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Effective Parenting: The Harm Caused By Yelling

Updated on January 10, 2014

Why Not Yell?

I was reading an interesting piece on putting "Punishment in Perspective". I am a non-spanking, non-yelling parent because I believe these are types of violence. I have never heard anyone put these types of punishment in the perspective that this blog piece does. The author tells you to imagine your child is your husband. If your husband were to smart off or make you mad, would you hit him? I hope the answer would be no. Obviously, we would recognize this as domestic violence. It seems ridiculous to imagine yelling at your spouse for spilling a cup of milk. Why do we do these things to our children?

Looking at yelling in particular, what happens when we yell at our kids?

1. Psychotherapist Jim Hutt, Ph.D. explains, "Yelling is scary, so it activates a child's emotional "fight or flight" response while shutting down his logical thinking." How do you intend to get your child to understand the reasoning behind why s/he can't have ice cream for dinner when, by yelling at the child, you are cutting off their ability to listen to reason?

2. Our children will learn to communicate by our example. If we are constantly screaming at our kids and our spouse, our children will learn that yelling is how they should communicate with others. I have been in households where the mom and children are all yelling over each other. It is chaotic. Neither the mom nor the kids are listening to what the other has to say.

3. Yelling at your kids when they make a mistake will cause them to hide their mistakes from you. I read an article that best stated why this problem needed to be corrected. Rachel Macy Stafford writes, "And over time, the fear that once flared in my children's eyes when they were in trouble disappeared. And thank goodness, I became a haven in their times of trouble -- instead of the enemy from which to run and hide."

4. Yelling, especially when using words to belittle your child, damages their self esteem. Kids, especially in the early teen years, will struggle with self esteem anyway. They worry about fitting in. A child who grows up in a home where yelling and belittling is a form of punishment are going to struggle that much more. In Sociology, there is a term known as "self-fulfilling prophecy". Self-fulfilling prophecy says “people will often live up to the expectations of others”; you continually reinforce something to someone about themselves (their level of talent, ability, potential) they will often live up to that image.

It is important to understand that verbal discipline such as yelling and belittling can have the same effect as physical punishment. They both cause bruising. Physical bruising will fade, but the emotional bruising caused by each of these types of punishment will not heal so easily.


Change Things Now

If yelling, belittling, and spanking are the methods of discipline you find yourself using, STOP. It may not be too late. If you begin utilizing more effective means of teaching your children behavior, you may be able to undo the damage previously done. Kids will forgive.

By the time a child has grown, if they have learned to fear and keep things from their parents, it really may be too late. Imagine all of the situations in which an older child, a teenager, may need the unconditional love and support of a parent.

1. Your child is being bullied at school. They don't feel you will do anything to help and maybe even fear that you will see them as weak.

2. Your child has been pressured into trying drugs or drinking and now cannot stop. They believe if they come to you for help, they will find punishment instead.

3. Your child is struggling with emotional issues. Perhaps they are cutting themselves. Perhaps they have thoughts of suicide. They feel they have nobody to turn to.

These are all very real scenarios that kids deal with everyday. Our children need to know that they can come to us with their problems, problems that can mean life or death. They need to know that we are there to help them and not hurt them. Be that parent. Start now.

By: Traci Ruffner

Comedic Dramatization of a Family That Lacks Real Communication- SNL Parody


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    • Traci Ruffner profile image

      Traci Ruffner 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      Thank you so much =)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a better world it would be if all parents thought like this. Thanks! I hope this helps lots of parents out there.

    • Traci Ruffner profile image

      Traci Ruffner 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      I loved my parents very much, but we did get paddled. They never yelled. We did get lectured. I would say that my sisters and I were afraid to go to my parents with problems. I remember one time in particular, I think I was 7, and I learned from Sesame Street that it never hurts to tell the truth. I believed Sesame Street. I broke something and I told the truth. I got spanked. I felt betrayed by Big Bird after that.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 4 years ago

      I'd have to say that kids today have a different way of looking at and responding to certain types of punishment. Ok, maybe some kids were the same way back when I was a kid. But I was one of those kids who got yelled at and/or paddled when I did something wrong. That never stopped me from going to parents as a teen when I had problems or I did something wrong. My self-esteem never wavered and I haven't carried any baggage into adulthood. But maybe that's just me.

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I wholeheartedly agree. :) Thank you for the support. At some point in your life I believe you have to consider the influence that you allow those in your life to have on you. Especially when that means considering the well-being of others that you love. :)

      I'm so sorry you are going through the same thing.

    • Traci Ruffner profile image

      Traci Ruffner 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      I was married to a man for 15 years who, not only yelled at me, but yelled at the kids. To this day, he does not understand that there is anything wrong with it. It's a shame you have to separate yourself from your mom, but sometimes you have to do these things to protect your own kids. =)

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Very nice. I totally agree with you. I came from a yelling household, and one where "because I said so" and "because I'm the adult" were the only explanations to be found.

      I found myself in my room alone "thinking about what I had done" when I had no idea anything had even happened. All I learned was to avoid my mother at all costs and not to listen to anything she said because she never made sense.

      Unfortunately that is still the relationship we have today at 33 and 63 years old. I no longer have a relationship with her because I don't want that influence on my married relationship or my children.

      Stay calm, set rules and boundaries, explain your reasoning to your children so that they better understand their actions and their consequences, and treat them with respect. These are traits they will come to love you for and will carry on in their own relationships.