Stop Yelling Daddy!

No matter how hard I try, no matter how mindful I attempt to be I sometimes find myself yelling at one or both of my kids. It never lasts very long and it’s always after an extended amount of crying, screaming, food throwing or obsessive-compulsive behavior that rivals Mr. Monk’s (from the USA TV show).

It seems that I can not get through a weekend without yelling about something. And this weekend was no exception.

It was our 11-year anniversary. The babysitter cancelled on us, so instead of a romantic adult dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, we settled for a family outing at Quaker Steak & Lube. As the name suggests, this is not your ordinary “anniversary dinner.” At least not for us.

Max, 4, began a tirade of wanting more macaroni and cheese WAY before he was done eating what he had in front of him. Relentless, he continued to repeat his desire for more. I tried many ways of reasoning with him to stop. Since his brother Joss, almost 2, was flinging his mac & cheese off his plate, I deftly gave some to Max who ate it and stopped complaining. OK, that wasn’t so hard.

Now Joss starts screaming. Not because I gave his brother some of his food, but because he’s done. He’s ready to go. NOW. My wife has barely eaten & my beer is far from finished. We do our best to eat what we can. I realize this situation is a great way to help people lose weight. Under this type of stress, one simply does not have an appetite!

On the way to the car…

Everything has calmed down. I’ve managed to hold it together until I try to put Joss in the car. He grabs onto the metal rods holding up the passenger side headrest. He clutches them with the will and the strength of a gorilla who’s really hungry for the very last banana (or the most desirable mate).

Now he’s just trying to tell me (in his 2 year old way), “hey dad, listen, sorry but I’m not ready to get in my car seat yet. Maybe you could give me a minute…” But I’m not hearing him. I just want him to sit in the car seat!

I finally pry his fingers off the headrest and get him in the seat. He’s screaming and fighting me and then he kicks me in the face (not intentional)!

That was it. I saw red. I lost it. I started screaming at the top of my lungs in the middle of the Quaker Steak & Lube parking lot about how he was “being a bad boy. BAD BOY! Stop it! Stop it now!”

Another weekend tainted. Another chance at setting a good example lost. It doesn’t matter (at least not at that moment) that I set hundreds of good examples for my boys every week. This is simply not a habit I am proud of, it’s not who I want to be. My father yelled alot when I was a kid (big surprise there), and now I am teaching my kids the same thing. And I can’t seem to stop.

The whole incident may have lasted 20 seconds, but three days later I am still ashamed & incredibly disappointed with myself. It’s not that my son’s behavior was acceptable. It wasn’t. But he’s not even two.

The problem is that my behavior is unacceptable at any age.

I’ve given this much thought, because I realize “trying harder” to stay calm is not the answer. It won’t work unless I address the underlying factors that are causing me to be so volatile. Joss’ behavior was only the catalyst.

The real problem is my frustration. I’m tired & overwhelmed. My wife has diabetes and gallbladder problems, and I’m scared of losing her. I miss my boys all day while I’m at work. And although I am very happy to have a good job, it is quite often VERY FRUSTRATING! We’re 800 miles from everyone we know, everyone we can depend on for help. We are alone out here in Wisconsin. Money always seems to be an issue, and there’s a ton of stuff to do in order to maintain our home. And the pizza sucks!

Hey, I know most (if not all) parents have this same amount of stress. I’m not saying my case is special. But I’m having trouble finding a solution.

If anybody has any suggestions, please feel free to share them.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related posts:
Stop Yelling Daddy! (Part 2)

How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 1

How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 2

An Interview with Mark Brady: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!

Family Blogs

14 Replies to “Stop Yelling Daddy!”

  1. You know I hear what you are saying…I have felt this way many times with my eldest, as she has gottent to the point where as a 3.5 year old she is just getting to be unmanageabl and the littlest thing sets her off…what does that do to me and mom..well it definitely tries our patience to the extreme and I find myself at times elling…though I know that I should be biting my tongue. But you know…there is only so much hitting that a child can do without setting off my temper though I know it is the last thing to do. The best advice that I can give is something I read in a book at one point. When you are getting to the point where you know you are going to explode…you can tell your children (child) that daddy needs to cool off, but that there will be a consequence in a few minutes…the biggest thing is for you to remove yourself from the situation so that your anger doesn’t get the best of you and the situation. I know that this may be easier said than done and our eldest’s behavior is sounding like she may have some similar tendencies…that only thing I am trying to be is consistent while still maintaining my own sanity (if you can relate)

    Regarding the other issues underlying the situation and the stress that is occurring in your family due to it… it is definitely hard to be away from everyone that you know. As I mentioned to you before we are in the same boat per se being about 400 miles away from our closest family though we do not have the family medical issues that you are dealing with. We have however been able to make a few closer friends that we can turn to in a pinch…some are my wife’s…and I have a couple as well…but it is not the same as the past place where we lived for 5.5years and built a strong friend foundation. I wold say do what you can to get involved in things that you are interested in to the best of your ability and try to meet others who can relate to what you are going through.

    The issue of bad pizza is one I can’t help you with unless you can find your favorite pizza companies online – and they are willing to ship some pizza your way…I know not the same…but better than nothing.

    I will keep your wife in my thoughts and hope that everything turns out for the best.

  2. Joey,
    I have been where you are. We also moved 1200 miles away from family, leaving the big city for a very small town. We felt quite alone for about the first year.
    I also have the son for whom “The Strong Willed Child” was written. There was a year or so that we just stopped going out to dinner at all because he just threw too many tantrums and knives. I was very disciplined and removed the boy every time, and we went outside for a spanking. He knew the routine, but persisted anyway. I eventually realized that I never got to eat my meal, due to the need to maintain discipline.
    Here is an idea to help with the man-tantrums (and I’m not teasing you ’cause I get them , too):
    Tell your boys what you are about to do, and when it is going to happen. Rehearse everything with them from getting dressed to how to ride in the car to how they will behave in the restaurant, to what they might like to order. Cover every possibility you can think of. No detail is too small.
    Warn them ahead of time about consequences for misbehaving. They need to be very clear about the result of wrong behavior.
    And remind them that you are telling all this because you love them and want them to know how to be nice boys.
    The dialog could go something like this: ” We are going to Mommy’s favorite restaurant in 30 minutes. I need you to put on the clean clothes that I have set out for you. When we go to get into the car I expect that you will get right into your seat without any fuss. Should you scream or kick or anything like that we will stop what we are doing and _________________insert discipline here. We will not go any farther until you do as I ask with a happy attitude. While we drive in the car I expect we will use our inside voices and act kindly toward each other. I will stop the car and __________ insert discipline here until your actions and attitude get right. When we get to the restaurant you will act like this; (here you play act what good behavior looks like). Do you understand what I want? If you act like this; (play act what misbehaving looks like), then you can expect to get this________________ discipline.

    And so on…
    It is important that you remind the kids that you love them too much to let them act in inappropriate ways. I know that they are just learning and it is Dad’s job to teach them. They should not get much discipline for things that they were unaware of, but those things that you have prepared them for should get memorable discipline.
    Be forewarned… this usually takes lots of consistency and it is foolish to expect they will straighten up and fly right quickly.
    By the way- the two year old restaurant terrorist is now a 19 year-old Engineering student in his Junior year. That early stubbornness is still a character trait of his, but it has become well channeled and of great benefit to him.
    Stick with it, my friend. Kids are a blessing.

  3. ugh thanks for this reminder I was just screaming at the top of my lungs for no good reason and am searching for a way to cool it off fast. I’m linking you and your good advice to my post about this 🙂 SOmetimes the best thing for both sides is to just back off. Go cool off a few feet or rooms away and then come back. We are hurting our kids when we yell and that is not good for them and us long run. Thanks sooo much

  4. I’m glad you know you’re human, and you recognize that frustration and exhaustion are largely the causes of your outbursts. Sending you good vibes: wish I could send you more support.

  5. I’m not a Dad, but I understand your frustration. I too have a propensity to yell. Not nearly as much as my husband(who seems to have a similar issue as all of you I am reading here).

    But something that I have found out, being a stay at home Mom raising 5 children, Is that yelling isn’t always bad. No, it shouldn’t be over used in the way that we all tend to, but it is also a very valuable tool in our parent arsenal.

    Now Dad definitely loses his temper more easily and more often than I do, but I think that is for a number of reasons, some nature, some nurture.

    For 1 thing, in nature if you see other primates that live in family units, the males are more likely to be the hard line disciplinarians. They do not have the same penchant for patience that the females do when it comes to the youngsters. They are the no-nonsense types as they need to be in order to protect the family. That’s nature.

    The 2nd thing, is that many Dad’s are away from the kids most of the day while working to provide for the family. Now even if Mom had a full time paying job, there is a different ‘nature factor’ at work here. But being a primary care giver with an innate nurturing genes, for lack of a better term, especially if you are with the youngsters all of the time you can not afford to loose your temper all the time. Who has that much energy. So a lot of what happens almost becomes white noise. You can go through recurring situations more mechanically. Especially if you have been dealing with certain child through infant crying fits. Most Dad’ do not have this luxury and or constant tolerance built up. That’s nurture.

    Now all that being said, you do not want to yell all the time. 1. It looses effectiveness 2. It’s not how you want to raise your child to act. However, back to it being a useful tool. When used infrequently, it is a good thing for children to see Mom and or Dad totally Lose it. It shows them the line in the sand. It shows them that they have pushed things too far with unacceptable behavior. It scares them(not that you enjoy scaring your kids) and a little bit of healthy fear is a positive thing. If they fear consequences of their actions they are less likely to repeat them.

    So don’t all of you fellas be so hard on yourselves about this. Yes, you do want to keep it under control, but you are only human. And the simple fact that you sre thinking about and discussing this says what good Dad’s you are and I am sure that your kids feel that way too.

  6. Hi, great site and great post. I’m glad I found it.

    With my six year old, I used to yell too much – when she was four / five, it was terrible. My patience was tried to its limit almost every night, because of constant disobedience and temper tantrums. No amount of positive / negative reinforcement and punishment seemed to work, she just refused to listen to mom and dad no matter what, and if she didn’t get her way then it was immediate temper tantrum. We seriously thought she had ADHD, even though I’ve never believed in ADHD, always chalked it up to ‘poor parenting’. It went this way for maybe two years, mom and dad were at the end of their rope. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of yelling.

    My wife heard something about certain kids being allergic to red dye. The reaction to red dye for some kids was behavioral, not physical. So kids who were allergic to food dye would act up, disobey, and throw temper tantrums more than normal. I thought this was a bunch of bunk, I didn’t believe it at all.

    So the day after learning of this, she modified my daughters diet. She stopped giving her anything that had dye in it, red or otherwise. And guess what – within a few days, it was like suddenly having a completely different kid! I was dumbstruck, flabbergasted. I really still have a hard time with the fact that food dye can cause that behavior, but it must be true. Since the modified diet, my girl has calmed down, she started saying yes sir / mam, the temper tantrums went away practically overnight. These were all changes that occurred within one week.

    And along with this change came peace in the home. I still yell (after all, *I’m* not perfect, just the kid), but nowhere near as much. So while this isn’t something aimed at the daddy yelling problem, it *is* something to consider for just about any child.

    It distresses me to think about how many kids are out there today that have red dye reactions, and get diagnosed as ADHD, and put on ritalin or worse. So many kids, filled with chemicals, then filled with more chemicals to counteract the first ones… grr.

  7. No one is perfect. knowing that there are things you want to improve is a great start. Luke is only 15 months now, so I haven’t been there yet with him. He isn’t pressing those buttons right now. I’m sure it will happen though and I too hope not to resort to yelling.

  8. Wow, I’m glad I stumbled upon this today. Our 3 year old (girl) has been almost too much to handle lately. She throws horrible tantrums daily. I’m sure some of it is from arrival of her sister and her wanting more attention but that’s been just over a year now already. I would love to hear about the progression or (hopefully) disappearance of the tantriums since this post is 2 years old.

    1. @Rob: Yes, the tantrums have definitely subsided. When my youngest is under the weather, he’s definitely more prone to crying or yelling, but they’re not tantrums. He’s just having trouble handling his emotions. How are you dealing with your daughter’s tantrums? Not that I have all the answers, but I’m happy to discuss further. You can also e-mail me if you want to discuss “offline.”



  9. well I am sure your all great fathers !!! Raising children is harder then any job you will ever do….I am a mother and I was a yeller…and I regret it now…one way to try to help yourself stop yelling is to have yourself taped by your spouse when your in a outrage…when you hear yourself yelling you will hear it again when you feel the urge to yell again.

  10. Good, honest post. Don’t be too hard on yourself becuase you’ve got a lot on your plate. As many previous posts state, we all want to be better dads and I know that I’ve been working on cutting the yelling down for some time now and it’s not easy. Please don’t forget that if your parents yelled (mine did) then this is an even harder habit to break.

    Great advice on explaining what you expect down to the smallest detail, and the consequences, it’s helped me with my boys.

    Advice… and I know this falls into the “oh that again”, is when I’m at the point of blowing up is to close my eyes, and just repeat in my head “I can do this, I can do this”. Then when I do speak with my kids I look them in the eye and take a very firm tone and make sure they know how upset I am. Can’t say it works all the time but my wife has said she’s seen a difference.

    Keep up the great work and we’re in your corner!


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