How To Deal With A Spouse Who Frequently Yells At The Kids

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  • Strategies for dealing with challenge of spouse who frequently yells at the kids.

Ask the Author: Question & Response

I have been looking for an answer to this problem and maybe you can help.  I am married and have two young children. My wife is the type of person who yells a lot. Raising her voice almost constantly to correct the children.  I have grown to dislike her, mostly from the way she treats the kids. I have learned to let my ego go and care little about how she treats me, but I do care about how her mean, nasty reactions are affecting my kids. Even if divorce was an option for me, it likely wouldn’t keep her from the children.  I have tried many times and many ways to get her to just show the love she has in her, instead. Somehow no matter how positive the results are she diverts back at the first sign of the kids not listening. Is there another way?

– Christopher, New Jersey, USA

1. Let’s get this first point very clear, you can not yell at, argue in front of, or be demeaning to a child without changing that child forever. Each and every time a child is yelled at, it chips away at that child’s confidence, self-esteem and soul. There is little difference between being physically abusive and that of being mentally abusive. A child is a delicate work in progress. Each and every time you interact with a child, you mold that child. To mold a child means to determine or influence the quality or nature of that child. Imagine a child as a diamond. When you are loving, supportive, encouraging and compassionate, you are polishing this diamond. When you are yelling, hurtful, demeaning and cruel, you are covering this diamond with your dirt. A child will always be a diamond, yet it is up to you to help him see and reflect this truth, or hide and bury this truth.

2. You wrote: “I have learned to let my ego go and care little about how she treats me.” Ask yourself, how does your response affect the way she treats your kids? Does your lack of care make her angrier toward you or the kids? If this is so, it is not useful. If your response decreases her anger toward you or the kids then it is of some use, but it is not the answer. From the way you write the question, it appears that your wife has some understanding that her behavior is not the most productive, appropriate or most loving way of being. The anger she expresses toward the kids really has little to do with how your kids behave and most everything to do with how she feels about herself. She is, in the best way she now can, asking to be helped. Her anger is an external call for help and healing. She is, in the most literal sense, yelling for help and healing. It is of no use to “care little about” this call. This call must be answered in one way or another. And it is your courage that will determine if you and a professional can assist her in productively expressing her inner pain, or if your children will have to deal with it. Either way she will find an outlet, and either way you have to take full responsibility for the part you play.

3. You, your wife and children are not separate beings. You are all one connected unit. If you assist your wife in growing and developing kinder, gentler and more productive disciplining tools, this growth and development will also affect and touch you and your children. A wiser, kinder and more loving wife will help develop wiser, kinder and more loving children, and equally help build and develop a wiser, more loving, peaceful and caring marriage. Each and every time you assist your wife in developing better coping tools, you are equally gifting your children a steadier and more fertile base to grow from. Each and every time you assist your wife in creating a more peaceful and joyful heart and mind, you are gifting yourself and your children with a more joyful and peaceful life.

4. Your children are brave. In some ways, you have all come together to assist your wife in becoming more self-loving. Talk openly and honestly with your children. They are wiser than even you think. Establish boundaries for them. Although they would never acknowledge it, this is something that they do desire. Explain to them the situation using age appropriate language. Explain to them that this is something that you all have to work together to resolve. Remind them over and over again that your wife’s behavior, her yelling and anger, is not, for the most part, a result of their behavior, but a result of how she feels about herself. Remind them over and over that your wife’s yelling is not an appropriate response and that you are working with her to correct this behavior. Tell them what steps you are taking to correct this behavior and how they can assist you in helping their mother.

5. Your wife does not want to yell at your kids. Your wife is in serious pain and is subconsciously trying to release some of this pain by yelling. Outwardly she may not show it, yet every single time she yells at the kids – these actions are literally cutting into her soul. This behavior only increases her level of inner pain while decreasing her level of patience toward herself and others, which then increases her negative responses. She is actually unconsciously punishing herself because she does not believe that she is worthy of peace and happiness. She needs to get that she is hurting and punishing herself through this type of response, that she is truly not healing the cause of her wounds. If she needs professional counseling to get this, then get this for her. If she’s afraid to face her inner pain by herself then find a way to go to couple’s counseling. Again, you are not only doing all this for her, but also for yourself and your children.

6. Your wife can only offer others what she herself has. A person who has self-love and compassion will offer love and compassion to others. A person who is hurting and in pain will offer pain and hurt to others. What is within – will flow to the outer world. Thus, the change needs to begin from within. A professional will give both of you step by step directions on how to dismantle this current behavior and deal with these same issues in a more loving and productive manner. The professional will be able to non-judgmentally delve into your wife’s past, bring up the events and behaviors that she saw, experienced and learned that she now uses. Slowly your wife and therapist will define what triggers her behavior. They will then work on dealing with these triggers in a more productive manner, instead of having her go off on your children. Your wife will now understand why she is feeling the way she does, catch herself feeling this way, then correct the thoughts in her mind and not take it out on the kids. Again, if she is defensive about individual one-on-one counseling, then you must go with her to couple’s counseling until she feels more comfortable with the process. Understanding why she feels and acts the way she does will increase her sense of control over her thoughts and emotions. The knowledge that she can indeed control her thoughts and emotions will bring greater peace of mind to her and your whole family.

7. Set clear-cut positive goals. Agree on what these goals are. In any situation in which you are uncertain, first ask: “What do I want to come of this?” Clarification of the goal comes at the beginning, for this will determine the outcome. The value of doing this is that you will perceive the situation as a means to make it happen, concentrating your efforts on making it happen. This will increase your control over the situation. Thus, now you will be able to manage the situation instead of just being an unwitting accessory to it. If the situation is used for growth its outcome will be a greater sense of peace. The Godself knows that the situation is as the goal determines it, and is experienced according to the goal. No one will fail in anything.

8. Both of you should start to journal, to write down what you are feeling. Do not give up on things that are in any small way working. Write down what seems to be working and continue to develop them. Write down what has worked, why you think it worked, and what you could have done to make it work better. Remember that you are not doing all this just for her, but for yourself and your children, and even for your children’s children. For your children’s relationships with their mother will heavily influence not only their relationships with other women but also their relationships with their own children. Write down your emotions and feelings, read them to your partner. Sometimes it’s easier to express something on paper first and then read it to your partner. Journaling helps in bringing what is within – out. For if you keep what you are feeling about your partner inside of you alone, this will end up weighing you to the ground. It is okay to feel “negative emotions.” It is okay to feel pain, hurt, resentment and anger. But it is of the utmost importance to get these feelings out of you in a positive and supportive setting where they can be looked at, understood, learned from and, if possible, corrected.

9. Give your wife as much positive reinforcement as possible. Whenever you see her dealing with the kids in a positive manner, make sure to acknowledge her for that behavior. Thank her on a daily basis for all the little things she does to make your day and the kids’ day more pleasant and manageable. Call her just to say “hi” and see how she is doing. When you get the kids on the phone remind them to be supportive of their mother. Serve as an example for her and together get a gym membership or take yoga classes to help both of you in releasing the daily tensions. Make an extra effort to truly listen to her when she’s talking to you. Find ways to complement her and help her feel good about herself. Give your wife a break from the kids. During your time home, for at least 45 minutes each day, take care of the kids 100% and let her do with those 45 minutes whatever she wants to do for herself. Once a week, have a date night without the kids. Take her out to dinner. Make sure she makes time to get together with her girlfriends at least once a week for lunch or dinner.

10. Bring God or whatever higher power you both believe in back into the marriage. You don’t ask God for too much, you ask God for too little. He but waits for you to call upon Him. Bring prayer into your relationship. Hold your wife’s hands, look directly into her eyes and pray honestly and openly, directly from your heart to God, and in that instant you will feel Him. You will feel Him, but not because He has just heard your call, but because He has forever held you both in His arms. As God shines on you, allow the light of love that you both have for your children to shine on any issues you may have. Your children are God’s greatest gift to you and your greatest gift to this planet. And your children will end up treating this world and the people in it as you and your wife have treated them. They are an eternal extension of both of you. You and your wife’s hard work and internal development will not be lost in time. Your dedication and effort will touch many generations to come. Know that some day when your children are themselves parents, and then themselves grandparents, they will one day sit back, look toward the sky, smile and bless your every effort.

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  1. Al Phipps
    Al Phipps09-03-2014

    very thorough response, very helpful too.

  2. Harry
    Harry10-14-2014

    Good article. Found it comforting, full of insight and reassuring..

  3. Harry P.
    Harry P.03-17-2015

    Agree with both Al And Harry (another Harry!) very insightful with great wisdom here. Tired of my wife yelling at everyone.. I can let my ego aside but cannot take the yelling and abuse to my beautiful boys.

    • jen
      jen03-26-2015

      Thanks for your comment. I hope everything gets resolved in the best way.

    • AJ
      AJ12-01-2015

      Hey Harry,
      How was the outcome? I too go through the same thing. I have two amazingly beautiful boys, 4 and 5 years old. My wife was never a good mother and she has consistently grown worse, with excessive yelling and screaming. To the point it’s really hurting my kids (I get scared hearing her voice.)

      • Edad
        Edad01-03-2016

        I’m having this exact issue. I don’t know how to help anymore. Are things any better for you at your house? If so how did you do it? I don’t like her calling my son names. Today she called him evil and he was so hurt.

  4. guymin me
    guymin me03-13-2016

    Nice article but its not dealing with the reality of mental illness, which most women who consistently yell at their kids have. The above suggestions sound nice, but the reality is that you cannot re-enforce positive behavior if there is NEVER any positive behavior.

  5. Sean
    Sean04-30-2016

    There’s no way I could get her to counseling. And every time I make any gentle urging to chill or take a break it’s “oh, I guess I’m just a b*tch again, and you’re always right”. And she won’t accept time to herself, just refuses it and continues to be angry.
    I feel like I’m losing her. She’s losing herself. This isn’t her.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer11-05-2018

      She is gaslighting you. There are numerous articles on gaslighting. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.

  6. Someone
    Someone07-08-2016

    Anything I try backfires and makes the situation worse.

    What kind of ‘person’ or business can I find locally who can help me through this? It’s at the point where she’s telling me regularly that my two year old is an asshole, she’s hitting her when I’m not around (my child tells me) and I think she’s telling her to shut up and fuck off. She’s only two.

    Need help 🙁

  7. Jim
    Jim09-04-2016

    I don’t buy the she’s calling for help or the she’s hurting inside line. It sounds to me that she is emotionally immature. She is behaving like a toddler and throwing tantrums. I do agree however that the I don’t care how she treats me line might even be worse that the wife’s behavior. Have some self respect. Her behavior isn’t going to change if you allow yourself to be a doormat. That doesn’t mean that you yell back. You remain calm and confident and tell the truth. If she yells at the kids because she perceives them as misbehaving, show her that you can correct behavior without screaming at tge kids. In fact, screaming doesn’t correct behavior. All the kids hear is the loud noise and “I hate you.” Instead show her that if you give the kids actual consequences for misbehavior (restriction from electronics for 2 days for example) you will likely see actual change in behavior. Also, show that when the kids are awesome (which they are most of the time but it probably goes unnoticed) give them praise. If she is not willing to do that and she continues to treat you and your children in the same matter, it’s time to move on. Fight for your children.

  8. Charlie
    Charlie07-29-2017

    Very helpful indeed and I will follow this outlook in my own family. Wise, compassionate, realistic.

  9. Jeremy
    Jeremy11-27-2017

    Thanks for this excellent article. Rings true for me and my situation. I can’t stand her taking out her frustrations out on our 2 year old – to the point that the little one is exhibiting signs of anxiety even at her age. But how to affect change without making the situation worse?!?

    Your suggestions are very helpful starting points and I will certainly try them out. Thanks again.

    • James Blanchard Cisneros
      James Blanchard Cisneros11-28-2017

      Thank you Jeremy for being open to the message. Remember that you are never alone, pray every night asking God to guide your path, and open you to new ways of thinking, loving ways to resolve your situation and bringing peace of mind and joy to your environment and to those around you. Peace. JBC

  10. Joe
    Joe01-02-2018

    The other day I could just not take it any more, I’m a grown ass man and I bursted into tears because my wife was yelling at my daughters so bad that they were both terrified, I don’t know what to do. I want the divorce but I can’t leave my daughters with her, and I don’t have the time to take care of them by myself. I feel so trapped some times, she just screams her lungs out, and the worst is that she does not even notice. She feels so frustrated every time the girls don’t behave as she wants them to behave, but they are so young! 5 and 3, I keep telling her, they are still babies, you can’t just yell at them like that, but she starts crying and saying that nobody pays attention to her in this house, that she yells at them because they do not pay attention to what she says. But still, they are little babies, that’s normal, isn’t it? I can’t take it anymore, I disliike her every day more and more when she acts like that.

    • James Blanchard Cisneros
      James Blanchard Cisneros01-04-2018

      Thank you Joe for your comment and I’m sorry that you are going through this. Here are four things you could try: exercising with her, eating healthier with her (vegan as much as possible), meditating with her, and praying with her. Exercise creates the hormone dopamine, which is a feel good hormone. Exercise always may help her burn off that excess energy she is holding within. If you exercise with her this will make her feel more loved and wanted, which will also make her feel better and more calm. Eating a healthy diet, free of animal products and dairy will also have a calming effect on her. I would say focus on fruits, salads and vegetables. The healthier you feel, the better you feel about yourself, the nicer you will be to others. Meditation and/or prayer also helps calm the mind, it helps focus the mind, which then helps you have better control over your thoughts and actions. A closer connection to God also helps raise your ‘feel good’ hormones. It’s best if you can do all these things along with her, as partners. Yes, I get that you may not like her too much right now, but remember that you are mainly doing this for your daughters. The more at peace with herself that your wife can be, the more peaceful she will be with your daughters. You can do more research on ways to do these four things together on YouTube or Google. Take care, I wish you well. Peace. JBC

      • Jennifer
        Jennifer11-05-2018

        You’d be surprised how much “high blood pressure” can contribute to someone yelling and screaming all the time. Have her go to the doctor to determine if she suffers from high blood pressure. She could also suffer from anxiety or depression. There are some great OTC methods for anxiety that may help. She may need more magnesium in her diet. Many women suffer from magnesium deficiency. You would be surprised to see how much more mellow you become when you have normal magnesium levels. You may also try L-THeanine, it may naturally help elevate her serotonin levels. If natural methods do not work, then she should definitely see a doctor. Ruling out any medical issue should be done first before therapy!

  11. CH
    CH04-12-2018

    My wife yells all the time at our kids. She has been through a lot growing up (abuse growing up) she goes to counseling weekly. But still seems to struggle. We have 5 kids and the oldest is 9. All of our kids scream or raise there voices whe the speak already. It really saddens me, I need to help and do better but every time I suggest something she says you just deal with it and gets mad. I really need to lift her up but am not good at that any suggestions?

    • James Blanchard Cisneros
      James Blanchard Cisneros04-13-2018

      It is good that she goes to weekly counseling. Don’t know anything about your lifestyle but lets try two things and share with me if these are doable for you guys: One, start walking/jogging/running with her, maybe a 2 minute run, 2 minute walk, ongoing for 30 – 60 minutes, or walk 60 minutes one day, run or jog 45 mins the next. Two, try moving to a vegan diet, meaning only or at least 90% of your food being fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Say fruits salads or smoothies during the day, and a big salad at night. These two things, apart from everything else mentioned in this post, will help. It would be important for you to do this with her, both the exercise and the change in eating habits. The exercise will release some of that excess energies, and the healthier diet will help our with cleaning and healing her insides. Both will help with the brain and bring more clarity and peace into your life. Both sound kind of simplistic, but both are keys to a healthy and peaceful life. Peace. JBC

  12. andy
    andy05-28-2018

    My wife yells a lot to my young daughters aged 5 and 8 . From the morning we wake up she is always ready to scream at whatever she doesnt like. My eldest daughter is very sensitive and cries very easy as soon as my wife yells. I tell my wife that its wrong and we argue about it every day but she thinks shes normal and that im the one with the problem . I know she didnt grow up in a healthy family environment either her parents yell a lot to

  13. Peace
    Peace06-28-2018

    I go through this experience too. My wife yells, beat (well, we beat children in Nigeria though) and sometimes calls my 3-year old daughter unprintable names. She has beaten my daughter with broomsticks (when she was 2), she has violently pushed my daughter that the kid almost hit her head on the wall when she fell(when she was just 2 yrs old too) and just last night, while she was trying to do school homework for the little girl, she angrily punched her rib while i was right there watching the World Cup match, this really hurt me and i cautioned her about it (not the first time), but she argued and talked back at me. She always do whenever i correct her on the way she treats the baby. I beat my child too, but i do with love, all i do is to smack her bombom just once, which is how i advice my wife to beat her too, but she will hit the little girl at any part of her body when she is angry. I’m getting tired and afraid she may one day cause severe injury to the little girl because she is not even willing to change.

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