Hello. My Name Is Denene Millner and I’m A Screamer.

I don’t mean to holler and yell like a banshee when my kids get out of line. It just, like, happens.

Usually, I yell after I’ve asked them nicely five times to do something—like move their crap off the kitchen table or straighten up their rooms or go to sleep already because it’s 10:30 p.m. and I put you in your bed two hours ago and I’m tired, dammit, and I want to give your father some so that I can pass out from exhaustion.

Or I might yell if they start sparring each other like they’re prepping for the next Tyson vs. Holyfield heavyweight fight.

I’ll definitely raise my voice at my kids if they’re defiant. Talking back gets my goat. Pretending you didn’t hear me when I know good and doggone well you did takes me over the edge.

And so I pump up the volume.

I yell.

I figure my kids are lucky. My mom didn’t mince words. She’d look at you with those piercing, glaring eyes, first. And then she’d commence to inflicting bodily harm. A belt. A fresh switch off a tree. A shoe. Bettye wasn’t to be played with.

I tried spanking my kids. Mari looked at me with a fear in her eyes that I never want to see again; truly, I’d rather be respected than feared by my eldest daughter. Lila? She kinda giggle-cried when I hit the fatty part of her leg the one time. And then she went right back to what she was doing. Clearly, hitting isn’t the answer with my kids. Plus, it just didn’t feel right. I’m smarter than them. I can figure out how to discipline them, surely, without inflicting physical, grown woman pain on their kid bodies.

Punishing seems to work, now that they’re older. What do you know about making a 17-year-old write a typed, 10-page essay on the plight of African-American males when he cuts class? Or demanding a 10-year-old write a two-page apology letter to her little sister, whom she’s just mistreated? A half-hour banishment to the bedroom sans TV works wonders for getting Lila’s attention, for sure. Smack her butt, yank her hair, pull out her toenails but please, please, please don’t take away chatterbox’s ability to socialize or she’ll just, like, die.

Of course, talking it out is a reasonable, grown-up response to kids who misstep. My husband, Nick, is very good at this. I am not. My brain is overtaxed, what with the working and the scheduling and the chauffeuring and the homework and the after school activities and the cooking and the cleaning. Coming up with clever ways to calmly explain to the 10-year-old why she shouldn’t “bottle feed” her doll red punch on the freshly-cleaned beige carpet, or tell the 13-year-old it’s not a good idea to put silly putty in her armpits isn’t exactly the first thing that pops into my mind when it comes to disciplining my kids.

And I do see the benefits of lowering the volume, as duly noted in the New York Times piece, “Screaming is the New Spanking,” and

I’m working on being better about this disciplining thing.

But my name is Denene Millner, and I’m a screamer.

And some days, this is just the way it’s going to go down in my house.

Okay? OKAY?



1. Videotaped Beatings and Child Abuse Handbook Show Why Hitting Kids Is Dead Wrong
2.  A Reformed Spanker Reveals Why She Wishes She Would Have Spared the Rod.
3. Spanking, Time-Outs and the Soul Train Line: Getting To the Discipline That Works For Us

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Me too. My mom was a screamer and I always said I wouldn’t be one. And then I had kids who didn’t listen after 5 attempts at “talking it out” and calmly asking that toys be put away or shoes be picked up. And I start screaming. I also spank on occasion. I didn’t intend to, but I have 2 boys and I swear sometimes they don’t listen until they’ve been spanked. I guess we can just keep trying to be better every day, but I don’t understand why kids don’t figure out “if I did what mom asked me one of the first 3 requested times, she wouldn’t scream on the 4th and 5th requests”. Or maybe it just takes them 18 years to figure that out. But I have a husband, so I’m pretty sure some people just never learn. 😉

    • Allysa and Denene,

      I’m a screamer AND a spanker AND a talker. I do it all. The catch for me is knowing when to choose which one. My cousin seems to have specific consequences when her boys do certain things, so they know what to expect when they’ve done something wrong. I’m not that organized AT ALL. And I’m not good at enforcing a punishment for any longer than 2 days. I tend to forget. So the quick and dirty works for me!

      Screaming seems to give me the opportunity to release some steam in the process. I’m probably on edge about a lot of other stuff, like why is Daddy laying on the couch watching all of this happen and I’m the one dosing out the discipline? Or if I’m honest with myself, maybe it’s because I can’t beat any of the back-talking, cussing 8th graders I teach, so I tend to release it at home….. it sounds AWFUL, but I think it’s true.

      As for the look of fear in their eyes…. I felt guilty sometimes about spanking my boys, until I saw that SAME LOOK in Sulaiman Jr.’s face when he’d gotten to the last level of an Indiana Jones game on the xBox and ended up falling off a cliff…..at that moment, I realized that I HAD BEEN PLAYED!!!

      From one screamer to another. It’s all good, girls. Do you. We aren’t perfect, but our kids are happy and healthy and blessed, and will continue to grow up happy and healthy and blessed.


  2. So true. I’m a still-in-denial screamer. My son always asks, “Mom, why are you so upset?” Which makes me calmly answer, “I’M NOT UPSET.”

  3. Me too Denene!! I Love this article <3<3

  4. I’m a screamer. I scream and cuss in Spanish. But I don’t hit my kids. And I haven’t falling to drinking…and I haven’t killed a child yet or abandoned them at the mall parking lot. So, in the end, I think being a screamer isn’t all that bad in comparison.

  5. Denene,
    My daughter is nearly 2.5 yrs and she looks me square in the eye and does exactly what I’ve told her several times not to do. She’s extremely strong-willed, but my will is the strongest. I “turn up” on her after having repeated myself at least 4 times at which time I ask myself, “am I talking?”. But when I raise my voice she cries and it really breaks my heart and hurts my feelings. I keep telling her you can’t be hard headed and sensitive, those two things don’t go together. She’s the sweetest little girl but her “No!” is firm. If she’s like this at 2 1/2 what on earth will things be like at 3, 5 or 6? Much less the preteen years? Jesus, be a fence all around my nerves! LOL


  6. Ummmm me too…..sometimes that is the only way to get mtpy hooligans attention.

  7. I am definitely a screamer. I’m not proud of it, but when I finally go postal, it does get their attention. I’ve tried to turn down the volume or at least close the windows because my neighbors are probably ready to call child protective services.
    My 6 year old put it well one time. He said mommy, you’re screaming so loud, I can’t hear you.

  8. I’m so glad I saw this post on my friend’s FB page. I feel so bad when I scream at my girls. But they take me to the breaking point sometimes. They are 2 and 4 and I really try to ask nicely the first 5 times. My 2 yr old is in the NO stage, so everything I ask her to do is NO..so I’m constantly screaming at her. My oldest use to potty on herself when I yelled. Now she just says ok mom, you don’t have to yell. I don’t know what else to do since being nice and asking doesn’t work. I rarely spank them these days, doesn’t work anyway. So if someone knows how to make my kids like the kids on Super Nanny so I wouldn’t have to scream all the time, I would be happy to listen!

  9. “…and I’m tired, dammit, and I want to give your father some so that I can pass out from exhaustion.” *DEAD* LOL!
    I don’t have kids, so who knows whether I’ll be a screamer or not. But I do know that I will be the mom that quietly snatches up a child.

  10. I can relate on every bit of the post! We screamers are growing and that’s what matters. 😉

  11. I found a solution from a book that actually helped me. My family laughed at me, my ex-husband looked at me like I was crazy, and my mom mumbled something about “white folks raising kids” but I absolutely SWEAR by this book called “Magic 1-2-3”. I didn’t want to spank or yell with my daughter, and regular timeouts seemed kinda corny and random. The idea behind this book is giving the kids time to self-correct. It works for toddlers through teens, and many school teachers employ this technique. A major point is that if you ask a kid to do something 5 times, and then scream or hit after that, they then think it takes 5 times of you asking before they have to do something,or will get in trouble. We are creatures of habit. The book teaches you how to set clear boundaries that are consistent and don’t waste time. You really have to read the book to get the whole science, but is says the two biggest mistakes parents make are 1) negotiating/talking too much (just like we stop getting “triggered” by their crying, they are not triggered by our repeated talks) 2) realizing there are things you do to get them to “stop” behavior, and things to get them to “start”. You get them to do what is needed by “counting” them. Here’s an example of how it works: You need your 5 year old to go back to bed after the 3rd excuse she’s made to get out. You say “Lisa, go back to bed” and THAT’S IT nothing else. Wait about 20 seconds (in silence, and ignoring her pleas) and say “That’s one”. Lisa will fidget, plea, and look to see if she’s getting a reaction. Be quiet. After 10 seconds, say “That’s two”. She will be curious, and push it to see what will happen by continuing to beg. After 10 more seconds, say “That’s three” and IMMEDIATELY pick up the child, and put her in a time-out space, or chair, and make her sit there (even if you have to hold her) for as many minutes as their age, all while saying NOTHING. I did this with my daughter when she was 3 years old, and I have NEVER had to get to “That’s three” since then. She always self-corrects, because she KNOWS there will be an immediate consequence. Now that she’s 15 and 5′ 8″ and I can’t pick her up, I don’t know what that consequence would be, but it doesn’t matter,because she’s been programmed to self correct since she was 3. Yes, she rolls her eyes and laughs when I say “That’s one..” but she still picks up her book, puts the phone down, or does whatever I’m asking. Try it!

    • I’m gonna pick up this book. I’m not a screamer but my Mom was and so is my oldest sister so I think I could go there…

  12. I’m so glad I’m not alone!

  13. LOL! Thanks for letting me know that I’m not the only one! My husband is so mild tempered and he always makes me feel like a crazy lady when I raise my voice. I’ll admit it with you, I’m a screamer! I’ve been working on this because I see it has NO effect on my daughter any more. She listens the most when I quiet down and speak to her in a stern voice. I’m a work in progress. My mother screamed, my sisters scream…it’ll take some time for me to break that loud habit :).

  14. I found a home where I am not alone!! 🙂 Thank you sisters for your stories and honesty-it made me laugh at the joys of parenting and even while we yell there is still joy!

  15. It is good to know that I’m not alone and not the only one that is a screamer. I’ve been working on this myself. I feel the same way about spanking my kids as you do… I have done it, but I don’t like to, it just doesn’t feel right to me. So, I tend to scream… a lot. I recently started a behavior chart for my daughter, we have a list of behavior’s she needs to work on, such as doing what is asked the first time, back talking, etc… if she doesn’t do what she is told or she acts up, she simply gets a sad face for the day on that behavior and looses a privilege. I get so tired of screaming! But sometimes it just happens, the chart system has helped, though.

  16. I use Magic 1-2-3 (said the white woman parenting) and I scream. And I am trying so hard to not. And my 7 year old was/is going through a rough, rough patch recently that was completely out of his hands, and really hurt his heart so I made/ am making the most concerted effort to breathe instead of scream, or whisper instead of scream (totally gets their attention sometimes) or just walk out of the room and pretend to scream to myself to ease his world. Yesterday out of the BLUE he says; “Mama you haven’t screamed at me in such a long time. I must be doing a lot of things the right way now.” And truth is, he has been benefiting from a lot of my attention in such a loving way (more than usual I guess?). Trouble is for me that when I do scream I feel ashamed often afterwords, which makes me end up screaming more, because I stink at feeling ashamed. Anyway, I just appreciate so much reading this piece, AS ALWAYS over here. I feel honored as always to be in such great company of screamers!

  17. Denene and Allyssa and the rest of you screaming mamas,

    Thank you soooo much. I am not officially off the hook for being the worst mom ever. Seriously, I scream so much, I put myself on a time out for screaming so much. I’m sick of my screaming. I too have two boys and a husband who seems to think discipline is my job. So I scream. A lot. Since I now have a new baby girl who I think will be deaf before she’s three since she’s always in my arms when i seem to be screaming, I’m trying a new trick. Instead of screaming, I sing. Yes, you heard me. Imagine enraged Black woman, singing the Star Spangled Banner so she doesn’t go postal on her kids. It’s just enough to allow me to collect my thoughts and ease the burn. Then i can try to talk normally to my kids.
    Sometimes this actually works. Sometimes I just scream. But I asked my kids if they could help me stop screaming by being better behaved. So it’s a group effort. I’ll let you know how it all works.
    But I sure do feel better now, knowing I’m not alone. My name is Lori and I am a screamer.

  18. I am so happy to hear that I’m not alone!!! I never really got spankings, so I just knew I’d be more like my mom; not a spanker or a real screamer at all. Now that my daughter’s 5, I’m realizing the difference between my mom and I is that she had a daughter that would listen! My child listens about 75% of the time, but she’s so strong-willed that every once in awhile her blatant defiance will throw me totally off and I scream. When I do, I feel awful, so I think I’ll try the 1-2-3 technique mentioned above.

    And the whole line about trying to give your daddy some nearly laid me out! I love your posts, Denene!h


    “and I want to give your father some so that I can pass out from exhaustion.”

    Yea spanking didn’t work here either. Being put in his room is like the absolute worst for him next to being told he’s gonna be put on the naughty list. So we do that and an occasional pinch depending on the scene.

    Oh and I scream. A lot. Differently when I am trying to keep him from harm, almost like a growl. I may look crazy, but my kid is safe. It’s all in *what* you’re screaming and trying to accomplish. Still, I’m working on it.

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