Why We Yell at Our Kids

Why We Yell at Our Kids

Nearly every parent yells at their kids, some do it more than others.  Research says that 3 out of 4 parents will yell at their kids at least once a month.  Part of the reason is that parents typically don’t use spankings anymore.  So what’s left but to yell at them?  Part of the problem are the words we use when we yell.  Since we are usually angry when we yell at our kids, we can very easily use personal attack, belittling, or blaming words as we yell.

The research also says that yelling can have a more lasting effect on our kids than spankings.  For some reason, when parents used spankings, the negative effect was offset by the parent’s praising their child later.  That doesn’t seem to work with yelling, perhaps because of the words we choose to use.  In fact, in a longitudinal study over 15 years, the effects of a parent belittling or blaming their kid affected how that child would acted in a romantic relationship as an adult.  This isn’t an argument in favor of spanking–only to point out the consequences of yelling.

So the question is “why is yelling so devastating to a child?”  For one thing, yelling is an outlet for our anger with our kids.  That’s why we say things we shouldn’t.  Studies have found that parents get angry with their kids because they take their misbehavior as a personal attack on them, or they believe that somehow the kid’s negative behavior reflects poorly on them as the parent.  Or, sometimes the parent is taken by surprise by their kids behavior and they quickly yell without thinking of what they are saying.  Or sometimes, the parent is just flooded with too much emotion and they lose control..

So what can you do?  Usually there is a warning that your kid is going to act out.  When you sense what’s coming, don’t tense up.  Take some deep breaths and leave the room.  Also, it helps to slow down.  Don’t let a spilled glass of milk ruin your whole day’s schedule.  If you can remember, start your response using the word “I”, not the word “you.”  It will immediately change what you say, the tone of voice in how you say it, and even help make the situation into a teachable moment.

Finally, when you blow it, apologize to your kid!  Let them know you love them, and that you are ashamed of how you reacted in the situation.  Maybe a study in the future will show just how powerful it is when a parent apologizes to their kids.

Question:  When you last yelled at your kids, did you apologize for what you shouldn’t have said?

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One Response to Why We Yell at Our Kids

  1. Trish says:

    Yes, I always apologize. It doesn’t happen very often – I have learned the hard way that giving in to my anger or frustration will haunt me for a long time. I have probably only yelled once in the last year or so, and now I go the opposite way and speak more quietly and in measured tones when I am frustrated or we will both end up in a meltdown. I also take a break or have him take a break when needed.

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