Is It Ever Okay to Yell at a Child?

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Playing How Yelling at Kids Could Harm Them

It would be difficult to find a parent who has never once yelled at their child. However, just how damaging is it to yell? Emerging research claims raising your voice at children may be as damaging as physical abuse. The Doctors along with parenting experts Dr. Deborah Gilboa and Amy McCready discuss the topic.

Amy believes yelling should only be used in situations of extreme danger when you really need to get your child’s attention. Yelling should never be a go-to disciple strategy. It doesn’t work as a long-term parenting strategy because if it did, parents wouldn’t be constantly doing it! She also says kids will become “parent deaf” where they tune parents out because they are trained to think they don’t have to listen until their parents yell because then it's serious.

Watch: How to Stop a Toddler from Running into the Street

Dr. Gilboa thinks what Amy is saying puts parents in a difficult spot. It makes them think, “If I yelled, I failed. It’s like beating my kids,” which she says is just not true. It also may make parents think, “I’m super frustrated and I already yelled, I might as well give a spanking.” She says we know spanking is damaging every time but we don’t know that yelling is dangerous every single time.

Amy takes what Dr. Gilboa has said and clarifies that it comes down to frequency and intensity. How often are parents yelling and are the interactions angry and intense? Parents have to look and see if their yelling really is causing harmful effects on their children. 

Yelling can actually be used as a teaching moment, Dr. Gilboa explains. Parents sometimes mess up and yell, and this teaches kids that yelling can happen. When the kids go out into the real world and get yelled at by a coach or teacher, for example, they’ll know how to handle it and respond. Similarly, parents can model apologizing when they themselves have messed up and have to apologize to their kids. 

The Doctors also note what you yell is of importance. Yelling may be necessary but verbal abuse never is. “Cursing at your child, insulting your child, yelling shame at them, threats at them, is real different than ‘put your brother down’,” Dr. Gilboa explains. 

Amy offers three strategies for parents to use to try and avoid getting to the point of yelling.

Strategy #1: Take mind, body and soul time.
This is ten minutes of one-on-one time for the parent and child. The parent is fully present in mind, body and soul. This works to combat attention-seeking behavior, which is so often the cause of misbehavior.

Strategy #2: Take a moment to connect.
Instead of going from the gut, parents should take a moment to connect with their child. Get down on their level, give them a hug, and say, “Wow, you’re having a really hard time. How can I help?”

Watch: Are You Making Relationship Body Language Mistakes?

Strategy #3: Use no yelling consequences.
Lay it all out ahead of time. Let kids know the rules and what the consequences are for misbehaving. Have them repeat it back to you. 

Dr. Gilboa notes that yelling causes parents to feel stressed so here are two additional strategies to try and avoid yelling.

Strategy #4: Drop the registrar of your voice.
Doing this will better get your kid’s attention.

Strategy #5: Whisper.
Drop your voice to almost a whisper and lean in like you’re telling your kid a secret. We pay more attention when someone gets quiet. 

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