Hey John,

I’m a guy in his early thirties. I was engaged for a while a few years ago, but we broke up. I have dated pretty consistently since then. I haven’t been looking for a wife as much as just female company. However, for the last two years I have been seeing a girl (woman) who I have fallen deeply in love with. We both feel the same about each other. Even though I really don’t believe in moving in with someone, we did just that about six months ago. She has three kids: a girl (10), a boy (8), and a girl (4). She has been raising them by herself for about the last four years. The father pays some child support, but rarely sees the kids. My problem is this: she is my dream woman except for the fact she always yells at her kids. I know she is tired after a day of work, but it’s yell yell, yell yell yell. Stuff like, “I told you to pick up your toys!” Or, “You two stop fighting!” Or, “You better have your room clean or no bowling party on Saturday!” When I try to intervene in the yell hell, she angrily reminds me I have no idea what type of stress she’s going through (which is not true). Do stressed out mothers ever learn different ways of dealing with issues with their kids? Our future may depend on your answer.

Earache Ed


Dear Ed The Boyfriend,

Our future may depend on your answer”? Yow! That’s putting a lot of heat on this ol’ counselor! I’d better choose my words carefully, eh? The really short answer is yes. However, that is a pretty inadequate response. Making changes in parenting issues can be difficult because many people make automatic responses to their children without giving it much thought. This is especially true when our kids are irritating us. It can just be a I SAID CLEAN YOUR ROOM!! But how do you (or rather, she) like this ridiculous response? The six year old boy was being extra rough with the new puppy. He just (kinda playfully) tossed Mr. Dog up to the ceiling to land on the bed. However, Dog bounced off the bed onto the floor and yelped in pain. Pops spanked him with three pops on the butt, and then informed him there was no Christmas for him. He went to bed sobbing.  It seems like Pops over reacted, to say the least. Discipline / punishment should be intended to teach your kid to act in a different manner, not just make them suffer for pissing us off. If our response is only to show the kid how angry we are at them, it usually teaches nothing. It is also worth noting that plenty of women try to control their children in a similar way, just verbally. Dire warnings, exasperated yelling and promises of bad things to come are somewhat common. However, what the yelling actually is is a “vent” for her tired  frustration. Mom’s whipped from her job and has little patience for misbehavior. Thus Mom hollers: https://upload.wikimedia.org/…/John_Weissmuller%27s_MGM_Tar… Now, as a therapist, I know we need to vent. However, a much greater need might be met by learning how to stop (or at least reduce) misbehavior, rather than to just yell. One of the most common regrets I hear from mothers is that they yell too much at their children. So specifically, here’s an idea or two to consider:

*get more out of your children by participating in the chore with them…. and happily. Room cleaning is a perfect example.

* have more realistic expectations of your kids. Children do not have the problem solving abilities to settle a disagreement. Thus, the parent should calmly (as much as possible) sit down with them, listen to the issue and give them a couple of ideas of what they can do. The silent threat that if you need to settle it, they might not like your decision (video games are put up for 24 hours for instance) is always present. They can’t do it, then you solve it for them.

* don’t give away your power. Who on earth wants their kids to feel like their parents are helpless? When you merely “vent” (that is, yell), it means you are helpless. Be quietly and calmly threatening with lousy behavior. Think of pissing off the Godfather. Does he get loud? Does he spit out threats? Nope. You know he’s got the quiet dangerous power, and you’d better be careful.

Finally, to directly answer your question, it is possible to ♫change your evil ways, baby♪? It takes consistent effort rather than only acting out of habit. If she has a good personal work ethic, with the proper instruction and role modeling, she can indeed improve her parenting skills. However, if she’s just a tired, stressed out mother who only wants a break when she’s with her children, she may continue to yell at her kids and inspire them to leave home as soon as they are old enough. Personally, I’d rather have my kids eventually miss me someday instead of being relieved they away from me. I hope she improves in her parenting skills, and y’all live happily ever after.