Three ways to stop yelling and still be heard

Although we’re all aware, caring, conscious parents, you know as well as I do that there are times when we lose control and we find ourselves saying the very words we swore we’d never say to our kids. I’m sure there have even been times when you *gasp* yelled at your kids. So, what can you do instead of yelling when you want to be heard and your little ones seem completely oblivious to your existence? I’ve got three great strategies, new things you can do in moments when you’re about to yell or scream. So, try these and let me know how it goes!

Strategy #1 Whisper

I know it’s counter-intuitive, but it’s also like using reverse psychology. When you walk up and whisper in your child’s ear, they will be compelled to listen and become quiet themselves (so they can hear you). I’ve been shocked by how well this has worked in the classroom and in a house full of kids. I think it’s because no matter what it seems like, kids are always looking to the adult in charge to set the tone and when our example shows them that it’s quiet time, they often fall in line easily.

There also seems to be some magically contagious quality of sound level. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a loud restaurant, you begin to speak loudly so that you’ll be heard, and pretty soon you look around and the entire restaurant full of people are yelling at each other? I’ve tried the opposite and begun to speak softly in a loud, crowded space and pretty soon, the people near me are speaking more softly too!

So the moral of this story is, you’re in charge of the sound level in your house and you don’t even have to enforce a strong policy, you can simply be quiet yourself, and quietly remind your kids to do the same.

Strategy #2 Get empathy elsewhere and give empathy to your kids

It is amazing how much easier it is to cooperate with someone who genuinely cares what your experience is. So, if you’re feeling frustrated and fed up, pull your spouse into the other room for a minute, or call a friend or family member and ask them if you can vent. Then just let it all out and allow another adult to support you through listening and empathy. You may even take a moment to give yourself some empathy. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling and needing right now?” Then, after you’ve regained some composure, consider what’s happening for your kids. What are they feeling and needing?

When you approach them, first offer some empathy, “Wow, this game is really fun for you right now isn’t it? And you really want to keep playing instead of getting ready to go.” Or “Hmmm, are you feeling grumpy because your sister wouldn’t share with you?” When kids realize that you understand what they’re going through, they are able to relax and cooperate much more easily. So, after you think your child feels heard, you can ask for what you’re wanting calmly.

Strategy #3 Let them know how upset you are by using a traffic light system

So you’re thinking, sure, I can empathize or whisper, but how will they know how angry I am about the broken lamp unless I yell? I like to use a traffic light analogy with kids to help them understand how I’m feeling when I don’t want to yell and scream or give them the silent treatment. Green light means we’re all having fun and everything’s great. Yellow light means I see a potential problem, I’m not feeling heard, or I need their attention immediately. Red light means if something doesn’t change very quickly we’re all in trouble because I’m about to lose my cool and I’m likely to dole out some consequences. In some cases I’ve drawn a traffic light on a card and colored in the appropriate light. Then, sometimes I don’t even have to say anything, I simply hold up the card and everyone in the room knows what my status is. The great thing about the cards is that they’re easy for anyone to use. So, often I see kids begin to use them with each other as a healthy way to express their upset without yelling or hitting one another. I often tell young people that if they get to a red light with each other, it’s time to find an adult to mediate. I know these strategies have helped me and my clients immensely. I’m curious how they will work for you. Please let me know or share another strategy you’ve discovered! Have a fantastic week. Warm hugs, Shelly


While we don’t want to be saying words that would cause more harm than good, I also think it is very very important that we make our stand clear. Apart from letting our child know when they’ve done something wrong, as parents, we must always explain the negative effects of their bad deeds and how these hurt us. This way, it will be instilled deeply in our kids’ hearts and minds.