Should I Be Yelling at My Child?

yelling at kids

Should I Be Yelling at My Child?

Have you ever noticed that we treat strangers, co-workers, friends, and other acquaintances, with more respect and kindness than we do our immediate family members?  Why is it that we can manage our feelings, and monitor our behaviors more efficiently in public, than when in the safe space of our own homes?  Well, maybe it is because you are in a safe space!  Maybe it is also because of what was role-modeled for you as a child.  We tend to parent the way we were parented, unless we make deliberate efforts to respond to our child in a new way.  So, if our parents yelled at us, should we be yelling at our own child?  Research tells us, that the answer is no. Will your natural tendency be to yell at your kids?  Probably!  Our animalistic instincts take over when our buttons are being pushed, and it is completely natural to want to yell at your kids.  However, there are better and more effective ways to respond to your child’s negative behaviors.  Read on to gain more insight, and strategies for responding to your child’s unwanted behaviors in more effective ways.

Yelling at kids hurts them, and is ultimately ineffective

When we are frustrated, and feel like we are not being heard, raising our voice is a natural response.  Yelling is harmful though.  Children pick up on the change in tone, the increase in volume, the sound of disappointment or anger, and all of that seeps through when our communication with them changes.  Children who are yelled at often, have reported that they interpret the yelling to mean that they are bad, or unloved, and it can be very detrimental to their sense of self-worth.

Have you ever noticed that even when you do yell, nothing changes?  Or if it does change, it is only temporary?  That is because yelling is a form of punishment, and children need discipline.  Yelling and punishment comes from a place of us feeling frustrated, and out of control.  Discipline, however, is rooted in stability, and a desire to teach our children values, positive behavior, and a productive way of functioning in the world.

Another down fall to yelling, is that we are role-modeling, and therefore teaching to our children, that yelling is appropriate behavior.  Maybe you have caught yourself yelling, “Stop yelling!”  How confusing this message is, for us to be acting in the same way that we are asking our children not to. Children are the best imitators, and if we want a peaceful home, we must be role-modeling to our children the behaviors that we expect and hope for out of them as well.

What you can do instead

We might know intellectually that yelling is unhelpful, but what do we do instead?  How do we control ourselves, and change our automatic responses?  Here are a few tips:

Plan ahead

Just like young kids throw their tantrums when they are hungry, tired, or need to get out and play, as adults we require the same basic needs to be met.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep (as much as possible at least!), stay hydrated, eat well-balanced meals, and exercise.  When your basic needs are met, you can tolerate discomfort without needing to exert as much effort in the moment.  Plan ahead for your new verbal responses.  I am sure you can predict which behaviors irritate you, and you may have awareness around the situations that you typically find yourself yelling in.  Think about your old patterns of behavior, and plan ahead with new language you can use.

Be kind to yourself

Finding new ways to calm yourself down in the moment and practicing patience with yourself will go a long way.  This is a new skill, and learning anything new takes lots of time and practice. Changing our automatic responses within our relationships requires similar skills for learning a new instrument, a new sport, or a new driving route on our way to work.  It can feel like we are stumbling along the way, and we may feel embarrassed if we are not seeing any progress in the beginning.  This can be discouraging, but be kind to yourself along the journey and remember, that with time and practice, comes progress.  Be kind to yourself, self-compassionate, and know that perfection is not the goal.

Expect to still yell

Yes, yelling is harmful to our children.  Does that make you a “bad” parent?  Absolutely not.  You are a human being, trying to do the best that you can for the people that you love.  I applaud you for reading this article!  For opening yourself up to new possibilities, and for considering an alternative to what might come more naturally to you.  Nobody parents 100%, 100% of the time.  The goal is not to never yell.  The goal is to make progress towards communicating with your child in a more loving, and effective way.

Apologize to your children

When you do yell, the greatest repair you can make is to take responsibility for your behavior.  Let your child know that you are sorry, that there are better ways that you can communicate, and validate that it can be hard to control our behaviors when we have strong emotions.  It is never too late to apologize either.  As adults, we can carry hurts and pains for decades.  If you yelled at your child years, weeks, or days ago, still apologize.  Your vulnerability will teach them that taking ownership for our actions is important to you.  It takes great courage and strength to take responsibility, and that is a life skill that will help everyone build resilience, and healthy relationships.

Overall, have fun!  Trying out new parenting approaches can allow for us to be creative and explore new ways of relating to one another.  Love yourself, love your children, and do the that best you can to provide for them a safe, supportive, and well-balanced home life.  Remember, you do not have to be alone on your parenting or personal journey.  If you are looking for some support or guidance in how to be a positive role-model for your children, please reach out to our North Shore Family Services team. We are here to help!

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