says doesn't happen.
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