Moms Tell All: How I Keep From Yelling

Moms Tell All: How I Keep From Yelling

These moms share their secrets to staying cool and calm under pressure.

By Judy Koutsky

I admit: It’s really, really, really hard not to yell sometimes. Kids are experts at having selective hearing, and phrases like “finish your homework,” “get your shoes on,” or “load the dishwasher” don’t seem to reach them sometimes. So, what should you do? The key is to get to the root of the problem, according to Tina Nocera, author of Parents Ask, Experts Answer: Nurturing Happy, Healthy Children.

“Why are you yelling?” asks Nocera. “If there is a persistent problem, identify and fix it. Yelling is the byproduct.” She suggests talking to your kids by saying something like, “I don’t want to be a yelling mom, but I get upset when you (fill in the blank).” Ask them how it can be better. You may be surprised by their answer.

Here, 11 moms share how they manage to keep from yelling. (Some of these are pretty darn creative.)

1. “I call my son ‘buddy.’ That may sound weird, but saying, ‘Please put your coat on, buddy,’ or ‘Please finish your cereal, buddy,’ sounds a lot nicer than yelling their name (‘JAKE, please put your coat on!’ or ‘JAKE, for the 10th time, finish your cereal!’). Using the word ‘buddy’ forces me to take a nicer tone.” -- Reba S., Chicago, Illinois

2. “I realized that yelling promotes yelling. When I do lose it and yell at my kids, they immediately yell back. So, by yelling at my kids, I’m teaching them that it’s OK to yell. So, I now tell them, ‘You’re not listening, I’m putting on the timer.’ And I do for two minutes. And there’s no talking, no activity, nothing during that time. After the timer goes off, I repeat my request.” -- Michelle B., Oak Park, Illinois

3. “I smile. When I’m really stressed out, and the kids don’t listen, and I’m ready to chuck them out the window, I smile. Just making that gesture, really does help me calm down and realize whatever I was going to yell about is not worth turning into a crazy lady for – although, I probably look like a crazy lady smiling my goofy smile.” -- Joan Z., New York City

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4. “I make a funny voice. My kids call it my opera voice. I sing in a high-pitch tone whatever I was going to yell. ‘Stop hitting your brother! Don’t forget to wipe! Get your shoes on now!’ All sounds better in a sing-songy soprano. Try it – you’d be surprised.” --- Cheryl M., Nashville, Tennessee

5. “I remind myself that we live in an apartment, and the neighbors can hear everything. Not that I’m super concerned about what they think, but I just don’t want them to call child services because there’s all this yelling going on.” -- Denise B., Brooklyn, New York

6. “I put on classical music. My son’s teacher gave me this tip. She does this when the kids in preschool are all riled up and won’t listen. She has them put their hands on their heads, and she plays something soothing. I now have a CD in my car and home, and play it when I’m ready to blow.” -- Joanna A., Schaumberg, Illinois

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7. “When I’m about to yell, I think back at my own childhood and how both my parents had short fuses and communicated by yelling. It was horrible. No matter how much my kids drive me nuts, it’s not worth it to yell and make them feel bad.” -- Susan P., Saint Louis, Missouri

8. “I count, ‘One, two …’ I almost never get to three. They know that three means privileges get taken away. The key is reinforcing this. And I do.” -- MaryJo C., San Francisco, California

9. “I start crazy dancing. The way I look at it, when I’m ready to yell, it’s almost like I’m ready to explode. So, I do in a safe, funny way. The kids are immediately taken aback and then burst out laughing. It diffuses the moment, and we all get a chance to reboot.” -- Monica T., Portland, Oregon

10. “I walk away. If we’re in a store, and they’re not listening, instead of yelling, I walk to the checkout. If we’re at home, and I’ve told them something twice, I walk into another room. If we’re at the playground, I simply start walking toward home. My walking away is like silent yelling. The kids know I mean business.” -- Nancy D., Dayton, Ohio

11. “I blow a horn. The kind you blow at New Year’s Eve. Why waste my voice? If I need their attention, the horn works.” -- Rita R., Carbondale, Illinois

How do you keep from yelling?

Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of, AOL Parent and Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

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