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Amanda Woodiel details 8 ways to stop yelling and inject humor into your parenting.

I assume other people have had the same thing happen to them: you pick up a parenting nugget here, another there. I remember one day in particular when I had a couple of young boys and was visiting my aunt. She had eight children, and her youngest was just a couple of years older than my oldest. She picked up one of my boys, who was in the middle of some kind of wayward toddler behavior, put him on her lap and oozed smiles at him. “No, no, no,” she said, making goo-goo eyes at him and bouncing him on her knee. He laughed and toddled away, no longer terrorizing whatever it was that was his prey. 

I was flabbergasted. “You are so bubbly when you say no,” I remarked. “I get angry.” 

“Oh,” she said, shrugging, “I learned long ago that yelling doesn’t really work anyway.” 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was correct. Yelling works in the immediate short-term: maybe for a few seconds. But even if it does stop the behavior momentarily, what does it gain? A grumpy kid and a grumpy mom, not to mention that whatever issue was at the heart of the behavior (disobedience, selfishness, tiredness, and so on) was not addressed. 

That’s not a win. 

So I learned to parent with a whole lot more humor and found it made for a whole lot less frustration. It has made a remarkable difference in our family life. Up to three kids, I was a yeller. Now with five, I rarely yell (I tremble to type this, as it pretty much ensures I will lose it sometime this week). Along the way, I have learned myriad tricks to keep everyone’s spirits high, to shield the dignity of each person, and to bind the children’s hearts to mine. 

That last point is really important. Don’t gloss over it. I have found that, in some mysterious way, the more I make my kids laugh and goof with them, the more I am endearing to them. They want to please me. Their hearts are tied to mine. Don’t get me wrong: they know that when I say something, I mean it. But I have realized that switching to a humorous mode of delivery bears tremendously more fruit. 

Here are some of the tricks I’ve used over the years: 

  • Silly songs. These are a lot of fun to make up. To the boys, while surveying the floor in their room, I might sing, “You had better clean up this mess. Otherwise, I’ll put you in a dress.” If they are lucky, I’ll dance. 
  • Preposterous outcomes. This works especially well with younger children. “If we don’t clean up these clothes,” I’ll say, “we won’t have any clean ones and we will have to go to Mass naked! What would Father say?” Clap hands to face and make big eyes. Oh, the giggles! 
  • Tall tales. The kids love hearing about when I played professional basketball (I’m 5’4”). I’ll make up all kinds of incidents that happened. They are pretty sure I’m kidding -- right, mom? This makes good fodder for any time you are doing household chores together. 
  • Fairy tales. The girls whined and cried while I brushed their hair, so to distract them, I started telling them stories about “Princess Irene and Princess Mary.” They stand perfectly still (except when it gets to a scary part) and come up with plotlines for me. Tip: when you feel painted into a corner in terms of plot, add a magic spell or a magic passageway. 

mom doing child's hair

  • Talking in accents/taking on a character. This is also useful when doing household chores together. I might become British for a spell, or Southern, or Italian. The kids don’t know that the accent is horrible. They giggle at my being someone else, y’all. 
  • Family cheers. When we have to tackle something big, it’s time to break out a family cheer. We put our hands in the center and yell for ourselves. It might even rhyme. Can we clean up this house in 15 minutes flat? Let’s get started stat! 
  • Do the unexpected. When you are facing your toddler, and she is melting down, and you are tempted to melt down with her, instead try beeping her nose. Or whisper. Quack like a duck. Or put her over your shoulder and tell your kids you bought a sack of potatoes at the store (a big hit in our house).

    For older children, turn to face them from where you are washing a sinkful of dirty dishes with a crazy pair of glasses on. Tickle a child as he walks by. 

little girl wearing crazy sunglasses

  • Make it a game. When the children were younger, it was hard to motivate them to clean up their messes day after day. On those days when it seemed like pure drudgery, I found ways to make it fun. One way I mentioned earlier: make it a timed family challenge. I also would make it more interesting by mentally choosing one of the items on the floor as the “secret thing.” Everyone cleaned hard for five minutes, and the person who put away the secret item got bragging rights. If the rooms weren’t clean, I would choose another special thing and we would go again.

    For young children, I made it more interesting by asking them to put away all of the orange items, the blue items, etc. And then, of course, for all ages, cleaning is more fun when there is a reward. I learned to have them clean right before we went to the park or after dinner but before dessert. 


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8 fun tricks to keep everyone’s spirits high, to shield the dignity of each person, and to bind the children’s hearts to yours.

I’m not a barrel of laughs every day, but making these changes has lightened the atmosphere in our house and made it a much more cheerful home. 

And now, please excuse me while I go find someone to tickle.


small child's feet with smiley faces drawn on the toes


Copyright 2021 Amanda Woodiel
Image: Pixabay (2013)