Parenting, Drill Sergeant Style: How to Stop Yelling?

Posted July 28, 2010 by

When I first discovered EP, it was through an old high school friend of mine who told me about the site. I’d just experienced another Category 5 Tory (my oldest) meltdown and I was on the edge of my last nerve with her. See, my oldest has had a significant amount of upheaval in her young life. In the 5 years she’s been on the planet, Daddy has been gone for more than half her life. Mommy was gone for 18 months of it. So she’s been fending for herself, more or less, and has some challenges in expressing herself.

One thing I’ve learned through this trial of coming home from Iraq and learning to be a mom again is that when Tory is melting down over A, it’s actually about B — and possibly C. But whatever it is that sends her over the edge, it happens quickly, with little warning and it’s pretty near impossible to calm her down. But the problem is that we still try. And then we end up frustrated. And angry. So when all three of us are going off the deep end, something’s got to give.

So I contacted my friend Sara and asked for help. The first thing she said to me? From reading my blog, she pointed out that I was probably a yeller. And that I needed to not yell. I needed to be calm when the kids were losing their minds.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that calm is not exactly in my vocabulary. I’m a soldier. I yell. I try not to yell at my kids, but what I failed to realize is that what I think is merely talking loudly, they see as yelling. And yes, I actually mean talking loudly. I’m a loud person. But my kids think I’m shouting at them.

So I’ve had to practice not yelling. One thing I’ve started is explaining to the kids, “Hey, you don’t want Mommy to yell, right? So how about we start listening and doing what Mommy asked.” It sounds corny, but for whatever reason, they’re listening. And they’re working on it. Tory came up with the idea that they only get a responsibility sticker if they do something the first time I ask. If I have to ask more than once, they don’t get it.

So far, that’s not working because I feel the need to reward them when they do well. But I think we’ll get there. The responsibility chart helps, too because it’s a tangible reward for doing something to help. Listening. Indoor chores. Brush teeth. Little things that when they do them, it makes life so much easier.
Drill sergeant doesn’t work. So it’s time for this Army Mom to find a new path.


Jessica Scott is an active duty army officer, one half of a dual military couple and full-time mom. She squeezes out time to write late at night or on her lunch breaks, such as they are. She blogged her way through Iraq in 2009 and you can read about her journey at She is the mother of Mia(3) and Victoria(5) and is blessed to have good kids who've struggled through a rough time as military kids.

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  1. BerryGirlyMom (Edit) Report

    Jessica, I am so glad that I found this article! It is nice to know that I am not the only one. My mom always yelled at me when I was growing up, and I HATED it. Now I find myself doing the same thing with my three kids, and I hate that too! I just get so frustrated when they don’t do what they know they are responsible for; and when I calmly remind them several times doesn’t work, I loose it. They don’t respond until I start yelling. Why? I am the kind of person that hates conflict, and will avoid it at all costs. I tend to ignore things that annoy me in adults, until one day I can’t stand it anymore and start yelling; but with the kids it seems that I end up “nagging” them a lot, until they are sick of me reminding them of what they need to do, and they start having an attitude. When I keep my mouth shut and don’t keep track, though, they drop the ball. I bought the Total Transformation Program last year, but have yet to even look at any of it. Maybe I should go ahead & watch the DVDs. Anyway, I cannot even begin to imagine how hard your situation must be, being both an active duty soldier and a mother! Wow! And I thought being a regular working mom was tough. I have always been looked down upon by teachers and homemakers, even in this day and age, so it is great to hear from moms like myself. Thanks!

  2. dream4today (Edit) Report

    My dearest girlfriend sent me this new book about parenting called Raising Children for Success written by a couple. There is a whole chapter addressing discipline and having regard for others. It is a quick read but a treasure trove of information.

  3. parent52 (Edit) Report

    I admit I am usually yelling and preaching to my teen girl. I hate it afterwards & feel horrible guilt. Mostly at that time a will say things I am worried & frustrated about with her bad behavior. All I’m trying to accomplish is to get her to act responsibly & stay out of constant trouble, her add makes her extremely impulsive keeping her safe has been a constant job. Does anyone know how to get through to these kids I am using every therapy for years now she is about to start freshman college year & we are in panic.

  4. Johanna (Edit) Report

    First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate all that you young mothers who are sacrificing for our country and people like myself. May God richly bless you and keep your loved ones safe.
    I have raised many children over the years; foster children, biological children, adopted children, and most recently grandchildren…..and I still have trouble with “yelling” sometimes. There once was an gentleman that told me something I’ll never forget. He said that when I’m tempted to “let off a little emotional steam” to remember the word “halt.” He said H was for hunger, A was for anger, L was for loneliness and T was for tiredness. He said that when I was hungry, angry, lonely or tired I should take some “time out” and not say anything for a while. These emotions and physical weaknesses will cause me to say and do things that I would regret. Once words leave our lips, they can never be “unspoken,” they are out there forvever. Our children are so precious to us, there isn’t anything that we wouldn’t do for them to save their lives; yet, because we’re frustrated, tired, angry or missing someone, we loose self control and lash out at the ones we love the most. No guilt intended, because I’ve been very guilty in the past. So, when you feel that you might “loose it,” take the opportunity to have some “time-out” for yourself. Rest and relax for even a few minutes and you’ll see how much better you will feel. Remember to be “quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger.” For myself, I’ve had that in reverse! Don’t be so hard on yourselves, we’ve all made mistakes while raising our children. The good news is that most of them grow up into fine young adults who live successful lives. Remember, God’s not finished with us yet!

  5. diana (Edit) Report

    Thank you Jessica Scott. It’s very hard not to give up, especially when your a single parent. But we gotta hang-in, and keep up the Love!

  6. Lynne (Edit) Report

    I, too am the parent of 3 daughters..ages 16, 17, and 19. To say that I didn’t yell when they were younger would be an outright lie. BUT…after one nasty round of my yelling and the associated tears I decided to give up yelling for LENT. Yes…for Lent. My children and husband thought I had lost my mind. In fact, I went overboard…I actually lowered my voice, especially when I was angry. Well, I will have you know, it actually SCARED them! Giving up my “temper tantrum” which is exactly what my response in anger was has created a much happier and more even-tempered home environment. And to complicate things, my husband is active duty military and gone as well…leaving angry girls behind. Angry teenagers aren’t pretty, but in our society, with an all volunteer military, sacrifices must be made. And anger or not, children must learn their role in supporting parents who work to protect our freedom. It is hard on them…and the spouses left behind. Had I not gotten my yelling under control and changed the atmosphere around the house the past 5 years would have been unbearable. But it has been 5 years now..and my children are emerging as thoughtful, understanding and patriotic young ladies. If we as adults can’t manage our frustrations, disappointments and hurts, how can we possibly teach our kids to? Thank you for giving me the tools to learn how to do this. Most sincerely, a proud Navy wife

  7. Heather (Edit) Report

    As a young mother, yelling was the only tool I used in parenting. After girl #3 arrived, I realized yelling was not effective. I was overwhelmed with guilt, paralyzing me from being an effective parent. Each child demanded my time and different parenting tools. Soon I had less time between fights and blow ups. I noticed that seperating the girls would diffuse the situation. Then I realized, I too could seperate myself from the situation and have a “mommy time out”. Many times the girls will work it out and I don’t have to be the referee. Those times when I take the time to gather my thoughts, I tend to deal with the situation in a calm, effective way. Days when I don’t have time to seperate myself, when I am desperate for redirection, I often use warnings like “Mt. Mommy is going to blow if you don’t redirect yourself” or “Countdown begins… 10… 9… 8… etc..” If I do end up “blowing” then I take the opportunity to calm down, ask my children to forgive me without making excuses, and share with them what set me off. They then have the responsibility to redirect themselves the next time similar situations present themselves. This gives them a role of responsiibility in our family. 13, 9 and 6 years old, this is teaching them how to control their feelings and emotions and redirect their behavior instead of expecting someone else to change the situation.

  8. Jessica Scott (Edit) Report

    I’ve tried a bunch of different techniques to stop yelling at my kids. Some work and some don’t but all I know is that I don’t stop trying. Some days are better, some are worse but at the end of it all, I just keep trying to be a better mom, one day at a time.

  9. Melody (Edit) Report

    I am most certainly a yeller by instinct and as Raj indicated these are the moments we tend to revert to instinct. I try so hard to remain in my right mind during times of stress with my kids and to keep the conscious intillect that must be in there somewhere when I’m at my wits end, but inevitably…. It is even more infuriating when I am using every “skill” in the book (so to speak) and they completely ignore me. With three of them they seem to feed off each other and I feel ganged up on sometimes! It is such a helpless feeling. Then I’m often more disempowered of my said “skills” later when I loose my cool and scream at them to get their attention and discipline them. 🙁

  10. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor (Edit) Report

    Jess, thanks for this post. There are so many parents out there who yell and want to stop. Both my parents were yellers, and my husband’s parents were, too. I’ve found that I tend to yell at my son when I’m frustrated or frazzled. I try to remind myself to take a deep breath when I know I’m on the edge. This helps most of the time. I like how you’ve been telling your daughters what’s about to happen if they don’t listen. I do something similar with my 7-year-old son: “I’m starting to get frustrated now. I need you to get ready to go.” Then I tell him very specifically what I want him to do: “Put on your clothes, brush your teeth and get your backpack ready by the door.” (It sounds simplistic, but it works. Sometimes kids really need those specifics or they get side-tracked. Heck, so do I!) Good luck!

  11. Angie Mel (Edit) Report

    I too am loud and get accused of yelling too. I have always been told that if you speak quietly to someone who is yelling it makes them stop to hear what you are saying. I try most of the time to talk just above a whisper when my son is in melt down mode but then there are days that I join in on his melt downs.

  12. Jess Scott (Edit) Report

    I fully understand that my kids will emulate me. That’s why I’m sharing the things I’m trying to change so that other parents can learn from my mistakes.

  13. Rajlakshmi Ghosh (Edit) Report

    I know how Jessica feels. I am LOUD too and don’t know when I cross the limit….the time when loud turns into yell. I get provoked easily and my son provides the perfect fodder. There are times when all hell breaks loose. Do we spare the rod? Then we also risk spoiling the kid. Strategies at that juncture seem impossible–we can’t engineer our relationships with our children. This is one area where we mothers go purely by instinct. Somewhere down the line we all believe that the dust will settle down once the kids grow up. Lets hope good sense prevails–on both the mother and the child. Time to learn a few calming tricks, who knows–it might even rub off on the child!

  14. Mom To A Four Year Old (Edit) Report

    I don’t actually yell too much when I angry, but hubby seems to raise his voice often on my stubborn daughter. Although I am not involved in their fights, I usually get irritated because I am also not used to being yelled at. I tell him to tone down his voice and control his temper over and over again but then it has been going on for a while. So the end result is my daughter yelling back at him. We are really in big trouble. Sigh!

  15. Hillary (Edit) Report

    Parents are the models of behavior that children emulate. A child who is continuously yelled at may grow up to believe that this is an appropriate style of communicating.



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