"When It's NOT Bad To Yell At Your Kids" - Helping Kids Follow Directions (Part 5)

It's BAD to yell like this:

It's NOT necessarily BAD to yell like this:

What's the difference between BAD yelling and GOOD yelling?

Yelling is generally BAD when...:

  • ...it expresses something to the effect of "Child, you've been bad the whole day and I've had enough!"
  • ...a parent has gotten too frustrated to contain his/her anger.
  • ...a parent yells thinking, "I don't know what else to do to make my child behave."
  • ...a parent hasn't been willing (or hasn't been around) to reinforce the rules. After thinking, "this has gone on too long. I need to step in and stop this," he/she yells to start reinforcing the rules.
  • ...yelling is part of a way a parent uses SHAME to motivate and/or redirect their children.

Yelling can be GOOD when...:

  • ...a parent is emotionally under control AND
  • ...a parent has kids that are convinced that their mom/dad enjoys them AND
  • ...a parent identifies an incidence or pattern of destructive behavior that will negatively affect (or is negatively affecting) the family AND
  • ...a parent has loving intentions of rescuing the child/family from the negative consequences of destructive behavior AND
  • ...a parent opts to STRATEGICALLY USE the inflection of their voice and the expressions on their face as AN ADDITIONAL WAY OF COMMUNICATING the seriousness a particular situation.
    • (Side Note: Woohoo! This last point is starting to get into the stuff I've REALLY wanted to write about in this series on "Helping Kids Follow Directions!" Did you notice the capitalized words in the last bolded statement? I think thousands and thousands of kids in the USA have a hard time following directions because parents/adults make parenting choices without taking into consideration the fact that ADDITIONAL WAYS OF COMMUNICATING exist. I've seen lots of parents who don't realize that what they are communicating WITHOUT WORDS, at any given moment, is louder and different than what they are communicating WITH WORDS. Keep reading for an example.)


Alexis is in her pool playing with a neighbor friend. Mom opens the back door to say, "Alexis! Time for you two to come in and eat a snack!" Alexis and the neighbor jump out of the pool and run the opposite way toward the slide. Mom is frustrated (because this happens a lot but she never knows what to do). Mom smiles, walks into the backyard and pleasantly says, "'Come on in,' I said. (Mom pauses. No response from girls.) You silly girls. I didn't say slide time. It's snack time you sillies. Come on in, now." (Mom is still smiling on the outside but on the inside she's crossing her fingers, hoping that they will obey.) Mom starts walking back to the house and the girls run from the slide to the swings and then, eventually, make their way into the house.

Lesson For Parents:

If a parent addresses serious offenses with ONLY calm and sweet tones, he or she runs the risk of confusing their child by communicating two opposing messages: 1- "This is very important," (the message said with their words) and 2- "This is NOT very important," (the message said with their sweet tones and pleasant facial expressions).

For a child to have a fair chance at successfully following directions...

...serious behavioral infractions need to be consistently met with serious parental responses.

It's important, at this point, to note that yelling IS NOT THE ONLY WAY parents can provide a serious response. In the case of Alexis and the pool, I wouldn't even suggest that the mom should yell. (I probably would use a variation of TIP #5 from this post to address Alexis's non-compliance.) Later in this series I'll discuss the additional ways a parent can respond, appropriately and effectively, to serious behavioral infractions. For now, all I'll say is:

One of many, loving ways parents can do this is by using the GOOD kind of yelling; in which they use the inflection of their voice and the expressions on their face to communicate the following to their child: "THIS SITUATION IS SERIOUS," or, "THIS SITUATION IS VERY IMPORTANT TO MOMMY/DADDY." 

This is the way I'll say the same thing, with less words, in future posts:

The GOOD kind of yelling is one of several "NON-verbal communicating tools" a parent can use to help their kids follow directions.

(BTW: Don't use the "good-yelling-tool" all the time. It will lose it's effectiveness. Instead use any of the "verbal communicating tools" that I listed in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of this series.)