Yelling at children: Is it really harmful?



Many people are quick to respond with a “yes” or a “no” when asked if it is ok to yell at children to discipline them.

However, the situations parents find themselves in often make it difficult to stick to rules such as “I will never yell” or “I will yell because the kids won’t learn otherwise.”

When kids misbehave or do something risky or carry out a prank, yelling can feel like the natural response.

Parents often yell or shout at their kids to discipline them and it seems like the only way to get your child’s attention, especially when you’re stressed.

If you do not want to yell at your kids in general but often end up doing it when you lose your cool, you may be burdened with guilt later.

Know that yelling does not make you a terrible parent. However, yelling is a parenting “technique” we can do without.

Why do parents yell?

Parents may feel like they’re putting their foot down and delivering adequate discipline when they yell at their kids. Parents let the irritation show in our voice because we want the child to know we are frustrated with the hope that it will motivate them. This can be OK as long as parents make it clear that they are frustrated with the child’s behavior and not the child.

The difference between dangerous yelling and non-dangerous yelling is a matter of content, intention and frequency. “Don’t run in the street” can be a perfectly fine thing to yell but calling a child “dumb” while yelling about the street is off-limits.

When it’s Okay to yell and and when it’s not OK

It is important to know if you can raise your voice, based on your child’s age. Toddlers are unlikely to understand the logic of the yell and will only absorb the fury. When parents yell at toddlers they create fear, which prevents kids from recognizing that their parents are trying to protect them.

Observe how your child responds to yelling and post-yelling. You will have to control yourself if your yelling triggers negative consequences. To some children, a yell is just a parent being loud while others can take it extremely personally and feel hurt.

There are times when it’s great and even necessary to raise your voice. This can be when you have kids hitting each other or attempting something dangerous that can hurt them or anyone else around. These are instances when shocking them by shouting works, but once you get a kid’s attention you should modulate your voice. Basically, yell to warn, but speak to explain.

If you find yourself yelling all the time and all the days, we’ve got a problem that needs control. Failing to do so on a daily basis and constantly yelling and shouting is probably a less than productive long-term parenting strategy.

Tips to help you keep cool

The first step is to know when you’re about to lose your cool. You may feel irritable, anxious, or out of control. Being aware of what your body feels like is key. Look for physical cues like a clenched jaw, a tight chest, increased heart rate, and your skin getting warmer.

When you notice these signs, try these quick strategies to turn things around. Take a deep inhale and exhale and repeat a couple of times. Notice five things in your immediate environment. These tricks put you in the present moment which lowers your anxiety and calms your nerves.

Try to pinpoint your triggers which make you yell in the first place, especially if they are other factors apart from the situation such as work deadlines, stress from chores or health. Simply knowing your triggers in advance reduces the possibility that you’ll let them trigger you next time. These strategies are effective and subtle so they also work when you’re out in public.

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