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When Dad Yells

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

How do I get through to my husband about his yelling? He tends to yell out of frustration as my son (his adopted son now) who just turned 9. He use to be good about talking to him instead of yelling or getting loud, but now it doesn’t seem like he even tries to talk. He just goes straight away to the yelling. Mid-school year, last year, my son was diagnosed with boarder line ADHD, so he looses focus a lot and need to tell him multiple time to do things…he just gets distracted easily. He takes medication during the school year, but not during the summer. How can I get through to my husband about this?

Dad’s Yelling

Dear Wife of Yeller-

You are in a tough, but not unusual (sorry to say) situation. I have some suggestions for you regarding your husband’s yelling.

First, successfully motivating another person never comes when you criticism them. I know that you feel like yelling at your husband to stop yelling because you are frustrated too. And- you see that it hurts your son. But, if you want a man to listen to you concerning his behavior, you must approach the topic sensitively. I recommend that you sit down with your husband during a time when you are both fairly relaxed (maybe go for a walk in the evening?) and say something like this. “I have been concerned about you lately. You seem stressed and frustrated and I want to know what I can do to help.” Then, listen to what he says. Ideally, he will hear that you aren’t getting ready to pounce on him; rather you are concerned that he isn’t happy and is therefore yelling. The truth is, happy people don’t yell- particularly at kids.

Then, after he has spoken to you, continue to say something such as: “I know that (your son’s name) frustrates you and this doesn’t help your stress level. You get into yelling matches and honestly, they don’t help you or him. Yelling makes you more tense and him more distant. What can we do to change this pattern?” Again, give him time to respond. Don’t interrupt him, let him talk.

Finally, let him know that he is important to your son and his behavior- what he says and how he says it- makes a huge impression on your son. Tell him that you want the best of him to rub off on your son- not the worst. Remind him of the good qualities that he has that you want your son to see. Praise motivates people to change.

You get the idea here. Your approach is to let your husband know that you are on his side , that he’s not happy yelling (who could be?) and that home life is stressful. If you continue to talk with him this way, I guarantee he will be more motivated to change his behavior than if you simply tell him that yelling is harming your son and he must stop it.

Remember, this will take time so be patient. It won’t happen in a week, probably over a few months. In the meantime, tell your son that your husband’s yelling is not his problem- it is coming from stress deep within your husband. You need to really protect your son here and help him not take the yelling personally.


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