NY Times: “Shouting is the New Spanking”: How to stop yelling in a family

There was an article in the NY Times titled “For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking” on Oct 22, 2009. Following a link to the article that someone posted on our holistic mom’s e-list, a discussion ensued that sparked my attention. I sit with countless families every week, who are dismayed at their tendencies to yell. (This article does not make much mention that many times the kids are yelling, too.) In most of the families I meet with, everyone is yelling. Unfortunately, even in my family, we all yell. There are many consequences of yelling; Throat pain, headaches, tension and stress, guilt, poor self image, doubt, feeling unappreciated to name just a few. Families are desperate to stop this way of interacting because it does not match how they want to be as a family: loving, supportive and uplifting.

How to Stop Shouting

Some of the women discussing and commenting were being gentle with themselves, not expecting perfection in their parenting and knowing; number one, that we make mistakes, and number two, that everyone can recover from them as long as we stay intentional and keep heading in the preferred direction. Kudos to them! But more often, I meet with parents who are blaming themselves fiercely for everyone’s yelling.

Parents say to me: “I just didn’t do this when I was young. I couldn’t do it. I would have never gotten away with it.” This leaves parents perplexed, stammering, “What is wrong with me that I can’t stop yelling?” or “How did I raise my child to yell?” We have some significant expectations that we do this a certain way. The “right” or “normal” way. We don’t know what this is exactly but we think everyone else knows it so we better strive for it anyway. This is how self doubt begins to take over, because there is not “one way”: parenting involves guesswork, trial and error. I argue that the self doubt causes more problems for parents.

It exponentially increases the stress levels.

Many people wanted suggestions or tips of things that will work because this self doubt is so pervasive. But we already have these skills! Self doubt just wants us to believe we don’t. These are some skills families have mentioned that they use: Take a break, think, take a deep breath, do a “re-do”, leave extra time to transition, validate feelings, use natural consequences, evaluate your busyness, be flexible, be patient, compromise, etc, etc. It is remembering to do these things when we are angry that is the problem. Desperation has a way of messing with our priorities. We are in such a rush to not feel desperate anymore, we go for the most powerful action: yelling.

The other invitation to doubt happens when we use these skills and our children’s response isn’t what we hoped for. So we must ask ourselves, by what do we measure the success of our attempts? The effects of our attempts may take, dare I say it, up to years to show themselves. By then we’ve abandoned our skills and beat ourselves up because we can’t do it, and resorted back to yelling. So how do we keep our eye on the long run and not judge our attempts by the immediate response? I believe wholeheartedly that a well thought out, validating, intentional, caring attempt to solve conflicts, like those mentioned above or anything else you are trying will affect our children in preferred ways at some point.

Even if we don’t see it right away, it has effects- always.

In the meantime, there are a few ways I help families in these situations. One is making this desperation visible and talking about the contexts to this frustration. From this perspective, family members can understand where everyone s coming from and all family members’ feelings are validated and they feel more appreciated. (People report feeling connected and relieved by this). With tension replaced by good will, the next thing we do it is create a document of a family’s skills, commitments and values. I request to families that they read it often, especially when they are calm and happy. When these skills and values are visible that often, they are less likely to be forgotten when one is frustrated and shouting.

Here is an example of such a document I created with my own family. Feel free to try this at home and write a comment to let us know how you are doing. I will write a follow up blog on our family’s progress.

Aman Family Peace and Kindness Skills and Knowledge’s

We know we love each other.

We know that we like have time to play together.

Also, we can negotiate when we want something.

We get more when we negotiate than when we whine and complain.

We discover new ideas to help us feel better when we negotiate.

Asking nicely increases our chances.

We do not like when anyone is angry at us.

We don’t like losing things or having to go to our room when we yell.

Shouting doesn’t feel good in our throat.

We love being talked to nicely; we know how to speak nicely.

Hugs help us calm down faster.

We check in with each other when we have a bad day and like to do something nice for that person.

Cuddle time makes everyone feel happier.

Looking forward to something gets us excited.

13 thoughts on “NY Times: “Shouting is the New Spanking”: How to stop yelling in a family”

  1. i like the fact that i can look for a word that expresses my need, and find a post that might help me. I looked for 2 words, one of them is anger. I don’t yell when I’m angry, I can hardly remember i have ever yelled at anyone, or may be i would rarely say to kids STOP in a loud voice, then get directly back to normal. Kids know it very fast when i’m angry, it can be a look, or mainly that i don’t reply when they talk to me. I don’t reply when angry because i’m scared i would yell. I prefer to keep silent than to hurt them with words or yelling. I was always terrified with dad’s voice yelling and saying anger will kill him. His voice was always accompanied with a terrible guilt.
    My anger now is consuming me from the inside, it is self destructive. I punish myself now for being angry, and that makes me more angry and the punishment becomes more severe.I’m angry for being a failure, for being a bad mother, wife, friend and child. I’m angry that i can see the truth, and can’t apply it. I’m angry not to be one of the chosen by God. Why do people full of life die, and the ones wanting to die are still alive? that is so unfair. I’m angry not to know what to believe, i am questioning my faith, and that is the hardest part in my guilt. My anger is scary, because my anger is never directed to anyone except to its source which is me

    1. I did scream therapy last night with someone. It was incredibly powerful to scream out the anger that has been kept inside so long, just making you feel awful. Scream into a pillow, write it out, yell into a hole. Just get it out!

      1. I don’t know if i can, but i can at least try. I feel like screaming so often. I do sometimes try, but i end up in a ridiculous situation. Last one i remember was with my friend, when she was hurting me with her words, saying really hurtful things. I felt the anger so strong and wanted to scream and say stop, please stop it, but no sound came out, nothing at all. This always happen to me, in reality and in all my dreams, just like when i was screaming for help when aggressed by that old man, and no one could hear me? i made no sound? My voice still disappears with any emotion.

  2. I rarely raised my voice when raising my older two (30 years ago). I found out recently that I have hypothyroidism (low thyroid). Once I started taking meds to correct it, I realized that I had much of my energy returned to me, as well as some of the old patience I thought had been lost forever. Now I understood my outbursts of anger, sometimes turning to inappropriate and childish behavior.

    I shake my head at how long it took me to get help–and even when I did, it was not because of the anger, it was just to get myself checked out since it had been a while. To all the women out there who have experienced any changes in demeanor, please go get a full blood workup. Don’t take “No” for an answer like I did several years ago (being told I was too young to have my hormones checked). Insist of what you suspect you need…

    If I can help ONE person discover what I did (I had other hormones out of whack as well–I’m 47), then I will be overjoyed. It is very difficult to raise children–with our own flawed backgrounds, and the mountains of patience we must attempt daily, it is no wonder we lose it sometimes (showing up in various ways for ALL of us…even if it’s not yelling, hitting, screaming, breaking down). If our bodies are not healthy–either because we have neglected them, or because we have undetected health issues, it’s no wonder we break apart–either exploding or imploding.

    Love to all the moms out there who struggle, even for one moment, with feeling their worth in such an amazing and difficult journey.

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Thanks so much for your comment. Hormones regulate our emotions and they are so easy to get out of whack. If fact they are constantly changing through everyday. There can be multiple reasons for anger, always get this stuff checked out, especially before blaming oneself!

  3. Yelling isn’t something I did very often with my kids. But the thing I yelled about often was when I was sick with Cancer, I was mad, I would cry and then yell AGAIN, “WHY me”,,, It wasn’t until I went to see a Councillor did I realize that it was ok, to let it out, especially If I am not directing my anger at anyone. Which I didn’t. There were days and nights that I would scream, just let it all out, and that is truly what I needed to finally get past that “why me again”, instead, educating myself more on Cancer, meeting others who too have been a victim of this terrible disease, and then realizing I can get through this. It was wonderful to find the support I needed to get through the most difficult times of my life. Family and friends have been there for me, not to feel sad for me, but to be there for a listening ear, when I needed them most. It is they who have made me fight for survival, I am so grateful and stronger than I was when I was sick. Sometimes it’s a wake up call to live love, learn, and do the things that make you happy. If its attainable, go for it!!! Jody as you know I have faced several other stressful days, but I have resolved that too. Sometimes you just have to fight with everything you have inside of you, not to give up when the going gets tough, and that is what I did for the last 3 years of my life. I am in such a happier place now. I’d like you to know that reading your daily posts have certainly helped me through the most difficult times. Each day I look forward to taking that ME time, just to read, and take what I have learned and use it effectively in my every day experiences. Thank you.

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Dearest Jackie,
      So great to hear from you and get an account for how you’ve grown and developed. So much love coming out of you!


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