John Ernst, PhD, LPC

Talks About…



The Problem:

I often hear this complaint from frustrated parents: “My kids won’t respond unless I yell and scream at them. I’ve tried everything, and yelling is the only thing that works.”

You probably haven’t tried everything, but you’re obviously feeling trapped in an unhappy pattern. Parents will certainly yell at their children from time to time. The important questions here are: How often do you do it and, is this the strategy that you really want to use? I don’t recommend yelling as a choice for positive parenting.

What’s really going on:

Yelling at your kids is a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more your kids won’t listen, the more you may feel forced to scream. If you find that you have to make three or four requests (e.g., “Billy get off of the Xbox”) and he won’t respond until you finally yell, it can be very frustrating. There is also a good chance that your child will react in an equally angry manner.

Eventually, the child learns that you won’t take action until after you yell and scream. He or she will choose not to respond until the screaming starts and the thought occurs: “Gee, Mom’s yelling now and that’s when she means business… I’d better listen now.” Although this may achieve temporary results, in the long run it’s an unhappy and ineffective parenting strategy.

In such situations, as a parent and your child’s role model, you’re really teaching your kids not to respond to you until you yell. You’re also teaching your kids to deal with challenging situations in an angry and aggressive manner.

A Better Parenting Strategy:

A better strategy is to give your child a firm, fair request and link it to a potential consequence (e.g., “Billy, get off the Xbox in two minutes (request) or you won’t have any Xbox privileges tonight (consequence).”

Deliver your message in a calm tone, wait a few moments, and if the child doesn’t do what you requested, be consistent in your response by enforcing a reasonable consequence. Be sure to select consequences that you can and will actually enforce. Eventually, your child may begin to learn that you calmly, fairly, and consistently ‘mean business’ without yelling or screaming; you just might begin to create a more structured and happier household for everyone involved.


Copyright 2021 – John Ernst, Ph.D., LPC


John Ernst, PhD, LPC treats children, adolescents, families, individual adults and couples. He is presently accepting new patients. To establish an appointment, please contact Dr. Ernst at 414-329-7000 and ask for him specifically to discuss your initial questions.