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My 4 Steps To Stop Bedtime From Being A Self-Fulfilling Cycle Of Misery

flickr / Jason Snyder

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

Can you effectively raise a child without yelling?

As a father of 4 kids, I could probably compete at the Olympics if yelling was a sport. Yelling is to fatherhood what popcorn is to movies at a cinema! It just seems very natural to me on coming home from a long day’s work to a house of total chaos to start yelling at the nearest small child. “Please tidy your room” quickly becomes “PLEASE tidy your room!” and ends up with a “TIDY YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW!!”

big daddy adam sandler yelling

But just like wolfing down the extra large popcorn at the movies leaves you feeling queasy by time the movie starts to develop, in my household we end up with crying children, slammed doors and me being yelled at by my better half. I’m usually left wondering why I bothered to come home at all!

Yelling doesn’t work. Trust me, because I’m good at it and I have seen the consequences with my own children. In some respects, it’s the gateway drug to much worse parenting behavior. Nowadays I try to limit my yelling to when one of my kids is about to run across the road without looking or is about to put our male hamster into the cage with our 3 females — this has almost happened more than once.

As a parent I now try and recognize in advance the situations when myself or my better half tend to yell at the kids, and develop a thoughtful strategy how to avoid yelling. The best example in our household is the bedtime ritual: both parents are tired, they want some “me time,” and the kids just want the party to continue … The worst thing about the bedtime ritual is it happens every day, so yelling becomes part of the ritual — the kids think I’m not really serious about lights out and into beds until the yelling happens. It’s a negative, self-fulfilling cycle of misery between parent and kid.

Yelling doesn’t work, trust me because I’m good at it.

I now break bedtime into small elements:

  1. Head upstairs.
  2. Put on pajamas.
  3. Brush teeth.
  4.  Choose a book for their bedtime story.

We work hard to make it clear that the children will not get the bedtime story until they have completed these 4 steps. Recording these positive actions is very reaffirming for the kids and then rewarding them for a string of positive actions makes them come to enjoy the process.

This is just one example of effective parenting without yelling. It stems from an honest analysis of what triggers yelling and spotting any pattern. Then come up with a creative solution to mitigate the trigger, in this case it’s making the bedtime routine a rewarding process for the child and get them to buy into the solution — generally through rewarding a series of actions that you have devised to get the desired outcome.

Can you effectively raise a child without yelling? Honestly, it’s very hard, and with hamster procreation at risk, sometimes unavoidable. But raising a child effectively does require acknowledgement of patterns of behavior that produce yelling, and then discovering thoughtful solutions to change the behavior of yourself and your kids to produce better outcomes.

Peter McGarry is the a writer and father of 4. Read more from Quora below: