Yes, I Raise My Voice To My Child

shutterstock_175976285Yes, I raise my voice to my child. This isn’t one of those posts defending my actions, it’s just an admission. I’ve read all of the studies that say yelling at your kids is damaging, and realistically I understand that it is. What I don’t understand is, how do I become one of those parents who insists they never raise their voice?

My child is three-and-a-half, so admittedly we’re in a bit of a difficult stage. Sometimes, I just can not get him to listen to me. He totally doesn’t respond when I raise my voice in these situations, but I still end up doing it. It’s strange, because there is literally no one else in my life that I ever raise my voice to. I’m not a yeller. I’m an animated speaker for sure, my Greek and Italian ancestry has pretty much solidified that. But yelling? I never did it until I had a frustrating toddler to deal with. This makes me feel like shit.

I don’t scream at the kid or say horrible things. But I raise my voice to a yell. After minutes of , Can you please not throw that, you might hit your sister with it. Please don’t do that. Don’t do that. Are you listening, you can not throw this stuff! my somewhat calm voice inevitably turns into  - STOP! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

Does he stop? Sort of, but not really. I find that raising my voice really is not that effective, but inevitably it happens. How do parents avoid this kind of behavior? Do I just give up asking him to do these things? That’s probably not the best idea. Longer time-outs? I really don’t know. All I know is, I’m occasionally stressed out caring for two children and I raise my voice to the toddler at a few times a week. Some people may think it’s disgusting, some may think it’s no big deal. I’m just at the point where I want to make a conscious decision not to do it.

I was never yelled at, but by all recollections I was a really good listener. I never got in trouble as a child. I’m sure my child will move out of this difficult period – so I just really want to have some more patience with him. It’s a drag when you realize you are not the perfect parent you thought you would be. Maybe I’m just typing this out to remind myself how much I hate doing it, so I’ll take a minute before it happens again.

(photo: Luis Molinero/ Shutterstock)

Be Sociable, Share!
You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Williwaw

    Isn’t a scream of “NO!” preferable to the kid running into traffic, sticking a fork in an electric outlet, or eating that brown scrap of something-or-other that he found on the public restroom floor? I definitely just flunked Parenting 101. But really, is there a toddler in the world who actually listens to a quiet-voiced “Please don’t do that”?

    • Rachel Sea

      If they know that behind your quiet “please don’t do that” is an implied threat that if they want to live to see 4 they will knock that shit off right now, yeah, sometimes.

    • ELK

      I agree with this. My mom was terrifying. She screamed sometimes, but it was much scarier when she was quiet. That’s when we knew to stop what we were doing.

    • JenH1986

      My dad had a look. He didn’t even have to say anything and I knew to zip it and tow the line or my ass was grass.

    • CMJ

      OMG! My dad did too…here he is employing it very early to my sister.

    • JenH1986

      HA HA HA. I love this photo. I think he knew my dad because that was 100% my dad’s “do it again and you will pay” face! Also is this adorable baby you?

  • SunnyD847

    Why do you feel the need to stop? Unless you are verbally abusing your kids, I don’t think occasionally raising your voice to them will be harmful. It’s okay to be human.

    • Spongeworthy

      I agree. If you’re screaming until you’re blue in the face, calling your child names, or if you are yelling all the time, that’s one thing. But occasionally yelling “knock it off!” at your kid? Please. I don’t think you’ll scar your child for life.

    • sandrabjock

      my Aunty
      Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  • Rachel Sea

    I’m not totally anti-yelling, because sometimes it’s the only way to get their hamster-brained attention, but if you are yelling, and it isn’t working, and you don’t like it, then finding an alternative sounds necessary.

    If you yell because you are frustrated after a string of commands to knock off doing something, maybe try bringing down the consequences earlier. When I am in charge of a kid, they get told to stop once, then they get one warning that consequences are forthcoming, and then they get a time-out (one minute per year of age) and whatever toy they are being a jerk with (if a toy was involved) goes away until they apologize and can tell me what about the use of the toy got them in trouble.

    I seem like a little bit of a hardass now because when I was parenting my cousin I was useless at discipline and would just blat at him to stop, or distract, or bribe him, and while it worked okay and he turned into a totally cool adult, it would have saved us both a lot of nonsense if I had done then what I do now. It takes a lot less time, and kids tend to listen to me the first time after a few swift and firm time-outs (and I get to spend a lot more time being fun Auntie Rachel).

    • SunnyD847

      Yes, yelling is not a substitute for discipline. If you keep yelling without following up with consequences, the kids will just tune you out.

    • JenH1986

      This sounds so simple. Do you have ANY idea how hard it is to get a parent to understand this? It’s like beating my head against a wall. “You’ve set up a chore chart with consequences and rewards, if you don’t follow through on both, you may as well not use the chart”. “But I don’t like giving punishments.” Does anyone?

    • SunnyD847

      I’ve never used chore charts or complicated discipline plans because I know I would forget to do it and it would be meaningless :)

    • JenH1986

      HA. My clients usually had some developmental/emotional/behavioral issues so chore charts or punishment/reward charts were necessary because they actually couldn’t process that if they hit someone it was bad or they couldn’t remember that they’d be punished. Parents tend to bring their kids in and say “fix them!” but don’t want to do the work involved.

    • guest

      I don’t think anyone likes yelling at their kids OR punishing them but you are going to have to pick one and the legit one so that they don’t turn into a nightmare. I’ve never understood people that say things like “Well I don’t like punishing my kids”.. you don’t get to opt out of being a parent. And if you try opting out anyway you’re going to end up being an asshole with asshole kids.

    • SunnyD847

      One problem I see is when parents set a consequence that they don’t want to follow through with, either because it’s inconvenient for them or they “feel bad.” Don’t say you’re going to do something unless you are comfortable following up. For example, I never told my kids “we’re going to leave” if I needed to finish my shopping or I was having fun with my friends. I would do on-the-spot time outs or no tv when we get home instead.

    • guest

      Exactly how it should be done. I just can’t handle idle threats because I see it soooo often with some of our family members so the kids know they can just walk. all. over. them.

    • jane

      I mean, giving punishments doesn’t really bother me. I wouldn’t say that I like it, but if I had to rank in order the things I enjoy least about parenting, punishing them wouldn’t even make the top 5.

    • JenH1986

      Right? I mean I kinda thought that was a part of parenting. No one enjoys it but its something that has to be done. One parent said “I don’t like the negativity that “punishment” implies in our home.” Well the school doesn’t like your assholey kid smacking other kids all day and required him to be here so lets talk about that.

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s not fun in the moment, but I so enjoy the results when kids know that I absolutely always follow through on what I say.

    • UterineDudebroWhoLikesOlives

      A friend of mine is the perfect example of this. She has yelled constantly through her two kids’ childhood, yet has done nothing to follow up. Her kids literally laugh in her face when she yells at them because they know there are no consequences. Then she complains that they don’t listen to her. Why should they?

      It’s a whole different story with their father though, which may explain why they are surprisingly good kids away from their mom.

    • Rachel Sea

      One of my friends has this problem with her son and I ache for them, but she is not in a place to hear advice about it. She is certain it’s him and not her.

  • Katie L.

    I haven’t yelled at my kid (yet) but I don’t pretend to think that I won’t at some point. Children are wonderful, delightful, insanely frustrating creatures. Yelling happens.

    I did accidentally yell at her one time though. I was making dinner and out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving on the table. I thought it was one of our jerk cats so I let out a “HEY! DON’T!” I turn around and there is my daughter, staring at me wide-eyed and terrified. She burst into tears and I felt like the worst mom ever.

    • Guest

      Aw! When I was about 10 I was baking cupcakes with my friend (using an oven! without parental supervision!) and her 5 year old sister grabs the handheld mixer, which was still plugged in, and goes to lick it. I screamed at her because I was so scared her tongue would come off. She ran away and cried. I felt bad!

    • Rodiansinger

      My mom made me cry all the time. She was and still is the most terrifying person ever when she’s angry. That’s how you make your kids behave. Show them that misbehaving just isn’t worth it. Don’t tiptoe around our kids. You’re supposed to be the boss not the other way around.

    • The Actual Devil

      Um, you can have well behaved children without making them cry. That’s awful. I mean, of course small children will cry because you didn’t give them something or someone looked at them funny, but a child shouldn’t cry out of fear of their own parents. I THOUGHT THIS WAS PRETTY BASIC PARENTING SHIT!!!!!

    • chaosplease

      Exactly. Pretty big difference between fearing your parents and having respect for them.

    • SunnyD847

      My mom was terrifying as well and I ended up hating her, lying a lot, running away from home, and attempting suicide. I refuse to do that to my kids. I can be an authority figure without verbally assaulting them. I do yell occasionally, but mostly I use consistent expectations and consequences.

    • Kelly

      My parents were like that too. Now they’re old and alone and none of their children will have anything to do with them.

      I wouldn’t suggest that route. You can make kids behave without abusing them and making them hate you.

  • The Actual Devil

    I think the bad kind of yelling is the kind where you’ve completely lost it and you scare the kid because you’re obviously out of control and very angry, or yelling as a punishment.

    I think it’s much more effective to have an “I-mean-business-voice” that says more I Am Not Amused and A Time Out Is Coming. Perhaps, if time outs are NBD for him, you need a different consequence?

    I don’t think you’re scaring/abusing your kid with you the kind of yelling you describe, it’s more kind of Mommy-Has-Given-Up and that’s just not effective.

    I’ve never raised a kid, just dealt with little siblings, cousins and babysitting, and observed other people parent so IDK.

  • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    Raising your voice is one tool. It’s one of many, because you never want to be the hammer that starts to see every discipline instance as a tool. But I think there are a ton of scenarios where it is completely appropriate.

    I also think it varies a lot by child. My older son doesn’t need more than a couple of extra decibels or a change of tone to get the idea. My younger son? I can mom voice him all day and he doesn’t give a crap. Occasionally, if it’s something really crucial, it has to get louder. I don’t consider it yelling or screaming–it isn’t. It’s a momentary “Hey!” or similar to get his attention, that then is followed by direction. But he goes through spells where that is literally the only way to get his attention. If I wasted time feeling bad about it, I’d never get anything else done, and I don’t think I’ll stop any time soon. Balanced with the rest of our discipline, that raised voice makes all the difference from time to time.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Love your phrasing of it as one tool in the toolbox. That’s a very good way to put it, especially because it immediately draws the analogy of the problem when the only tool in the toolbox is a hammer…

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      Adapt and Survive™ parenting requires the toolbox analogy. You must constantly add to it to keep the children on their toes. ;)

    • Maria Guido

      You guys are all making me feel so much better. Is it okay that I’m outsourcing my therapy to you all? I think I just know internally how stressed out I’ve been, so I also know that it’s not all his fault that I don’t have the patience I usually have. Blah. Having a toddler while you have a ton of your own life shit going on is just really challenging.

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      It truly is. I ran into that earlier this year too. Totally normal.

      Also, you should always outsource your therapy whenever possible. It’s so much cheaper than the real stuff.

    • biggerthanthesound

      Word… i have three kids, the youngest is three and is super stubborn and honestly, i’m fucking tired. Part of her issue is that I’m not as consistent with her as I was with the other two, but man… she is a little stinker. I have the life shit going on, too and i’d be lieing if I said I’ve always been able to keep it together. Just keep in mind, tomorrow is a new day.

      Edited to add…. Sometimes when i feel like yelling, i sing it instead! It defuses my frustration and sometimes it works!

    • jane

      You know, you can explain that to him too. “I’m really sorry that I’ve yelled a lot lately. I don’t like yelling at you and it makes me feel bad. But sometimes when you don’t listen to me, it makes me really angry and I yell. Can you work on listening and I’ll work on not yelling?”

      Will your three year old get it? Absolutely not. But it’s good practice for when they’re older. (I had a very similar conversation with my 9 year old yesterday. Ah, hormones).

    • SunnyD847

      Apologizing to your kids is really important. It does not erode your authority. It shows your kids you care enough to admit when you’re wrong. My mother NEVER apologized and I had a lot of anger and resentment toward her because of it.

    • jane

      Apologizing actually makes me feel better too. And it models really important behavior for the kids. Apologizing when you are wrong is ALWAYS the right thing to do. Even if you are apologizing to a total a-hole.

    • Quinn Skye

      “I’m really sorry that I’ve yelled a lot lately. I don’t like yelling at you and it makes me feel bad. But sometimes when you don’t listen to me, it makes me really angry and I yell. Can you work on listening and I’ll work on not yelling?”


    • Rachel Sea

      Everyone has a finite amount of patience. That you know that your yelling is as much about you as it is about him, means you’re still okay.

      If you sometimes have to stick him in his room with a baby gate up, to throw things around like a beligerent octopus while you have yourself a time-out, do it. Maybe even do it as a matter of routine. Whatever keeps you good with yourself, you know?

    • UterineDudebroWhoLikesOlives

      My husband and I thankfully don’t have to do a lot of yelling with our son. He’s kind of a people-pleaser, so usually a tone change or a slight decibel raise gets the point across with him. But I’ve yelled at him on a number of occasions, especially when I can see he’s about to do something that could put him in danger, or even when I’m just frustrated with his lack of motivation. Just last week I told him two or three times to put his socks and shoes on, but he kept screwing around, and I finally I just yelled “GET YOUR SOCKS AND SHOES ON NOW!”

      I did feel bad after though because he was upset I yelled at him. But we hugged it out.

      ETA: I also like your analogy of it being one tool in the toolbox.

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      That’s my older kid to a T. I can actually highlight specific instances where I have had to raise my voice, because they are so rare. The younger one requires it a few times a week. Not nasty, but enough to get his attention and say, “Oh yeah, Mom’s really serious”. Usually along the lines of, “Stop what you are doing, and listen to me right now.” He’s pretty hardheaded. It was the same between me and my younger sister–I was such a people pleaser that any change in tone or volume was enough to send me sobbing to my room. My younger sister? Nope.

  • noelle 02

    So long as yelling is infrequent, it does work to get a kid to listen. I don’t want to stop.

  • Obladi Oblada

    Hell yes I yell at my kids. Listen, they outnumber me four to one and if I didn’t yell, they’d NEVER HEAR ME. It’s when I speak quietly that they run for their lives.

    • NoMissCleo…JustMe

      Yes. My athletes always knew that they were in trouble when I stopped yelling on the sidelines.

    • Obladi Oblada

      Mine too. One of them saw my face at school, came up and said, “Give them the voice you give us when you’re coaching third base.” Cracked me up. :)

    • KSo

      Yes! Sometimes the only way my kids will hear me is if I yell. It doesn’t phase them one bit. I do have a panicky yell that really gets their attention if I feel they’re about to do something dangerous. But in either case, I believe yelling at them is not damaging them, but is necessary.

  • jane

    If the occasional yell because your three year old is being an a-hole is the worst thing that you do, hold on. I have something for you…

    • Maria Guido

      I love you!

  • Jill Loutas

    My dad used to back us up against the wall and yell at us for up to a couple of hours sometimes. THAT was damaging. What you are doing, Maria, is called being a “person”!

  • chaosplease

    Just a suggestion, but maybe instead of always telling him what NOT to do, try telling him what TO do instead. Admittedly, this is wayyy way easier said than done and takes a hell of a lot of practice. Kids at this age love to exercise their ability to say no and to defy mom and dad; they love testing boundaries. At the same time, they’re still too young to be able to think logically, “Oh, I shouldn’t do that, I should be doing this instead.” Telling them what you expect of them instead gives them firm direction and also a reason for doing something a certain way.
    If it’s an emergency and someone’s getting hurt, by all means raise your voice. He’ll know you mean business. And to be honest, there’s a huge gap between raising your voice when disciplining your child and being verbally abusive. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Every single parent out there raises their voice or yells, and they’re lying if they say they don’t. The most important thing is in the actual message you’re delivering.

  • NoMissCleo…JustMe

    I think there is a difference between screaming at your child and raising your voice to THAT level where they know you mean business. But if THAT tone of voice isn’t working, sometimes getting down on their level and whispering very fiercely while looking them straight in the eye will convince them that you mean business.

    My classroom kids know that when I reach THAT tone of voice that they are in big trouble because I’m usually pretty even-keeled. But on the other hand, my athletes always knew when they were in trouble because instead of barking out orders on the sideline, I was very….very….quiet.

  • guest

    I’m not really sure if you’re asking for advice regarding alternatives to yelling so feel free to ignore this, but I’ve found that telling children what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do really helps with compliance. For example, instead of “don’t throw that!” you could say, “Toys belong on the floor” or you can say “walk” instead of “don’t run.” Also framing consequences in a positive way is helpful too. For example, instead of saying “If you throw toys, you’re going to go in time out,” you can say “when you keep toys on the floor, you may keep playing with them.” Good luck!

    • The Kez

      Great advice. So many times I’ve caught my self saying “don’t drop it on the floor/lick that/hit your sister with it”. Half the time he hasn’t done anything yet and I’m probably just suggesting new ways to wreak havoc that hadn’t even crossed his little mind

    • Sri

      Or, my favorite, they find something else naughty to do with it because you didn’t say not to do that. “Don’t touch that sticky mess full of cat hair!” somehow translates in toddler to, “Please lick that hair filled jelly splotch on the floor, for the good of humanity!” when I really should have just said, “Please bring me a paper towel to help clean this up.”

  • Spiderpigmom

    Ah, thanks for this post. I feel less alone.

  • Rodiansinger

    When I was little my mom yelled at me all the time. Your kids have to know that you can get mad before they respect you. Why would they listen if there are no consequences for not listening?
    Kids are supposed to be a little afraid of their parents. It’s what keeps them in line. I’m twenty years old and the fear of my mom still keeps me in line to this day.

    • meteor_Whoricorn_echo

      Kids should respect their parents, but in turn, parents should respect their kids. A parent is supposed to be someone whom a child can trust, not an abuser.

    • Kelly

      That’s abuse. I hope you realize it some day. It is not normal or healthy for an adult to be terrified of her parents.

  • Eric Khalifa

    Hey look at my sons. I love each and every one of them :^)

  • ELK

    I yell at my daughter sometimes, but that’s because she’s nine months old and when she’s not listening and doing something she knows she shouldn’t, yelling “NO!” is the only way to get her to stop. Most of the time I can tell her no and she stops what she’s doing and goes to play with something else, but every few days she likes to test some boundaries.

    Also, I’m loud person and I yell a lot. My mom said that my daughter is the loudest baby she’s ever seen, probably because my husband and I are loud, boisterous people. Usually a happy thing, rarely a bad thing.

  • JenH1986

    As long as you aren’t cursing or name calling and the yelling isn’t every single moment, I think it’s fine. I knew growing up that there was a routine, my mom would ask/demand (that’s a special skill only you moms have btw) then she would raise her voice a bit, then she would yell, then she would get scary quiet and I knew I was in deep. I usually tried to stop her at the yelling because quiet voice was BAD. I also think it depends on the kid. I was a people pleaser and in general (even as a teen) I would really like to not be yelled at so I did what I needed to do. My brother? Couldn’t care less. My mom could have beat him about the head and he would have just done what he wanted. My mom had to threaten to take away sports and bike riding and things like that to get him to tow the line.

  • blh

    Like someone else said, if that’s the worst thing you do to your kids, you’re a great mom. Yelling was the only way I’d listen as a kid. Eventually, I stoped caring if my mom yelled when i got older, bc she did it so much ( we’re just a family of loudmouths) but to this day if my dad yelled at me, I’d be scared and listen to him.
    If somebody told me they never yelled at their kids atleast once, I’d call them a liar.

  • Guinevere

    ummm, could someone delete the pictures of balls down below? It is too early in the morning to have so many balls in my face.

    • SunnyD847

      What??!! It’s never too early for balls!

    • Guinevere

      Well, random balls. While I’m scrolling through comments on a mommyblog using a federal computer. Bossman could walk by any second with his coffee and BALLS bam, right there. WHY ARE THEY STILL THERE?! WHY ARE PEOPLE LIKING THEM??? MOMMYISH SAVEEEEE MEEEEEEEE

  • ellen

    I WAS a yeller until I had my daughter. This is mostly because I was yelled at a ton as a kid and really don’t want that for my daughter. My secret: ask myself what I am doing. Am I just spitting out orders? Or am I getting up and engaging? Is what I am asking reasonable? Can I redirect? <– that one is key because toddlers need alternatives not just orders. I was a rageaholic once. Keeping the focus on me and my actions is how I became one of those parents who doesn't yell.

  • Fallopian Twerker Phillips

    I have to yell sometimes because Face, like most 4 year olds, suffers from Selective Hearing Syndrome. The kid literally talks to me all day long, even when I’m not even in the same room with him, but the minute I’m like, “Ok, it’s time to get your pajamas on” it’s like two-way radio silence. After repeating myself 5 or 6 times, sometimes there’s no choice but to resort to, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD FACE I’VE SAID IT 6 TIMES, WILL YOU PLEASE JUST PUT YOUR PAJAMAS ON BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND!!!!”

  • Quinn Skye

    I don’t think it’s a big deal either, like everyone else says, as long as you’re not yelling all day every day, which I’m sure you’re not. Kids aren’t exactly the most receptive people. It definitely also depends on the kid, like crap-I-forget-her-name-but-she’s-a-regular-here, my oldest son usually does listen better if I speak in a quieter but firm voice, but my youngest son? Yeah right. I sort of have to yell just to get him to start listening. It’s like a jump-starter. “ADAM! Could you pick that up please?… NOW? Thank you!”

  • Gina

    I have a 12 yr old with ADHD who knows how to get on my last nerve, as 12 yr olds do. Of course I’ve yelled at him. I have yet to meet another parent who doesn’t. However, my MIL whom, I should point out, has no children of her own, (she’s hubby’s step mom) insists that we are abusive parents because she heard hubby yell at our son to put his shoes on when we were trying to leave their house. She is basing her judgement on one incident that she overheard when we were in a hurry and hubby was frustrated with my son’s daudling. She actually wants us to start family therapy because we’ve admitted to occasionally raising our voices at our children. Something which every single person who actually has raised children has admitted to doing, even our doctor who got a chuckle out of it when I asked him about MIL’s thoughts on the matter.

  • liz

    I find myself yelling more at my four year old when I’m exhausted. I hate it, but sometimes it’s the only way to get him to take me seriously. My husband can just put some bass in his voice to make our son straighten up but it takes me getting louder and louder. And time outs are awesome for me haha. They give me a chance to calm down before I lecture him and make him repeat all the things he needs to work on.

  • Ari

    Stop asking your kids. They are not in charge. “Can you please…..” just gives the idea that it is their choice to stop the behavior. They will make the final decision. That’s not cool by any means. So stop asking them, and just tell them exactly what behavior you expect from them.