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The Real Reason Why Parents Yell at Their Kids

Inside: The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling and squash the angry mom inside you.


My kids could not stop giggling. I honestly didn’t understand it, but they were making “monster faces” and this was, apparently, the funniest thing they ever did see. The kids hopped out of the car, and together we locked hands, grabbed our bags and started walking towards our apartment building.

Everything in that moment felt right.

Then I heard it. The yelling.

The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling immediately.

My eyes shifted left to right, scanning for where it was coming from. I spotted it: mom, minivan, kids.

She stood outside the rear sliding door looking inward, kids peppered the inside of the van, and the roaring words that followed are ones I’ll never forget.

In a single instant, everything turned to slow-motion as I watched her arms charge up and down into the air. Her voice accelerated with each passing second, and verbal bullets shot into the ears before her.

The kids and I continued walking inside, but my heart raced.

My cheeks flushed hot.

My throat felt tight.

My stomach tied double and triple knots.

But not for the reason you’d think.

I looked at the mom outside the minivan, and the first image that popped into my head was…myself.

Because man, I’ve been there.

I’ve. so. been. there. 

A huge part of me wanted to drop all my bags, let go of the little hands locked into my own, race toward the minivan and leap into her arms for the biggest hug ever.

I wanted to look her in the eye and tell her that this parenting gig is…hard.

That I…understood. 

That she was…not alone.

The real reason why parents yell at their kids.

No one becomes a parent and thinks, “I’m going to be angry and yell at my kids all the time.”

No one plans on being an angry mom.

Instead, you probably think a lot more along the lines of this:

  • I love my kids and I would do anything for them.
  • I want to do this parenting thing “right.” 
  • I desire to be a calm and patient parent.

The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling immediately.

The forgotten factor.

I’ve battled my parenting anger for years and I still haven’t found a magic fix, but I made a huge breakthrough when I learned the REAL reason I was yelling.

Anger and yelling always comes from a feeling of powerlessness. 

Powerlessness that you can’t control your kids behavior.

Powerlessness that you can’t get all the little people out the door on time.

Powerlessness that you can’t take a shower without a fight breaking out between the kids.

Powerlessness that you can’t get your kids to (for the love of all things chocolate and coffee) go to sleep at night.

Powerlessness that some days you feel like you’re failing at parenting, and you genuinely want to fix it, but you don’t know how.

You give and give and give, and quite honestly, little seems to move in the direction you want.

So you yell.

When your parenting frustration hits level 15 on a scale that only goes to level 10, you feel powerless.

And one easy way to feel power quickly is to…yell.

It’s the same reason kids fall into rapid-fire sequences of back talk and disrespect. They feel powerless, too.

Yelling always comes down to this: The overwhelming desire to meet your healthy need for power as fast as possible.

(Yes, power is a healthy need. We all have the need for power. It’s only a matter of meeting that healthy need in a healthy way.)

A 2-step quick fix for yelling.

If you find your power tank dangerously low and you are about to yell at your kids, give this a try:

1. Name 5 things you can control in the moment.

Think: I can tap my right foot fast 10 times. I can passionately say, “I’m so frustrated.” I can add 2+7+9 in my head. I can do 5 jumping jacks. I can close the car door and sit on the ground.

This simple exercise allows you step out of your emotional brain and back into your logical brain. You’ll slowly move from a feeling of powerlessness to a feeling of control.

2. Be sure to say them aloud.

This is an important step because if you say it inside your head, the emotional brain will continue to overpower your logical brain.

This is also the perfect exercise to help a crying kid calm down. After doing this quick exercise, it’s easier to see a clearer solution to the problem.

The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling immediately.

Before you go, a story.

When I saw the mom at the door of her minivan, I wanted to leap into her arms for and tell her that she was a good mom and that she wasn’t alone.

I wanted to help her, but I didn’t.

Instead, I froze and walked inside pretending to see nothing.

I felt a lot of guilt over that.

For days upon days, I thought about this mom and how I wished she knew that she wasn’t alone.

Then I saw her again.

There she was in the elevator with her hands lovingly locked with her littles. Despite the chaos of the kids around her, she was calm and relaxed.

I looked over to her, and in the midst of our combined 5 kids making the loudest and most rambunctious noises, I said…

“I saw you before in the parking lot.”

Her face instantly flashed white like she’d been found out.

Nervous to speak, I continued. “I wanted you to know that I’ve been there. I understand. You’re not alone, and you can call me anytime.”

I paused.

(Silence)

The doors opened.

I looked to my kids who were eager to get off and said, “This isn’t our floor yet. Stay here.”

I extended my arm to her with a piece of paper.

My heart raced.

(I feared rejection after saying anything at all.)

Then she stepped off the elevator, grabbed the paper with my number on it — and with tears in her eyes — she mouthed two words: Thank you.

The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling immediately.

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The number one reason why parents yell. Plus, the 2-minute strategy that can help you stop yelling immediately.

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44 Comments

  1. Your post made me cry. Being a mom to a strong willed little girl is SO hard. I would love for a mom to say this to me too. I feel like I’m surrounded by mom’s who were blessed with the easiest baby’s, and here I’ve got the Tasmanian devil.

    1. I totally understand you. My daughter is 10 and I noticed noone wants to be her friend. Even the adults dont want to be around her so anytime there is something going on at our church or family, she is left out. She isnt invited to bday parties or playdates and I find myself trying to make up for it by taking her out and buying her little things. But now that shes older she is starting to notice that she is being left out and gets very upset. Shes a strong willed child, sassy and can be hyper at times so when shes upset she becomes total drama and the drama plus my broken heart for her gets me the yelling at her. And then it breaks my heart even more! I feel judged by all the parents that have angels and i feel like i have failed as a parent. Tears are rolling down my face as I write this. I feel so alone and so heart broken because my daughter said to me last night…mommy, i wish i wasnt born like this. I wish i were different because it so hard! I dont know how to be like the other children! …and thats when my heart broke for her. I said all the right words that any mother would say but it didnt seem to console her. I feel in a rage at my family, who isolate her, at my friends who ignore her, at the neighborhood kids that exclude her and I feel like im taking it out on her for not being sweet, calm and quiet. Her whole life people, teachers are so quick to tell me the bad, never the good. I wish people could see how amazing she is. How caring she can be and just how great she actually is.

      1. Hello Stace, I feel your pain! I am a mom if a 6 year old girl, who is also emotionally vibrant, strong willed, sassy too but sweet and generous & very strong sense of justice. When I read your comment, it made me feel sad because I know how you feel. My daughter has said the same things to me several times & it hurts to know that she feels she is bad & wrong & not thinks she’s not good enough. But you know what- you know your daughter. You see her goodness & what she is capable of, what she cares about, how she can be kind and empathetic… you are her friend, mom, helper & teacher for life. Sometimes people all around can just suck. But you can only control what you do, not what anyone else does. You’re not alone. But your daughter is unique & she needs your help to figure out how to channel all her strong emotions & powerful feelings. No matter how many times you feel like you fail, just remember that I’m out there feeling the same way, & so are many other moms- but we aren’t failing at all! We’re reading articles like this one and we are trying everyday! So keep being a great mom who cares amazingly, & just do your best at being someone your girl can trust & talk to. Because one day she will find friends she can connect with, but until then, you are always her friend.
        Thank you Lauren, for writing this article & for helping us moms to feel more in control. Some days are harder than others. But we all have the same goal- To Love Our Kids!

  2. I really appreciate this post – from both sides! I feel so guilty some days for yelling, I am a carer for my disabed mum, have a 6yo, 1yo and 3month old and it’s HARD! Also I saw a mum outside the supermarket struggling with her 2 little girls last week, she looked like she was going to cry and I was so busy with my 3 I just looked on with sympathy before letting my eldest drag me inside…I still feel so guilty for not helping her! 🙁 I hope she reads this post and knows she’s not alone!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. I have read so many, and this was the first one that really felt like it was about ME. It’s like you’re in my home and know exactly what is going on. The guilt has consumed me for years, and I just keep pushing on and telling myself that one day, it will get easier. Before your article, I reached a point where I almost felt as though I just had to accept that I turned out just like my father, and this is how my household would be. I look forward to the day when yelling isn’t my “go-to”.

  4. I wish to have some of your articles. I have 8 years old son, 5 years old son and 1year old daughter. Still leaving in joint family, my husband is too busy in churh and society. I really am in a mess with my kids, no maid, lots of hesitation because of other people in the family, I hardly have time for my kids, i get too fastrated and tired and should at my kids. I feel bad for the kids and can’t sleep well.

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes. I, too, have been the angry mom. I hate the feelings associated with it…the guilt, shame, regret. But it is always so refreshing to hear other moms open up about their struggles as well. We, as moms, always tend to be so hard on ourselves and it can be so lonely. I love that you reached out to the other mom. Sometimes that is all it takes to not feel so alone in this journey of motherhood. Thank you so much for this beautiful post!

  6. This is a wonderful story and I’m happy you were received positively by the powerless Mom. Thank you for your suggestion on how not to lose control! I appreciate you!

  7. Thank you for this. I really loved how you gave her your phone number and offered support. I feel like so often people are judging those women who are yelling at their kids. Our world has gotten so quick to make opinions about others (and really much more) and it’s wonderful to see you shining light onto the what the situation really is and how we, especially as women, can reach out and be there for one another. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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