If you’re a parent, you know it’s hard to raise a kid without yelling. The good news is that the occasional yell will not damage your child. The bad news is that if you’re constantly yelling, you just could be doing more harm than good to both you and your child.

Yelling can have far-reaching consequences. Much of the available evidence suggests that yelling can be detrimental to children’s social and emotional development. In a recently conducted study, researchers from the London School of Economics analyzed the effects of yelling on children and came to two interesting conclusions:

  • When parents use yelling and strict punishments, bad behavior increases rather than decreases.
  • The impact of yelling and strict punishments is equivalent to that of doing nothing. In other words, yelling is equivalent to ignoring bad behavior.

A different study found that strict and inconsistent punishment led to antisocial behavior. Yet another study found that children who were frequently yelled at developed lower self-esteem and higher aggressiveness and depression.

Beyond the negative impact yelling can have on your child, there are other good reasons to stop or at least reduce how frequently you yell:

It doesn’t work

Yelling might get you instant results but it will not have a lasting impact on your child’s behavior. Yelling tends to work like a vaccine – your child becomes immune to your yelling.

It scares children

Imagine being yelled at yourself. Being yelled at brings out the negative in everyone.  

Yelling teaches your child it’s okay to yell

Your child learns many things by observing and modeling your behavior. If you frequently yell, you teach your child that yelling is an appropriate way to get people’s attention. Don’t be surprised when he/she starts yelling back!

You’ll regret it

Yelling is rarely the most appropriate response. Sometimes you yell because you’re tired, frustrated or have had issues during the day. Many parents who yell end up regretting yelling episodes.

So what can you do when you’re up against the wall? How do you change your communication style and stop yelling?

Developing positive communication patterns

Work on yourself

Do you yell because of your own situation, because you’re stressed out, or because of your child’s actions? Identifying what triggers your yelling episodes is a key step in changing how you communicate. Do you snap more often when you’re tired? When you’re running late? Be honest with yourself and write down all the things that drive your anger.

Set firm limits and be consistent

Are you clear about what you expect from your child? Is your child aware of these expectations? Does your child know what behaviour is appropriate and why certain behaviour is not? Does he/she know the consequences if he/she misbehaves?

Set firm limits and stick to them. Limits will only work if you follow through consistently. Be 100% consistent.

Be a Model

The limits you set also concern you. Your children are watching and learning. Be in control. Anger is normal but how do you express it? How would you like your child to express it?

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
– Robert Fulghum

Regulate your emotions

Regulating your emotions means being aware of your feelings and expressing them in appropriate ways. Let your child know you’re angry, then let them see how you manage that anger.

Try out some of these anger management strategies:

  • Tell your child you’re going to leave the room for a few minutes because you’re angry then leave.
  • Do nothing. Take deep breaths and say “I will not yell” before you respond (it sounds cheesy but it really works!)
  • Instead of yelling, drop your tone and speak lower than you would. Self-regulation studies have proven that doing the opposite of what you’d planned to do can have amazing results.

Know your child

In the same way that’s it’s important to know what triggers your yelling episodes, it’s also important to identify why your child “pushes you to yell”.

Sometimes a child will “nag” in an attempt to get your attention. Taking off 5 or 10 minutes from your schedule to do something together can mean not having to yell. Listen to your child. Why is he/she whining? Find out the reason behind his/her behavior.

Communicate purposefully

If you’re in the kitchen and asking your child, who’s in the living room, to do something he/she probably doesn’t want to do, chances are it won’t get done and you’ll end up getting upset (and yelling).

Communicating purposefully means getting the message across clearly. Look at your child when you’re speaking (don’t talk to his/her back). Say your child’s name (rather than “guys tidy up!”). Get down to his/her level (look him/her in the eye) if you have to.

But what do you do if you just can’t help yourself?

  1. Mind the words you use. Think of how you’d feel if someone yelled at you. Keep away from \ hurtful or humiliating words.
  2. Apologize, not for being angry, but for how you expressed your feelings
  3. Forgive yourself.
  4. If you’re yelling way too much, seek professional help.

How have you been able to raise your kids without yelling? What strategies have worked for you?