Yelling At Your Children Humiliates Them

Walter Rhein
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One of the worst things in the world is seeing a child wince when they’re verbally scolded by a parent. A wince from a scolding is different than a wince from physical pain. If a child cuts a finger or smashes a toe, he or she can expect that mom or dad will rush up to provide comfort with a hug or a kind word. But with an emotional wince, the child is almost always left to bear it alone.

Parents too often get caught up in their own issues and overlook the effect their behavior has on their own kids. They ask their children to endure things they themselves would never stand for. The next time you feel inclined to yell at your child, take a moment to reflect on how you feel when your boss yells at you.

Is there really any circumstance where you can acknowledge that getting yelled at was the best and only way to adjust your behavior? If the answer is “no” then you have no right to yell at your child.

Humiliation

As a parent, the number one thing you have going for you is that your children want to earn your respect.

“Did I do a good job on this daddy?”

They’ll ask that just to hear you praise them. If you find your child asking it a lot, you should make an extra effort to tell them they did well on something. Praise them! Tell them they did a good job putting on their shoes or finishing their dinner.

“You sure did a great job on that!”

“You sure are a big help!”

“I’m so proud of you.”

Being praised pacifies your children and leads directly to good behavior. They hunger for it. This is a positive reinforcement model of rearing that leads to well-behaved, well-adjusted, and happy children.

Yelling is humiliation. When you yell, your child tenses up, feels shame, and then has to go and take a few minutes to recover. Your child will have to process these terrible feelings and they aren’t equipped to do so. Their only tactic is to wait for the humiliation to pass, but because they don’t understand their feelings, it never goes away. Instead, they bury it deep down inside themselves where it acts as a kernel of frustration that influences their future behavior.

If you aren’t careful, you’ll get to a point where you yell at them and they smile because they’ve taught themselves to process the scolding as praise. That is not an emotionally healthy place to be.

A no-screaming zone

As a parent, you must break out of the habit of yelling at your children. Your home is your castle, and you get to determine what kind of an environment it is. Do you want to live in a home where the walls constantly echo with screams? It’s not good for your kids, and frankly it’s not good for you. Your body reacts negatively even if it’s you screaming.

With the pressures and stresses of everyday life, it can be difficult to maintain your calm. Don’t try to change your behavior all at once, but try to take baby steps towards improvement every day. Children can be frustrating, but getting angry at them does not serve to correct their behavior. Yelling only makes them miserable and causes more problems for you.

Parents often get into a habit of screaming at their children as just a way of life.

“It’s time for dinner!”

“It’s time for bed!”

“Come downstairs!”

These are the easiest screams to eradicate from your household. In these cases you are screaming out of convenience and not because you are angry. The problem is that these screams accustom your body to the act of screaming. If you focus on it, you’ll realize your body does not like it when you scream. Try to make your home a no screaming zone.

Self-discipline

When you need to correct behavior, try to have the discipline to tell your child what you want them to do twice in a calm voice. If your child knows they are going to get screamed at no matter what, why should they comply with your demands? You need to give them an incentive to avoid the scream. Don’t anticipate disobedience. Instead, provide your children with an opportunity to do as you ask.

Part of raising mature, respectful kids is to treat them as if they are already mature and respectful. Remember, they want to please you. If they do as you ask after you ask them nicely, praise them. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than discipline. But you must give them the chance to do as you ask.

If the child’s life is threatened

Screaming is an alarm, and you must hold it in reserve until a child’s life is threatened. The only time I permit myself to yell is when my child is about to run into the street after a ball or some other life threatening act.

By removing petty screams from your home, the emergency scream becomes much more effective. When a child is not yelled at all day, they become confused when you yell and they instantly stop. When you hold yourself to the discipline of not screaming, you equip yourself to better protect your child.

However, in the cases where I scream at my child because her life is in danger, I always take a moment to explain it to her after the threat has passed. I kneel in front of her and apologize for yelling and tell her I needed immediate compliance because I thought she was going to be hurt, then I give her a hug. As a parent, you have to help your children process the kernel of frustration that happens every time you raise your voice.

Don’t yell, cheer!

You are allowed to be loud around your children. When they do something well, praise them. Allow your joy to enter your voice and scream it for the world to hear. The child will beam with pride. It’s not the noise of a yell that bothers them, it’s the anger.

Always remember that sound is a physical force that travels within packets of air. A sound wave can knock a person down. When you scream at your child, you are physically hitting them. Worse, your anger and frustration is injected into their subconscious where it will fester.

A cheer is like a bear hug, it has the opposite effect. All that is required to be a good parent is to imagine how you wish to be treated, and then treat your child that way. There are few things in life that we have control over. One of them is that we can take steps to ensure the walls of our homes do not rattle with screams.

Your child will be happier, and so will you.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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