Every parent wants the best for their children. Unfortunately, it’s the reason many of them make unwise parenting choices. The startling truth is that yelling at kids can cause more damage than they think.

Discipline is a long-drawn, frustrating process. Sadly, kids seldom grow when adults are always yelling at them; it has the opposite effect. We explain why, and what you can do to manage the overwhelm instead of shouting.

The Adverse Effects of Yelling at Kids

Poor behavior can grate on the nerves of even the most patient parents, and children who are guilty of it do deserve a good holler. But yelling at your kids can be more detrimental to them than you may be aware of, and here’s why.

Physical Effects:

1. Yelling at the kids worsens their behavior

A sound scream may solve a behavioral problem in the short term. Sadly, it worsens the behavior that parents aim to correct, according to research. 13-year-olds whose parents yelled at them ended up increasing their wayward behavior in later years. It doesn’t matter whether mum or dad does the shouting.

2. Children’s brains develop differently

Corporal punishment changes the way the brain develops. The human brain processes negative, not positive, information rapidly. A study of MRI scans belonging to patients who had experienced parental verbal abuse showed that there was a difference in the way their brains developed when compared with those who did not.

3. Yelling can lead to depression

Children respond by feeling hurt or frightened when someone hollers at them. Constant shouting causes even deep psychological issues. The same study that involved 13-year-olds revealed that they tended to manifest depressive symptoms. Other reviews reflect the same findings. Participants also indicated negative behaviors, such as drug abuse and dangerous sexual activity.

4. The physical effects of yelling last

Our childhood experiences shape us in ways that may escape us. The stress from being screamed at in a derogatory manner may trigger long term health concerns.

One of these is chronic pain. A study revealed a link between negative experiences in childhood and the development of chronic aches. These included arthritis, migraines, backaches, and neckaches.

Relationship Effects:

5. Children listen less

Contrary to popular belief, kids hear less if their parents are always yelling at them. Joseph Shrand Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains that yelling affects the limbic system, which is responsible for the Flight or Fight response.

This part of the brain releases chemicals that tell them to either, Fight, take Flight or Freeze. In other words, kids may look for escape routes instead of paying attention.

6. Does not garner respect

Parents may believe that shouting instills respect. It may trigger compliance, but this comes from fear instead of genuine regard. That’s because it doesn’t cause them to feel valued. Children may see it as a form of bullying that’s tedious and not worth admiring.

In the same vein, children will not take their parents seriously. It’s better to talk to them instead of at them.



What to Do to Avoid Yelling at Your Kids

Parents who think that they cannot help yelling at their kids can take heart. They can control their impulses if they remember a few pointers.

1. Don’t shout over trivial matters

Parents tend to shout at their children when they refuse to respond over trivial, everyday matters. How often have we screamed, “Dinner’s ready! Get in here before I come in to get you!” The high volume level becomes the norm, with the children screeching responses, and they will eventually ignore it.

Go up to your kids and tell them to come to dinner instead. They will come to the table willingly instead of taking five extra minutes.

2. Be mindful

Learning children try their parents’ patience. However, parents are adults who must be wary of not letting their issues and setbacks affect them. Daily reflection and meditation help to clear the headspace.

3. Think of a safe word or phrase

A frazzled parent can choose a word or phrase that reminds them not to lose their cool and think things through instead. ‘Love’ and “Patience’ are excellent and suggestions.

4. Empathize

Children have rough days at school and could behave untowardly at home. Perhaps their best friends suddenly decided not to show up at recess.



If their negative behavior is out of the ordinary, perhaps it may be time to take a step back and find out its root cause. It will help to get down to the kid’s level and find out what’s bothering them.

5. Know the triggers

Parents should prepare for the occasions when children set off their tempers. These are often predictable -‘clear the table,’ ‘make your bed,’ or ‘tidy your room.’

They should have reasonable and clear consequences that will enable their children to understand the adverse effects of their misbehavior. For example, if a child asks, “Where are my favorite grey shorts?” a parent can answer, “Now you can understand how difficult they are to find if your room is in such a mess. Tidy it up, and find them yourself.”

In all, yelling at kids does more harm than good. There are other productive ways of countering their misbehavior.

Michelle Liew, B.A.

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