What do you do about a yelling spouse?
July 9, 2017 9:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm not a yeller. My wife is. I think the whole practice of yelling is rather immature and shows a deep lack of self-control. It's annoying, bone jarring, and destructive. And we've already been to therapy. Not a big help. Not real interested in finding another therapist.

It wouldn't be so bad if she was just yelling at me but she's yelling at our daughter. She is 5 and acts like a typical, wonderful, adorable 5 year old. This sometimes drives my wife crazy (the "typical" part). I don't see her as having a lot of emotional control over herself (not cutting her down. It's just a fact of life. None of us are perfect. I've got my own flaws to be sure.) My daughter can do something "typical" of a 5 year old, like whine a bit for instance, and my wife ramps it up, which ramps up my daughter and we're off to the races.

I am an alpha male who has learned to bite his tongue on frequent occasions. Asserting my alpha male works sometimes but always temporarily.

Her lack of emotional control, I'm sure, has its deep roots in her upbringing: Father was away a lot on jobs and ultimately turned out to be a huge louse and loser leaving her mother for the trashiest "Jerry Springer" guest type I've ever known. Her mother is a very wishy-washy borderline hoarder whose habit of indecision probably led my wife (the oldest of four) to assume a more motherly role growing up since dad was never home and mom was just not really engaged in motherhood--the idea being "if I (my wife) don't be the mother here, nobody else will."

I believe she is an alpha as well, and as alphas, we clash.

I find I can get around yelling at her or my daughter by simply remembering that I am in control of my emotions and yelling is not required. I am however, VERY direct. I say what I mean and I back it up with actions (I'm a very "choice oriented" parent--no need for spankings). It's usually easy for me. My daughter responds to that (I suppose it's "leadership." She can rely on me to back up my promises) and seeks me out for cuddles and attention and play time which I'm happy to give. I don't see my wife and daughter cuddling and playing a lot. I think that's because she yells and can't seem to choose her battles (scooting across the floor, for instance, on her knees seems to produce the same yelling response as when my daughter starts to play in the street. I figure scooting isn't hurting anybody so I let her do it. Playing in the street--30 mph--is a big deal and I put a stop to it. Eating with her fingers-->yelling. Slow to come to the table-->yelling. Testing-->yelling. I don't yell. I don't need to. I try to lead by example with respect to both of them. It works well with my daughter but not so well with my wife.)

I'm a big fan of John Gottman and his techniques but it takes two to tango. My wife "skims" his work which is not really digesting it. I also like Meg Meeker's book "Strong fathers strong daughters" which has helped me out a lot with my daughter.

Help me help my wife stop yelling and be at peace. What do you do to calm the one you love when she's yelling at you and angry at life?
posted by Lord Fancy Pants to Human Relations (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
It sounds to me like your wife needs anger management counselling. If you can't get her to do that, maybe the two of you could take a parenting course, with the idea that you're doing it to get her to go.
posted by orange swan at 9:14 PM on July 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


There are a lot of good answers in this previous Ask.

Many of them focused on: do you, does she fully understand the lifelong damage that is likely being done to your child here?

I would urge you to do whatever you can to protect your child from this abuse. Is leaving, even if as a temporary way to break the patterns, an option?
posted by Dashy at 9:21 PM on July 9, 2017 [11 favorites]


This is a two pronged problem, your wife learned to yell and be hair-trigger as a kid + she can drop that coping skill now because she's an adult. Is she aware of either of these things?

I feel like if you can build some trust you can have deep talks and help your wife. Your wife, deep down, does not feel safe. She's not safe, she's still in crisis mode. Man, that's so tough. I'm not sure if you can reach your wife and get her to adopt some kind of practice or therapy to help her adjust to life today, but that's what she needs.

No links, but I bet her amygdala is trashed. I think it is possible to heal the nervous system, but she has to want it. I feel so badly for her, she's had a tough time. I think kindness is the key to reaching her, being stoic probably just sets her off more. She's had to be hyper-vigilant to survive as a kid, and that's a hard amount of re-wiring or reprogramming (or however you want to look at it) that your wife must achieve to be happy in the here and now.
posted by jbenben at 9:24 PM on July 9, 2017 [24 favorites]


It sounds like family therapy is appropriate for something like this. It sounds like your wife doesn't have a lot of good parenting and coping tools. It's not clear either how you are backing her up or not on many of these things. A therapist to work with you all as a family may be the best bet.
posted by Toddles at 9:28 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


What do you do to calm the one you love when she's yelling at you and angry at life?

Note it, and put a very high priority on having a conversation to work through at least some of it as soon as feelings have had time to settle.

Instant direct engagement with an angry person usually intensifies the anger, and is really only to be done when it's the least bad option for safety reasons.

If a child is the trigger, gently steering the child out of immediate proximity to the angry person and offering comfort to the child is generally the right thing to do first.

I am lucky enough to be married to somebody for whom these responses are almost never required from either of us inside our own home; most of the practice I've had with them has come from interaction with the families of children we've fostered.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tell her that my father was a big yeller (at the world, at my mom, and sometimes at me), that most of my childhood memories are of him yelling and how fucking stressful that was, that escaping his anger zone is probably why I moved across the country as soon as I could, and that I still resent him for it to this day.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:03 PM on July 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


Barbara Coloroso, Kids Are Worth It.
posted by at at 10:10 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Does your wife feel listened to? I'm not a million miles from being in your situation, and an insight I had is that volume comes from feeling that she's not being heard.
posted by Sebmojo at 10:16 PM on July 9, 2017 [37 favorites]


Yelling can be disruptive to the mental health of a child, but so can one parent's contempt for the other. Maybe there would be less yelling if she felt more respected and supported?
posted by Scram at 10:26 PM on July 9, 2017 [61 favorites]


Many of them focused on: do you, does she fully understand the lifelong damage that is likely being done to your child here?

I'm your daughter, 25 years on. It's not good. I'd encourage you to get your daughter to a child psychologist immediately and indefinitely. Same goes for your wife.

I had this situation when I was 5-ish. My mother would scream at me for doing anything at all - so everything I did was wrong, even though it was normal behaviour for a 5-year-old. This has been a big factor in my ongoing mental health issues, as *every* mental health professional I've seen can attest. (Yeah seriously, without exception. If you care about your daughter get her the fuck away from your wife.)
posted by iffthen at 10:26 PM on July 9, 2017 [11 favorites]


It seems to have been taken as a given that yelling = bad. I am not a therapist/psychologist/counselor, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. I think you need to narrow down what you find so objectionable about yelling. Is it just the loudness that bothers you? Does your daughter seem upset, scared, or otherwise traumatized by the yelling? Does the yelling involve verbal abuse? That is to say, would the words being used be considered abusive no matter their volume? Some families yell at each other as a matter of course and it's not necessarily a bad thing unless there is emotional abuse or the threat of violence inherent in loud verbal altercations.

Right now all I get from your question is that yelling represents a lack of self control and lack of self control is bad full stop. You contrast this with your method of parenting, which you present as an unqualified good. I see no attempt in your question to understand your wife's side of things. Have you asked her why she yells, or if she is even aware of it? Is she angry or frustrated when she yells? What is she angry or frustrated about? Is it the problem in front of her, or is it a buildup of other problems in her life/your relationship? These are all things you could discuss with her to try to reach an understanding. That conversation may involve yelling.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:31 PM on July 9, 2017 [32 favorites]


My SIL used to yell at my niece and nephew a wrong amount when they were young. Strangely it stopped when my brother and her started taking turns being the one being up at night or hang up early with the kids on weekends. Self control is a lot easier when you aren't exhausted and when you feel like you're not alone doing the shitty parts of child rearing.
posted by wwax at 10:38 PM on July 9, 2017 [63 favorites]


I was your wife awhile back. It was a time during which my anxiety and depression were not well managed. I wasn't angry as much as extrememly frustrated, and to my shame, it came out as yelling at my kids. I never felt listened to, backed up, respected or assisted in all the various daily activites of parenting, on top of my 60 hour workweek. Things began to improve when I started to get my anxiety under control, and when I started affirming my right to be heard in my own home. YMMV, of course. Your story just sounds very familiar. And frankly, if my husband had sounded as overly assured about his 'rightness' in his parenting as you do, I would have felt even more yell-y.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 10:45 PM on July 9, 2017 [59 favorites]


(I'm a very "choice oriented" parent--no need for spankings). It's usually easy for me. My daughter responds to that (I suppose it's "leadership." [...] I try to lead by example with respect to both of them. It works well with my daughter but not so well with my wife.)

right, you are not your wife's leader. Just as a warning, it will not work so well on your daughter, either, once she's much older than five.

You seem to be coming to an understanding that you cannot lead or "alpha" your way into making your wife behave as you think best. (And if you were in some way an "alpha, such as if you were a wolf or some species that had "alphas" in it, you would not clash with your alpha wife, because alphas pair up. That is not the problem.)

Be aware that once you decide this is really seriously hurting your daughter and you leave and go for full custody, you will lose all the parent points you currently hold simply through being the better one. it's easy to be the favorite parent when there's a bad one to show up. but when you're the main one or the only one, you will have to do more than just be better than your wife.

if that sounds ridiculous because it isn't that bad and there's no need for divorce, rethink your ideas of therapy. Therapy if done right will address problems in your marriage, not just in your wife.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:51 PM on July 9, 2017 [39 favorites]


I read a lot of contempt for your wife in your question. A lot of 'if she were just as smart and in control as I am, this wouldn't be a problem'.

In general, comparing your 'success' at parenting is not a good idea. Kids often have vastly different relationships with their parents. Especially if you're the typical night&weekend dad and she does the day-to-day slog - it's easy to 'lead' and be patient when you only have to do it for short amounts of time.

I would definitely urge her to seek individual therapy, sure (because the yelling ain't good). But when and if she tells you what she needs from you (likely: more support, less telling her how to parent like you), *listen*. LISTEN!

When I yell with the kids (which happens from time to time) it's 100% because I'm overwhelmed and depressed and feel like I'm being ignored in the family system.

To break up the dynamic a bit it might also be helpful if you went on a trip with your daughter and mom got a break. Firstly because you will run into instances where your in-control superdad won't cut it anymore. Second because your wife will get time to breathe and realize the yelling is actively harmful and maybe see what's behind it.

Btw it was mindblowing to me when I lost my voice for 3 days. I couldn't raise my voice and realized whispering worked way better! You sometimes get in a mindset where you think you need to yell. Unlearning that can be done, but I'd leave it to a therapist and not try to 'teach' your wife, which is what your question sounds like you're trying to do...
posted by The Toad at 10:57 PM on July 9, 2017 [78 favorites]


It seems to have been taken as a given that yelling = bad. I am not a therapist/psychologist/counselor, but I don't think that's necessarily the case.

With respect, you're also not a tiny child whose only option is to rely on THIS SCARY GIANT WHO IS RIGHT NOW INFLICTING INCOMPREHENSIBLE VERBAL VIOLENCE UPON YOU in order to stay alive.

There is ample testimony available from those who have taken serious damage from having been in that position. I suggest you take some of it seriously enough to modify yours.
posted by flabdablet at 11:04 PM on July 9, 2017 [17 favorites]


Your question reeks of contempt for your wife and your own sense of superiority. What do you do to calm her down so she doesn't feel like she has to yell to be heard...I dunno, listen to her? I'd suggest therapy but you said it wasn't any help which makes me think you aren't prepared to listen to her in any situation.

Your wife needs space and support, not an 'alpha' who automatically assumes he's the natural leader and everyone should bow down to his wisdom. I would love to see this question written from your wife's point of view, I bet it would be enlightening.
posted by Jubey at 11:34 PM on July 9, 2017 [75 favorites]


Many of them focused on: do you, does she fully understand the lifelong damage that is likely being done to your child here?

For me (single male, married once a decade ago, early 30's, also at one point a self-described "alpha") answering this question hinges on this.

Some answers say they see contempt for your wife in your answers, and I can't say I disagree, but...I empathize. I mean, I'm single because YELLING FUCKING SUCKS. YELLING IS FUCKING JARRING SHUT UP AND JUST DEAL LIKE AN ADULT FUCK. NEVER RAISE YOUR VOICE AT ME. Do it, even once, and it's OVER because it's that serious. That's what it all sounds like to me, and in my dating life it's like...I drop partners at the first hint of that, 'cause I grew up around it, and my first marriage descended into that, and I've had relationships since that...aren't that. No other woman or man I've been in a long-term relationship with since the age of 25 has done that. Ergo, I am single because I have a deep-rooted contempt for that kind of behavior, and I have no idea how to deal beyond - "Do you realize how shitty what you're doing is right now? Objectively, because Relationship Dynamics 101? Will you stop? Then go away."

But a big part of that coping mechanism was seeing, with my ex-wife, and other non-shouty exes, and seeing other relationships around me, and realizing that it's a really hard habit to break, and the break almost never comes from the non-shouty partner. Usually the non-shouter eventually gets sucked in. It's a very deep change, and it requires an awareness of what emotional violence is and a commitment not to partake, and part of that is understanding how close is the temptation to do such violence in disputes with people we love. I can't teach that because I suck at it myself. Once anyone around me starts shouting, be it a romantic partner, friend, stranger, anyone, any gender, the contempt and anger rises - "Hell naw ain't having that caveman chimpanzee chest-beating volume competition shit in my house!" NO. But frankly, so is my own reaction...except that...I know it's possible to not do that because I've had those relationships...I just don't know where/how in this one...catch-22...so I choose to end it. Peace out, Sargent Emery.

If you want to end this, go full-on crisis mode. Therapy might work or not, but the first thing is, but you both have to understand and admit that yelling is a problem, on the scale of alcoholism or gambling addiction. We on this website so often suggest therapy because we recognize it as that. There are large swaths of the culture that regard gambling and binge drinking as legitimate life choices too...and a lot of people who leave over that.

I don't know how to de-escalate these situations very well, but I know the gravity of the problem, and I sympathize, and I wish I had better advice.
posted by saysthis at 12:02 AM on July 10, 2017 [10 favorites]


(I wonder if there's a cultural component to this. A lot of people in this thread are like 'yelling is 100% never ever tolerable'. And while I agree that yelling doesn't help with kids I also think that's going overboard. I mean...have you ever heard a latin or italian family at home? Yelling happens. Not every instance of yelling scars kids for life. Sometimes it's just an authentic expression of emotion.
Yes in this case it sounds like abuse, but also being unyielding and zero tolerance about it maybe doesn't help, because it enforces the OPs position in this unfortunate family dynamic and makes matters worse? Just a perspective and maybe I'm wrong and yelling is like slapping and not to be tolerated ever. But I feel that's a culturally very limited perspective.)
posted by The Toad at 12:11 AM on July 10, 2017 [13 favorites]


I don't yell. I don't need to. I try to lead by example with respect to both of them. It works well with my daughter but not so well with my wife.)

I don't know if you realise how selfrighteous and smug this comes across. Is your wife on board with you being the leader and she being lead by you? Is this something consensual? Did she ask you to be her leader? If not, drop it. My husband trying to "lead me" like I was some wayward child would infuriate me so much I would yell my lungs out. Seriously.

Parenting is not some sort of competition, you know? There is some yelling in our house on occasion, both my husband and I have done it at times, in situations when we both are at the end of our rope. Lording it over the other one however is definitely not the way out. What does work for us (YMMV) is the one who yelled apologises for the yelling and seeks to talk and reconcile, and acknowledges to our son that yelling at him was wrong and should not have happened and ask his forgiveness.

I agree that yelling is not a good thing and only you and your wife and child know how much yelling there really is (and if it is also derogatory language. calling her stupid etc it ought to stop immediately), but being super judgemental is not going to be helpful at all to your wife.

Do you two ever talk about parenting, just the two of you? It might be hard and even very akward but just talk about it. But don't be the "leader" rather listen and also share your own struggles, I am sure you must have some too.
posted by 15L06 at 1:57 AM on July 10, 2017 [12 favorites]


Your wife is suffering from an immense amount of stress, and I doubt she wants to yell either. My mother was constantly underneath a huge amount of stress raising me and my brother, and while I definitely got traumatized by all her yelling, I remember watching her rub her heart and cry because she was so sad and felt so unsupported. I didn't know what to do, since I was so young. I became a people pleaser with poor emotional boundaries because of this, and I am working very hard through years of therapy and medication to undo the damage from what has happened with that.

All three of you need to go to therapy and figure out what is going on with the dynamics, please. It will help the psychology of everyone involved.
posted by yueliang at 2:10 AM on July 10, 2017 [9 favorites]


It seems to have been taken as a given that yelling = bad. I am not a therapist / psychologist / counselor, but I don't think that's necessarily the case.

Fortunately real psychologists looked at this issue and they concluded that yelling at your kids was about as damaging as hitting them.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:17 AM on July 10, 2017 [23 favorites]


How much did you try therapy? Again, did you try more than one therapist? More than one mode? Family therapy all together, as well as an individual therapist (both for you and separately for your wife)?

"Therapy wasn't helpful" sounds to me like you tried one thing, it didn't work, and then rather than try another thing you (and/or your wife) dismissed the entire enterprise.

What I'd suggest: you can't change your wife, all you can do is change your reaction, up to and including removing your daughter to safety if necessary. You might benefit from speaking with a therapist on your own, as they can help you build strategies for how to respond.
posted by nat at 2:18 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another thought that occurs to me after re-reading, is that by judging your wife's actions so harshly you create a situation where your child may eventually feel forced to take sides. To my mind this is worse than yelling (assuming the yelling is not consisting of calling your child names, or threatens violence etc). I have seen this first hand with relatives and the damage to the child by making her feel she needs to choose one over the other is nasty.

re cuddling etc - my son and husband never cuddle, but is no indication of anyting except that they don't cuddle.
It worries me that you describe the situation as if you are the good one, mom is the bad one. That is seriously bad for your daughter and not helpful at all.

Also, I thought of situations where I yell - a lot of times it is in situations where I feel the pressure from my husband to not yell. And this is actually what we talk about when we talk about it: the pressure I feel on occasion to achieve a result (eg child to go to bed now) and judged by him for not achieving it as quickly as he thinks I should. What has helped here hugely is that in the last two years husband shares in these chores more (which also has led to him being more understanding of why I might sometimes just lose it as he himself sometimes loses it).

re all those who emphasise how horrible the yelling is - I agreed with the Toad. And not all yelling is instant abuse, faked emotions are just as damaging, as is emotional coldness. Selfcontrol is easy to some and not so easy to others.
Also yueliang has a good point, to remind that she wont be pleased with herself for yelling but the stress is too much.
If you constantly show your wife up for being a failure, this would be immensly hurtful not only to her but also the child (making her feel she needs to choose or even join you in condemning mom to remain in your good books).
posted by 15L06 at 3:08 AM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


I grew up in a family of yellers, we weren't emotionally immature but rather stressed to breaking point by our dysfunctional circumstances. Yelling isn't particularly nice but I'd take it over being ignored or emotional coldness any day. This may reveal my flaws but at least if someone is yelling at you, you're being acknowledged. I find the silent treatment devastatingly hurtful.

The result of your wife's childhood isn't a 'lack of emotional control'. I'd imagine she suffered deep emotional scars, it sounds horrible. Yelling at a whining 5 year old is not nice and it's counter productive but I'd guess your wife never got to whine about pointless things when she was a child and the outbursts are what she knows.

Now, this doesn't mean is not bad for your daughter. It is, and you have the responsibility for her welfare. But if she is exposed to this and grows up to repeat the pattern, would you write so disparagingly about her? Your wife didn't choose her childhood and it sounds like it fucked her up pretty bad and she deserves compassion for that. She also has responsibility towards your daughter and she needs to work in ways of dealing but that's something a good therapist can help with, not patronising comments from a spouse. She's an adult, she's not going to just follow your example because she didn't know any better and you've shown her the light FFS. But acknowledging her stress and pain and helping her get support will help her heal and hopefully the yelling will ease.

There's also This be the verse which I've always found strangely comforting.
posted by kitten magic at 4:04 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I try to lead by example with respect to both of them. It works well with my daughter but not so well with my wife.

This comes off as incredibly patronizing. I kind of get your intent, though; when one parent is a yeller it's good when the other parent keeps calm. I get that. But in addition to being a model of good parenting, you need to have a serious talk with your wife and find out what it will take for her to get help.

Was she always a person with a short fuse? Is this new behavior? I know you said no therapists, but it seems like you both need some outside perspective, especially since she won't heed the advice in books. There's no shame in any of this--your entire family seems unhappy. This is fixable, but she needs to know how problematic this is.

Go beyond modeling good parenting and find out how you can help her end this.

Lastly, this may not have been your intention but you also seem to be gloating that you're a better parent than your wife--I really hope you don't act like that. Parenting is a team sport, not a competition. Your wife may be frustrated that you lord your superior parenting style over her (eponysterical alert).
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:32 AM on July 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


I yelled at our daughter ONCE. I did that before my parenting skills were what I would now consider to be barely adequate.

She was three years old, she had been yelling raw defiance at us at the top of her tiny lungs for just that little bit too long, and I came to some boneheaded spur-of-the-moment decision about showing her that yelling is the wrong way to go about things by exposing her to a short sample of yelling at full adult volume.

It scared the shit out of her. Ms flabdablet sent me out of the house.

Later, after soothing and settling our daughter, she came and found me and quietly but furiously tore strips off me, which I totally deserved. As soon as our little one could look at me again without being visibly terrified, I apologized for what I'd done and promised never to do it again. It's an apology I've repeated every time the subject has come up since, and a promise I've kept.

Our daughter is twelve now. Several times over the years since, she's told me that she still remembers the day I yelled at her and that when she does she still feels scared. Breaks my heart every single time.

She was three. Of the two of us, only one was equipped to be the adult on that day and I completely, totally failed at it.

But here's the thing: my yelling was deliberate theatre. I chose to do it because I sucked as a parent and as a compassionate human being, not because I found myself under crushing overwhelming stress.

If Lady Fancy Pants yells a lot, that's a pretty solid clue that she currently has no better stress response available. So I strongly suggest that you not tear strips off her. Not privately, not publicly, not reputationally. What you need to do, if you're going to contribute toward fixing this for the sake of your child's wellbeing, is get better at working out when her child-related stress is building to the point where yelling is about to occur, and help take it down before it does.

If that means discouraging your daughter from scooting across the floor when Mum has told her not to, do that. If it means jumping in and dealing with a ramp-up of whining before Mum has to, do that. Even if it means supporting Mum's position on something you think is unreasonable, do that too and then talk it out afterwards when you're both calmer and Little Miss Fancy Pants is asleep.

Because if there's one thing that screws kids up at least as bad as yelling, it's parental inconsistency. You really need to be presenting a united front.

Kids are quite acute little psychologists in their own special way, and if yours learns that there are permanent structural disagreements between the two of you on what goes and what doesn't - and especially if she picks up on the fact that you think you're an objectively better parent than your partner - then she is going to drive her little five year old wedge into every little crack between you and hammer it and hammer it and hammer it to get what she wants. And that, in turn, will make it harder for the two of you to stay on the same page with parenting and that, in turn, will do damage to your daughter.

So in your position, I would stop trying to fix my partner, and I'd do my level best to get better at listening to her instead.

Put the self-help books aside. You found some that work for you? Great. Doesn't mean they have anything relevant or helpful to say to her.

No matter how obvious it might seem to you that actually it is about the nail, you need to remain open to the possibility that you're a mere horse and she's a unicorn.
posted by flabdablet at 4:58 AM on July 10, 2017 [20 favorites]


Here's how I would suggest tackling this:

1) Make sure your wife is getting adequate sleep and time off parenting. Any change is hard, but more so if there's no breaks. Help her get at least half a day fully off parenting -- take your daughter and any other kids out for an adventure or something. Also make sure you are doing the "hard" parts - flossing, bedtime, etc.

2) Also check in about other stresses - chores, money, etc. Take on a bit more of the load...again, you are creating the groundwork for energy towards change.

3) After a couple of weeks of ramped-up support, then yes, talk about your shared parenting goals. I also recommend Kids Are Worth It! So maybe read that together snuggled in bed.

4) Come up with a plan together.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:08 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between raising the volume of your voice for emphasis and yelling because you're so angry that you've lost control. I honestly can't tell from your question which you're talking about here (and yeah I read a LOT of judgment in your tone). Different people have different volume levels and that's not necessarily a huge deal if you're still a person who is able to be reasonable. There's yelling and then there's ANGER. Which is it? Yelling is something she can probably work on as long as she has adequate support from you (talk with her about what she needs to feel less stressed out) without involving professionals. Anger needs some professional help to manage.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:01 AM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]


Your wife has some mental health issue. She is under stress and need to learn angry management. Here are some suggestions:
1. Ge some therapy. She can find a therapist or just some family member she is respected to tell her the importance of control her anger.
2. Check the trigger to cause her anger. Don't fight or yell back when she is in anger.
3. Let her understand the lifelong damage that is likely being done to your child. A lot of mental health disease (such as phobia) are related to the person not feeling love from his/her parent in the childhood. Make sure to let your wife play with your daughter and tell your daughter she is loved.
4. Find ways to let your wife feel safe, secure and less stressed as well.
posted by mysunshine at 6:10 AM on July 10, 2017


You talk a lot about the differences in your and your wife’s quality of parenting. I think what’s missing is a description of the quantity. It is a lot easier to be good natured about whining if you’re parenting for an hour or two a day than it is if you’re on for 12 hours a day. It’s a lot easier to say “Let her scoot around on her knees,” if you’re not the one doing laundry or shopping for leggings to replace the ones with holes. It’s a lot easier to not mind her dawdling to the dinner table if you’re not the one who just spent an hour fixing said dinner. I could be totally wrong about these preconceptions, but the whole idea of being “alpha” sets my teeth on edge and paints this picture in my mind. If this is the way things are, try equalizing the labor of running the household and see if it lets your wife unwind a few notches.
posted by Kriesa at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2017 [44 favorites]


I'm a yeller and my husband is a quiet seether. We recently read How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn. The dynamic in their relationship was very similar to our own and it was helpful to see how they tackled this. I would strongly recommend you both check it out - it is full of research based information and personal stories. Specifically, it talked about how the mother in the relationship reigned in her anger and yelling due to the realization that it would harm her daughter and also talked about how the father learned how to make an effort to better support and communicate with his wife - even using police negotiation tactics. Don't let the title throw you, it's a very useful book for both parents.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:22 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Regardless of her bad childhood she doesnt get to take it out on the kid. Eff that noise. Protect the kid you have first, deal with the angry child inside your wife second. However, both goals might be accomplished by the same tactic. Decrease her stress by hiring a housekeeper, laundry service, and get her to a doctor. I hear zoloft is the new mothers little helper.

I have a hard time showing compassion for abusers. No one forced her to have a child, or not go to therapy, or do all the things necessary to take care of herself so she could also take care of her child. If you want to be a good co-parent, take the stress off her so she can breathe enough to fix herself.

And then when she stops yelling every once in a while you may have enough breathing room yourself to be able to express compassion for her.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:23 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


the whole idea of being “alpha” sets my teeth on edge

Also this.

If that's actually a serious part of your conceptual framework, here's a self-help resource you might find useful.
posted by flabdablet at 8:25 AM on July 10, 2017 [9 favorites]


If that means discouraging your daughter from scooting across the floor when Mum has told her not to, do that.

Maybe privately review the behavior rules at home with your spouse. Try to simplify them and agree on them. Worst case scenario is daughter does something, mother tells her not to, daughter looks at father and decides is signalling her that she can keep rounding the bases, and daughter persists in behavior that mother is objecting to. Be clear and united about rules or guidelines for your home.

I don't like yelling either. Has it always been this bad or did mother-daughter conflict ramp up during school vacation? Is your daughter bored? Is your wife stressed? Is regular routine upended?
posted by puddledork at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't know why my suggestion to get a parenting expert or behavorist was deleted, but again, friends of mine had someone come into their home and work with them directly in real time on their parenting skills and interactions. They found this very very helpful. Doing something like this might give your spouse the tools to gain some space and perspective on deeper issues.
posted by jbenben at 10:08 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


As with many of the others here, I would focus on a couple of things:
* Agree on appropriate parenting. You didn't mention whether she thought yelling was how she should raise children. Does she think this is right? Does she want to stop? Do you have an agreement on boundaries and appropriate ways to raise your child?
* Reduce your wife's stress. If she does want to stop yelling, figure out what you can do as a family to reduce her stress. Maybe that's leaving with the kid a night or two per week. Maybe it's you taking on more household and/or parenting work. Maybe it's her working outside the house if she doesn't already do so. Maybe she needs a different, lower stress job. Maybe either or both of you need either time alone or time together.

I've seen this movie, and often what happened is the reasonable parent would step in to take the heat for the kids. It would turn into a fight between the parents, because one parent was forced to protect the kids from the other. I don't mean this as an accusation, but if either alcohol or stimulants are involved here, that amplifies everything, and likely needs to stop first.

I think you need to give this every effort you have (and not just her) to correct it. That being said, this is a deal-killer to me, and in the long-term, I wouldn't tolerate it.

I'll also note that several of the responses here are blaming or attacking you because of the language you used. This seems grossly unfair and dismisses the actual problem of your wife's yelling, which is damaging your child.
posted by cnc at 10:20 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'll also note that several of the responses here are blaming or attacking you because of the language you used. This seems grossly unfair and dismisses the actual problem of your wife's yelling, which is damaging your child.

My read is that they are pointing out that the problem of his wife's yelling may have a source in the family's present, not (or not only) her past.
posted by Kriesa at 12:28 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


Thank you for the responses! You've made me think about a lot of things and will consider them. I especially appreciate the concern some of you have for my daughter. Yes, she is the most important concern in this triangle.

Thank you for the link to the previous ask. Yes, there are a lot of similarities and that thread has a lot of good suggestions too.

Thanks for the personal experiences. It can be tough to share those. They are helpful.

And thank you if you didn't assume my workload was lacking. Among other things my workload contains breakfasts, doing the dishes, scooping the cat litter box, taking out the trashhelping with putting my daughter to bed and YTD doing tens of thousands of dollars worth of plumbing, electrical, dry wall, irrigation, and landscaping work (7 tons of gravel moved from the front curb to the back yard) all done at about 1/10 the cost since it's DIY.

Also, thanks if you did NOT assume that the problem is something other than my wife yelling. I could have written a novel but I decided to spare you the myriad details. As such, I have to rely on the reader to give me the benefit of the doubt. So thank you if you did that. And after all, like I said, I have my flaws as well.

And thank you if you did NOT assume I'm being judgemental or "lording" my abilities over my wife. I'm always open to suggestions from her as well as the hive mind. She has taught me a great deal. It can be a tricky thing to leave your assumptions at the door. Thank you if you did that.

So in short, thank you if you actually answered my question. Many of you did exactly that. You have given me a LOT of new ideas and possibilities. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

As far as the therapy goes: It's not quite out of the picture. I'm slightly open to it. I'm not too much in favor of it because the last experience included my wife and I paying thousands of dollars for sessions before the councilor finally realized that I DO in fact listen well! We're not made of money. And I'm not crazy about spending thousands more on a councilor to overcome her prejudices. Sorry ladies, the next councilor will be a male. It would be sexist of me to NOT give a male councilor a chance. Best to just focus on quality counciling.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 4:36 PM on July 10, 2017


I think my friends who had the parenting specialist come into their home had 2 to 6 sessions max? It's like taking a class, not getting therapy therapy. And again, they found it unbelievably helpful.
posted by jbenben at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2017


[Couple of comments deleted. Lord Fancy Pants, this isn't a place to open a back-and-forth on your observations about people's answers. In AskMe, you can just mark the answers you found most useful, and leave it at that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


« Older Recommend me a Linux gaming laptop   |   Better Kindle paperwhite book management Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.