I Won’t Promise I Won’t Yell

Promise to TeensTo my teens,

When your older sister became a teen, she and I had a chat in the car about this phase. I told her, “Lot’s of teens and parents have a hard time with each other during this time of life, but it is up to us. We choose how it will turn out.”

All wasn’t perfect; we’re human after all. But she’s grown up to be responsible—the goal we aim to hit. And, we still love each other, which is the feeling we hope to create.

Even though she’s moved out of this phase, you two are still in the height of adolescence, and some days I’m not sure I’ll survive.

I’m hanging on to what I told your older sister, “We choose how it will turn out.” But with two of you bursting with emotion and hormones at the same time, I think we need more than that.

You see, this study came out that says yelling is as hurtful as hitting.

And I know I yell.

But even with these findings, I won’t promise I won’t yell.

This may sound like a rationalization, but please see it as another perspective. Sometimes you are so loud I have to yell to get your attention.

The following is my half of such a scenario:

Verbal and physical play over morning lunch-making.

“Please stop teasing your sister; it’s time to leave.”

“Please don’t egg him on, just finish what you need to do and let’s go.”

Five minutes later . . . Teens screaming, yelling, chasing around the kitchen into the living room. Harsh words exchanged.

“Don’t chase her with that salami. You know she doesn’t like it.”

“That sounds very mean. Come on, we don’t say that.”

Two minutes later . . . more wrestling, screaming, etc.


Yelling to get control of a loud situation is not abuse. It may not be the best parenting tactic. It may make you regret you started the bickering, teasing and wrestling with each other because now you have to sit and listen to me go on about what’s right and what’s wrong, again. But it is not abuse.

Yelling to scare you into submission is abuse. Verbally attacking you with hurtful names, belittling words or insults is abuse. Using my anger to hurt you is abuse.

But because the edge between correcting and controlling poor behavior on your part can so easily cross the line into poor behavior on my part, we need to make an agreement, a contract of mutual respect.

Yelling, and the behavior that provokes it, is a two-way street.

Peace and contentment is not 100% realistic. It is the ideal we are working toward, but we have human emotions and part of adolescence is helping you (and me) learn to manage those.

Sometimes that will mean pointing out wrong behaviors; right and wrong do exist.

And that may feel negative and hurtful. That is called guilt and sorrow. It’s not there to diminish you but to prompt you to change.

So you can see, this may be a loaded, complicated journey to our ideal family relationship.

When I do yell, I know I’ve lost control. Of myself and the situation. And sometimes I just don’t know what to do as a parent.

But, I promise to admit my error and apologize. But even if “how” I spoke may be wrong, the parenting lesson I was trying to teach is still true.

When you need correction, I will strive to approach you with a soft voice or a hug or a look, but I ask that you also admit your error rather than defend your actions.

If we are all willing to learn, admit our mistakes and forgive each other, we will discover the pattern of changing and improving.

I won’t promise that I won’t yell, but I do promise I will always seek love to motivate my communication with you.

Love, Mom










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