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How To Parent Without Yelling

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

How to stop yelling at children. Learn more at PlayfulLeigh Psyched

A common question that I get asked as a therapist is how to parent without yelling. When I was a preschool teacher and later, a Center Director, I even encountered teachers that struggled with this question. The good part is that if you found your way to this article, then you are looking to change your behavior, which means change is possible. Today we will explore what's at the root of your yelling and help you start figuring out different approaches. As a reminder, many of the articles on this cite are from a trauma lens. You'll probably be exploring your little 't' traumas more than anything else today.

My Child Doesn't Listen Until I Yell

Yelling, or any parenting behavior that you want to lessen, is a learned behavior. You have learned that you can get your child to do what you want when you yell at them. The flipside is also true, your child has learned that you only really mean what you are saying when you yell it. Hopefully, you see the cyclic problem. To break that cycle, you need to know what is beneath the yelling, meaning how you learned that yelling was an option for you.

What is guiding you in your life or your parenting journey? Most likely, you are being guided by a mixture of explicit and implicit memories. If you are a parent, perhaps you remember something about the way you were raised and you have said one of two things to set your parenting goal(s):

  1. I want to make sure that my children don't experience what I did, or

  2. I am doing this because it was a value that we had in my family and I want to pass it down to my child.

Each of these statements can be phrased many different ways but the bottomline is that both of them are working from explicit goals. You have a cognizant awareness of what happened to you or what you value and are using it to influence how you parent.

"An adult's job isn't necessarily to give a child answers to future problems, but rather to help ensure that they have the skills to manage problem-solving."

Implicit memories are experiences that you have had that aren't fully accessible to you even though they show up in your actions. When implicit memories influence your behaviors, such as your relationship or parenting, you are not actively aware of the memory. We cover this a bit when we talk about generational trauma, and we will go into a bit more in a future post. For today, we'll focus on explicit memories and how they may be driving your parenting goals.

I Don't Want That For My Child

When it comes to children and even our adult relationships, we often work from a

Black people kneeling. Learn how to set goals for your children based on what you want for them.

frame of what we don't want. Probably unbeknownst to you, what we don't want centers our traumas. Whether big T or little t traumas, when we center our traumas we miss opportunities to build from a healthy base. Centering traumas also fails to consider the fact that you're trying to prepare your child for a world that doesn't yet exist, based on one that already was. Pause on that for a second. One of the challenges of parenthood or being part of a childrearing village is that you can't know what's coming in their future. An adult's job isn't necessarily to give a child answers to future problems, but rather to help ensure that they have the skills to manage problem-solving.

Let's use an older millennial as an example. Looking back on their childhood in comparison to today, their village couldn't have possibly imagined the internet (AKA the world wide web), September 11, 2001, the rise of social media from Myspace to BlackPlanet to Facebook, the COVID-19 pandemic, a revived Civil Right Movement through Black Lives Matter, a career called social media influencer or even TikTok. Even conceptualizations and understandings of race, gender and sexuality are vastly different between the 1980s and present day. Therefore, if their village spent time solely preparing the child for the future they imagined based on the one that they had already lived, that child is likely really struggling with today's plights. That's because the village was working from the frame of what they didn't want for the child's future. You'll be able to do differently.

Reframing Your Goals

It's a slight shift, but working from the frame of what you do want for your child and matching your actions to those outcomes, could help your child have some of the skills they need for any possible future. So, here's your growth point activity for today.

Growth Point Activity

What do I want for my child?

What skill would that give my child?

What behaviors do I need to model?

What work do I need to do on myself for this outcome to be possible?

How can I work on myself with this goal in mind? (keep this short and simple)

What will this look like when completed (or how will I know that I have been met this goal)?

​Ex. I want my child to recognize what a good work/life balance looks and feels like in their life.

This would give my child self-awareness.

​My child needs to see me taking time off from work, being engaged with them when I'm home, talking about work in an authentic way that shows balance. They also need me to check in with them about their stress levels.

I need to learn better emotion regulation. I need to put down the inner narrative that if I'm not a perfect parent, then I'm not a good parent.

I will start by doing an emotional check-in with myself at least once a day. When I notice that I need a break or time to myself, I set aside at least small increments of time to do that.

​This wil be an open-ended goal. I know that children learn most by watching their grownups, so I will pay attention to my child's play behaviors and their conversations with me. If my child pretends to take breaks, I'll know my efforts are working.

Your answer here.

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Your answer here.

Before you criticize the example for using "time off" as a sign of balance, I want to challenge your definition of time off. I'm not talking about extravagant vacations or even taking a full day off work if your combination of finances and the type of job that you have does not allow for such things right now. Time off can also mean developing, setting, and reinforcing boundaries. Having a good grasp on boundary management means that you can at minimum have five minutes here and there to yourself or to do utilize in whatever way your body and emotions need.

Here's a bonus question to ask yourself if you're wanting to explore some of your explicit memories a little deeper, "why do I want this for my child?" The answer to this question could reveal memories helpful Interestingly, many people are able to start surfacing an implicit memory or two while answering this question. Since you may experience warm and loving memories or unsettling ones, use emotion regulation and stay grounded. Below you will find a grounding strategy that can help during this activity. Grounding strategies are quick to and alert your system to realize that although you may be thinking about something for your past, you are safely existing in the present.


This article expored a few reflective questions to ask yourself if you want to change a parenting behavior. We focused on yelling today, but you can use the growth point activity for any parenting behavior. Below you will find a few takeaways from this article.

  • Yelling is a learned behavior for both you and your child.

  • Both explicit and implicit memory influence how you parent.

  • Grounding is a way to take a break or give yourself time off.

  • Boundary management is vital for self-care.

The next time you find yourself yelling when you really don't want to, pause and ground yourself before you make anymore movements. You deserve to show up in the present, and your child deserves it too. Here's hoping that you learn something about yourself and start living the parenting journey that you want. In the meantime, please be gentle with yourself, wrap yourself in compassion, douse yourself with love and make moments for play.

PlayfulLeigh (playfully),

Dr. Dowtin


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Feb 17, 2022

I love this growth point chart you gave us with this super helpful example! I also love the idea of coming from a place of love and not what we don’t want. I intend to carry this into my week with reparenting, and in all areas of my life. Thank you! As always, I can’t wait to share these unique insights with loved ones!

Dr. Dowtin
Dr. Dowtin
Feb 17, 2022
Replying to

You brought up a very good point. These same tips can be used for reparenting journeys too. Thank you for illuminating that!

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