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Are You Addicted to Yelling?

Bonnie Harris


Do you yell more often than you like? Does yelling fall short of getting the result you intend? Do you find yourself yelling when you don’t realize you’re doing it? Do your kids say you yell all the time? Is yelling easy for you? Is it harder to stay calm than to yell?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be addicted. We can get addicted to patterns of behavior, especially when we experienced those patterns growing up. And what’s scary is that, like addictions, we often don’t realize we’re yelling and will actually deny it when we are.

Ideas and assumptions about our children and about ourselves get triggered when our children don’t do what we ask, don’t behave in the way we expect, and when we don’t know how to handle it. Those ideas—He’s so violent, She’s out to get me, He’s doing this on purpose, Why won’t she ever learn, I’m a pathetic parent—happen at lightening speed, too quick to stop the yelling that results. The key is to change your perceptions and think differently in the moment (this is what When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is all about) but I want to give you some ideas to start.

If you feel more in control of your yelling and are aware of how easily you yell:

  1. Wait before you say or do anything. If you take just a minute or two, even a few seconds, you will allow the adrenaline rush to slow down in your body and will allow rationale thought to return.
  2. Think about what you want to say or do. Immediate reacting will never get you where you want to be as a parent.

If you try the first two steps and say to yourself , “I just can’t help it” continue with:

  1. Admit that you yell more than you want and that you are perhaps a “yell-aholic”.
  2. Acknowledge that right now it feels out of your control but that it is up to you to bring it in your control. The pattern likely is rooted in a deeper, old place. Yelling can happen unconsciously when the pattern was set long ago, often when you were the victim of yelling.
  3. Know that the pattern set from your past is not your fault. You learned it because you were a child.
  4. Commit to doing the personal inventory that is needed to find the root of the pattern of yelling. (When Your Kids Push Your Buttons can help with this)
  5. Become mindful of the times you yell and are tempted to yell. Become aware of the triggers. Write them down. Bringing it into your consciousness is a huge step.
  6. Get help—whether a partner, a trusted friend and good listener, or a professional. Meditation can be extremely helpful.
  7. Admit to your children and/or partner that you have a problem with yelling. Let them know you are committed to stopping and that you would like their help (if children are six or older). You might give them permission to say something agreed on with you when you do yell.
  8. Create some kind of a written chart or documentation that will help you stay with the task.

When yelling comes from your past, it’s as if you are under a spell. We cast spells on people when we are reacting in an unconscious way. Daniel Goldman calls this emotional hijacking. Think about what spell you are under from your past (I’m the stupid one, the accident, the smart one, the one who ruins everything, never good enough) cast by a parent, a teacher, a sibling. Ask yourself what spell you were under that you have broken out of (No one wants to hear what I say).

When your children behave (or don’t) in a way that pushes your button, the emotional memories stored in the amygdala in your brain get triggered, and you react in ways you might have back when the memories were made.

Then ask yourself what spells you are casting on your children with your yeling. Be as specific as you can. When you yell, you may have all good intentions of teaching your children something. But what they hear could be something you never intend.

This work is not about blaming anyone. This is about taking responsibility for the patterns you have bought into, discovering why, and committing to breaking the cycle so your children don’t carry it forward. And it’s about being in charge of your relationship with your children.

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Bonnie Harris

Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed. is the director of Connective Parenting and is an international speaker and parent educator. She has taught groups and coached parents privately for thirty years. Bonnie is the author of two books, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons" and "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With”. You can learn more about her work at or follow her on Facebook