The Role of Yelling in The Training of the Angry, Disruptive Or Emotionally Disturbed Child

The Role of Yelling in The Training of the Angry, Disruptive Or Emotionally Disturbed Child

To live with ten year old Spike is to yell. Anyone would. Everyone does. Spike brings out the yelling in people, especially in his family. They just can’t control themselves around him. He makes himself into the center of attention by doing something outrageous; then, everyone responds by screaming at him. Funny thing, though; he doesn’t seem the least bit upset by all the commotion he creates. In fact, he rather likes it. It reminds him that he is the boss. It’s good to be boss. “I’M NOT PUTTING UP WITH THIS ONE SECOND LONGER!” his folks yell. Oh, really?

This is a joke and Spike knows it. Problem is, his folks yell a lot when they get worked up; they think he’ll care. He doesn’t. They threaten to call the cops but the cops aren’t going to do anything and Spike knows that, too. Spike hasn’t assaulted them. He threatens to push them through the floor but he hasn’t yet raised a hand. He is a problem but he isn’t that big a problem yet. The real problem is Spike has pushed them beyond their ability to cope. It isn’t hard to do: Swear at them a few times, be rude in public, beat up his little brother; get thrown off the bus; that sort of thing. They don’t think anymore; they react. About the only weapon left to these parents, then, is yelling. It’s a pathetic weapon, as weapons go. Yelling has the illusion of strength, power, and determination but Spike knows his parents have none of these. They only thing that happens to parents who yell at problem kids is parents get worked up and the problem kids yawn. Nobody knows us better than our kids. Now that’s a scary thought.

If we step back and think about it, we can easily see that yelling produces nothing in the problem kid but a headache for us. And, so, if it is true that nothing changes as a function of being yelled at, why do we do it? Frustration, that’s why. Frustration is commonly cited as an excuse for all kinds of things. “It isn’t my fault, I was frustrated.” Mom says?” He just makes me so mad!”

Meaning what? I’m weak? Is that the message Mom wants to get across? It certainly gets across the message that she vulnerable, easily manipulated and frazzled. These are not the kinds of things Mom wants to advertise to her difficult child. He will show no remorse about wrapping them around her neck when the right opportunity presents itself. Succumbing to frustration is a mistake.

Mom needs to project herself as strong. That is a hard thing to do when you are at your wits end but it must be done. The sooner parents figure this out, the sooner then can begin to tame their wild child. Mom can learn to project herself as strong. It is challenging and requires discipline but it certainly can be done. Yes, she is at the bottom of the barrel hollering up but that is precisely where she starts. Stop yelling. She knows it is wasted effort. She knows Spike doesn’t respond. She only yells because she doesn’t know what else to do and thinks she is supposed to do something. Says who?

Who told Mom she is supposed to continually ‘Do something’? Whoever it was never had a kid like Spike. Mom needs to listen to herself for a change. She is the one raising Spike, not ‘them’. So, here is what she does: Not only does she stop cold all yelling, whether it be in convenience or in anger but she moderates her tone so carefully that she can’t be heard in the next room. Nothing short of a three-alarm fire will get her to raise her voice. If her Spike is outdoors and it is supper time, she gets a whistle. If he is upstairs, she either walks up the stairs and delivers the message in a calm voice or forgets it. Is this effort? You bet. Does it work? Beautifully. And, yes, it throws all the effort to produce change back onto the shoulders of the rattled parent but remember the old adage, “If you want something done well, do it yourself.”

It’s true. It takes a few weeks of this new strategy but it isn’t long before Mom notices that she is calmer and the household is calmer. She has set the new model. Relationships aren’t perfect but Mom has an optimism that she hasn’t had before. Her family is following her for a change.

‘Not yelling’ is the single best thing a parent can do faced with a Spike. It gives the parent a chance to think about what to do next, not react. Reactions are almost always bad. Thinking is good. One closing thought: don’t tell Spike what you are up to. He will undermine your efforts and you already know how good he is at manipulation. So, just do it. For more information see


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