My brother yelled at my kids and I loved it

Last week my younger brother Josh was hanging out at my place. He and his longtime girlfriend Susan live in an apartment on the floor below mine, and we see them a couple times each week.

Like me, Josh also works in media, and we love to talk business. While sitting on the couch chatting about client management, our conversation kept being interrupting by, “Helena, if you know what's good for you you'll pick up that tea set right now!” and, “It is never, EVER OK to hit anyone. Ever!”

The scolding didn't come from me.

Josh was yelling at my kids. Best thing I'd heard all day!

My kids have a handful of aunts and uncles, and they're all the younger, cooler, funner, better-looking versions of Helena and Lucas's parents. Josh teaches the kids guitar, Susan teaches them to dance The Robot and gives them lime-green mani-pedis. They bring cupcakes when they babysit. They're the aunts and uncles every kid should have.

They're also a brother and sister-in-law every single mom should have. For one, we share similar sensibilities about most things, including how children should behave. It wouldn't work if, say, I thought it was adorable for toddlers to treat Legos like confetti, and Susan admonished them to pick up every tiny block once it hit the shag rug.

There also seems to be an intuitive understanding of the power of another disciplining voice in a home with just one parent. Child discipline can be a tricky as a single mom. There is no second person to second a time-0ut issuance. No one to play good cop/bad cop, or take over manning the toddler tantrum just as you are about to become unhinged.

Plus, I have my hands full. If someone I trust wants to step in and help me scream at my kids, that's fantastic. One less thing on my to-do list!

At the tail end of dinner of homemade mac and cheese last week, Helena realized her brother had intentionally cut the bowstring of her purple Brave bow. While Josh repaired the weapon, I laid down the law: “Lucas, tell your sister you are sorry.” He refused. It devolved into tens of minutes of naughty-chair-crying fits-“Say you're sorry or get back in the naughty chair.” “Don't you get up from that chair!” and so on. You've been there.

It was the end of the day. I was beat. He was tired and hungry and unreasonable. I couldn't muster any more wrestling with a 3-year-old built of 40 lbs of muscle. Finally, we found ourselves back at the dinner table, Lucas pouting on my lap, nary an apology in sight.

“You can't let him get away with it,” Josh scolded. He scolded me. He was right. If he hadn't been there to support me I would likely have given up — to the detriment of both my kids and me. And so we launched into Round 7 of say-you're-sorry-or-sit-in-the-naughty-chair-Don't-you-get-up-from-that-chair!A few minutes in, Josh thanked us for dinner and said good night. It was time for him to go home.

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Honoree Corder on March 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Oh, yes, we’ve ALL been there! When my daughter was little, I would hide in the laundry room (folding is much faster when frustrated) when I was mad. I called it MTO (mommy’s time out) and it sure did come in handy. I love that you have family so close and they help you, that’s very cool. If you ever want to ship them to me, we’d be happy to yell at ’em, in between Wii marathons and trips to the pool. :)

    • Evelyn on April 30, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      I have a similar situation, my sister in law is close to us, we watch her kids everyday after work while she works, I get homw from work and the babysitter leaves, at this time the kids are glued to their Xboxes or tablet, I get home, make dinner, once dinner is done I go in the room to tell them to come and eat, I probably do that like 10 times, so I get frustrated and the only way they seem to listen is if I scream at them, well the oldest one finally thought I was being rude so he told his mom, long story short it has been 5 days and she still doesn’t talk to me or my husband the kid said we both are mean and we tell them all kind of bad things and scream at them, I just think they don’t like to be told what to do, they can’t get their heads out of that screen but yet we are watching them still, because I’m too nice to tell my SIL to take care if her kids . What do I do?

  2. Emma on March 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Ha! Honoree, take them to the pool! They’ve never seen a Wii so not sure if that will treat them or spoil them ….

  3. DarthW on May 28, 2014 at 12:33 am

    “A few minutes in, Josh thanked us for dinner and said good night. It was time for him to go home.”

    – LOL. I so LOVE being an uncle for this reason most of any!! I can provide my own tidbit of wisdom to my sisters and their kiddos, yawn, give goodbye hugs to nieces and nephews, then head out the door whilst my sisters still do the hard work.

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