4 Positive Parenting Strategies That Work Better Than Yelling

Happy girl with two thumbs up
I get it. You don’t want to yell at your kids.
I’ve been a parenting educator for 15+ years and have never met a parent who felt like yelling was a good strategy. The only reason parents yell is because they are pushed to the brink and don’t have more effective tools to use.

We know from recent studies that yelling can have the same detrimental effects on a child as spanking—including increased anxiety, depression, stress, and other emotional disorders. And while yelling can be useful in some situations, if it is our default discipline strategy, we will fail to experience the long-term behavioral changes we hope to see in our children.

Why isn’t Yelling a Good Long-Term Strategy?

Parenting is a marathon—or more like 18 marathons strung together. When considering different discipline strategies, it’s vital we remember the end-game.

Sure, we’d like our son to walk through the candy aisle without throwing a tantrum. And we’d like our daughter to not wage war at the dinner table over the highly-controversial green vegetable.

The problem is, when we focus on those short-term issues, we have potential to create negative long-term effects.

When we focus on short-term issues we have potential to create negative long-term effects
Let’s consider the son in the candy aisle.

The short-term goal is to avoid a tantrum. And unfortunately, if we haven’t used any proactive parenting techniques, there are three ways well-intentioned parents try to curb the tantrum from happening over the bag of Skittles:

  1. Buy the bag of Skittles (quickest way to end the tantrum!)
  2. Threaten to take away some other privilege at home
  3. Yell in the middle of the candy aisle and scare him into submission.

The problem is that each of these is a short-term solution to the issue, but all have long-term implications. Let’s break them down a little further.

Option 1: Buy the bag of Skittles

This is a sure-fire way to stop the tantrum from happening in the candy aisle, but what are the long-term implications?

If your child knows you can be manipulated into buying a treat every time you go to the grocery store, this will most certainly lead to repeat tantrum performances and feelings of entitlement and greed.

A LOT of parents are concerned with the entitlement epidemic that plagues our children these days. I care so deeply about helping parents combat this issue that I wrote a whole book on it.

When a child is never told “no” or rarely has to “go without,” his feelings of entitlement will grow. He’ll likely have difficulty expressing gratitude as an adult and may lack the ability to compromise and work collaboratively as a teammate.

Sure, it might be easier in the short-term for YOU to not have him kicking and screaming on the linoleum tile between the gummy worms and tootsie rolls. But, let me assure you, it will be even more difficult to teach your TEENAGE son gratitude and curb his feelings of entitlement 10 years from now.

Option 2: Threaten to take away a privilege at home

This short-term solution has the most potential to go sideways.

Are you really going to follow through when you get home?

If you do, is it really going to change your child’s behavior next time?

Worse yet, if you don’t follow through, how might this impact his behavior on the next grocery errand?

Kids are short-sighted creatures—they want immediate gratification, but they also need to experience timely consequences. By taking away technology two hours after the temper-tantrum in the candy aisle, chances are the connection between the two will be long lost on your kid.

This short-sighted strategy has long-term implications. Your child will either realize:

1) You don’t follow through on grocery store threats so why should he listen to you at other times?

2) Your child will view this punishment as unfair since the grocery store behavior is unrelated to his technology privilege (See: No Yelling Consequences).

Option 3: Yell in the middle of the candy aisle

I get it. You don’t want to yell—especially after that sweet grandma just walked by and told you how precious your son is.

Sure, you might embarrass yourself if you yell, but your kid needs to learn he can’t act this way. So you yell for the 15th time.

“No! WE ARE NOT GETTING SKITTLES!!!”

The sound of your voice captures his attention long enough the tantrum stops, but now the guilt sets in.

Once again, you’re left unsatisfied. Sure, he may have stopped throwing the tantrum out of sheer fear, but will his behavior change next time. Did the yelling equip him with the appropriate behavioral tools to have a successful grocery run? Probably not.

Instead, you took a short-sided solution to a problem that, in the long-term, will only breed feelings of resentment or, even worse, fear towards his parent.

What Can You Do Instead of Yelling?

First, let’s take a deep breath. If you’re like me, you’re guilty of attempting all three discipline strategies mentioned above. I remember feeling absolutely out of control when it came to situations like the one in the grocery store.

You are not alone in this parenting journey. Please know the suggestions I’m about to offer you are battle-tested techniques and have helped thousands of families curb the yelling in their homes.

One of the fatal flaws in the discipline options mentioned above is they are all REACTIVE strategies. When parents only use reactive discipline techniques—time-out, counting to three, consequences, yelling—there are several implications:

  1. Parents are exhausted because REACTIVE parenting drains our energy much faster than proactive parenting.
  2. We never understand and treat the ROOT of the misbehavior because we are so focused on STOPPING the misbehavior in the moment.
  3. If we only react to situations we increase the likelihood we will yell because we aren’t equipped with more effective tools.

Strategy #1: Mind, Body and Soul Time (MBST)

The most effective proactive parenting technique that serves as the crux to everything I teach is Mind, Body, and Soul Time or MBST.

I encourage parents to spend 10-15 uninterrupted minutes of one-on-one time every day with each child. During this time, children call the shots—play a game of their choosing, sing karaoke to their favorite song, have an impromptu dance party, build an epic fort in the living room or simply read their favorite book.

By filling up your kid’s attention and power baskets in these 10 minutes, you ward off future misbehaviors—and thereby decrease the times you’d be prompted to yell.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review Session 1 to learn the ins and outs of MBST and also see the advanced module, “The Busy Parent’s Guide to Mind, Body, and Soul Time.”

Strategy #2: No Yelling Consequences

This proactive strategy is incredibly effective with kids 2.5 and older. There is so much to learn about No Yelling Consequences—so much, in fact, I created an entire FREE webinar on the topic.

Join Amy for a FREE CLASS
To implement consequences in a meaningful way, you need to be clear about your expectations and ensure the consequence is related to the misbehavior. When children understand ahead of time what consequence will be put in place if they make a wrong choice AND that consequence is related to the misbehavior, there won’t be a need to yell.

By using the 5 R’s formula, your child will already know the consequence of their actions and you’ll be able to enforce it in a calm and effective way.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, refer to Session 3, Lessons 25 and 26 to review the different types of consequences and how to implement them effectively.

Strategy #3: Connect and Empathize

While proactive parenting greatly reduces the likelihood of outbursts, the truth is, we still need tools for IN THE MOMENT.

So imagine, you’ve filled your son’s attention bucket proactively, but he still loses it in the candy aisle. Now what?

Instead of losing your cool, try to connect. Empathize with his feelings—”Wow, I know those Skittles are delicious and I can tell you’d really like some.” or “I know how hard it is when you really want something you can’t have.”

Your connection in this moment helps your son know you’re on his team. And sure, he still might throw a fit all the way through the store, but he will learn two things:

  1. When you say no, it means no.
  2. Even though you said no, you still love him and care about his big emotions.

Instead of losing your cool, try to connect.

Strategy #4: Whisper

Do you want to know what’s better than yelling EVERY. TIME? Whispering, that’s what.

When your child’s frustration and voice goes high, you go low…so low the only way he can hear you is to actually be quiet.

Everyone likes to hear secrets and your child is no different. By whispering your response to his Skittles request or by telling him a silly little secret to distract from his meltdown, whispering has incredible benefits:

  1. It actually brings YOUR heart rate down making you less likely to yell in anger.
  2. It calms the energy of the entire situation down and encourages your child to listen.

Final Thoughts

You can do this! Your yelling days (like mine) can be a thing of the past if you equip yourself with an arsenal of tools to use instead.

The greatest difference between parents who yell and parents who don’t is simply knowledge. When you are adequately prepared to handle difficult parenting situations, you won’t NEED to yell.

That’s the beauty of the online course I created—I give you step-by-step instructions, scripts, and resources to guide you through even the most difficult power struggles. Oh, sweet friend, once you have those tools in your wheelhouse, you will be unflappable.

Trust me, you can become the parent you always knew you could be. I’d be honored if you’d JOIN ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS.

I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen—no nagging, yelling or reminding required.

I’m cheering you on in this parenting journey, and just remember, we are always here for you when you need us!

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.