Proven by research: Yelling at your kids just doesn't work and here's why
Yelling at your kids might have a negative impact on his or her development.
You just can't seem to help it. You've been up from 4am and your child just seems to be constantly pushing your buttons all day long. We are all only human, and so, at one point, you snap. You do it once and gradually yelling at your kids becomes a habit.
Raising your voice at children as a way of disciplining them seems to be one of the few acceptable methods left in the world of parenting, with corporal punishment fast on its way out.
But one expert is saying that this option too should be reconsidered, as it is not just harmful to a child's development in certain instances, but is also ineffective.
Yelling at your kids: On its way out?
Laura Markham is a clinical psychologist and author of the book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.
Speaking to Fatherly, she brings to lights some of the negative aspects of yelling at kids, while acknowledging at the same time just how hard it can be to keep your cool in this stressful world of parenting and stop shouting altogether.
While the good news is that raising your voice at your children is certainly less damaging than hitting them (provided it is not verbal abuse), the bad news is that you could actually be contributing to setting up shouting matches with your kids in their turbulent pre-teen and teenage years.
Here's what happens when you yell at your kids
1. Affects brain development
When you yell at your child, you're not exactly ruining their brain development. But you are changing it in a way.
Dr Markham explains that during a peaceful or soothing experience, the brain's neurotransmitters "tell" us we're safe via certain biochemicals. "That’s when a child is building neural pathways to calm down,” she says.
But when a toddler with a still developing brain gets yelled at, the opposite happens. “The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation,” she says.
And if this keeps happening, then the behaviour in response to yelling becomes a permanent fixture.
2. It's not communication
Just imagine if every time you were at a staff meeting, your manager yelled at you and reprimanded you. How would you feel? Would you feel like listening to him or her? Probably not. It's the same with kids.
No one really likes being yelled at. “When parents yell, kids acquiesce on the outside, but the child isn’t more open to your influence, they’re less,” says Dr. Markham.
Younger kids might start crying and older kids will simply look bored - both reactions mean the kid is blocking you off rather than listening.
3. It is downright scary
You are your child's rock and they see you, three times as large as they are, providing you with the most important things in their life. But when you scare them in some way (in this case, by shouting repeatedly) you are breaking this trust and truly frightening them.
“They’ve done studies where people were filmed yelling. When it was played back to the subjects, they couldn’t believe how twisted their faces got,” says Dr. Markham.
And unlike an adult who has the maturity to deal with anger from another, a three-year-old child simply cannot do this.
4. It normalises yelling
When you shout at your child, you are teaching him that this is a normal form of communication when a person is upset or angry... and we all know it is not. Dr Markham points out that at some point, a child won't even flinch when being scolded - and this is when you know that there's too much shouting going on.
It's not just Dr Markham who advises parents to tone down the voice when disciplining their kids. Other studies confirm her recommendation.
A 2013 study published in the journal Child Development shows that yelling at your kids — defined as “shouting, cursing, or insult-hurling” — could be just as harmful as physical punishment.
What's more, yelling at kids could have long-term negative effects on their self-esteem, and could lead to other issues such as aggression and anxiety.
What's the alternative to yelling at your kids?
One of the tactics Dr Markham suggests is humour. Kids misbehave and make mistakes — this is normal — and “if the parent responds with a sense of humor,” says Markham, you are able to still maintain your authority plus keep your kid connected to you.
Other than this, give yourself some cool off time, talk openly about emotions, and be very firm about delivering on consequences rather than doling out empty threats.
Parents, we understand that how you choose to discipline your child is your prerogative. But it's also good to be aware of the effects different modes of discipline may have on kids, so you can choose what works best for both you and your child, wisely.
How do you discipline your child? Share your tips with us in a comment below.