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Does Yelling at Your Kid Work?

Stop me if you’ve ever been in a situation like this one. . . 

You’ve had a long day—the kind where nothing seems to go right. Now, when you’re supposed to be enjoying family time, your kids will not stop bickering over the most insignificant things. 

While they’re arguing over who can drink their water faster, you realize that you’ve finally had enough. You interject, pleading with them to stop because you’re afraid one of them might choke—and, let’s be honest, you just want a little peace and quiet. 

Then it happens. Your sweet child turns to you and says, “Shut up, Mom.” 

That’s your trigger. You take a deep breath and start yelling your head off. You’re human and you yell because you feel so disrespected, and it’s been such a hard day. . . a hard week. . . a hard month. . . a hard year! 

You’d never yell at a friend, or a coworker, or a neighbor, so how could you possibly have it in you to yell at your child?

Understanding Why Parents Yell 

There are several reasons why parents yell at their children. It could be:

  • an attempt to get your child to literally hear or listen to you
  • a way of asserting dominance
  • because you simply lost your temper

But unless you’re shouting in a crowd to get your child’s attention, yelling is never the best way to accomplish your parenting goals. 


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In my TEDx Talk,The Rebellion Is Here – We Created it, We Can Solve It, I talk about the external locus of control, or the thought process of using rewards and punishments to control behavior. When parents turn to controlling forms of discipline—like yelling—they’re relying on external factors to create what they believe will be well-behaved children.

If you’ve fallen into this trap before, give yourself some grace. Most people resort to this method of thinking, particularly in moments of stress. But it isn’t effective, and it certainly doesn’t lead to “better” behavior.

Overcoming the Instinct to Yell 

Just as there’s an external locus of control, there’s an internal locus of control. The internal locus of control addresses underlying, unmet needs. It’s not about what’s happening on the outside; rather, it’s about everything going on inside that is causing undesirable behavior. 

When children act out, it’s often their way of expressing an unmet need. This same logic can be applied to a parent who acts out by yelling, too. 

You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t think logically when you’re completely mentally drained. Yelling or losing your temper is always a sign to check in with yourself, as a parent and as a person, to understand why you acted out. 

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As it turns out, yelling or other controlling forms of discipline don’t stop this cycle. In fact, they actually lead to your child acting out more, through retaliation, rebellion, and resentment

Yelling can cause lasting psychological damage in children. And it never addresses the root of the problem. If you find yourself about to scream or shout, it’s probably best for everyone involved that you remove yourself from the situation and find a different outlet. 

The next time you wind yourself up to yell, pause. Ask yourself how you might respond to that sort of discipline—and if it would cause you to change your behavior. 

Instead, turn away, take a few deep breaths, and return to your child with a clearer head. You’ll have the opportunity to communicate with them in a manner that fosters security and connection. 

At the end of the day, parents are all doing their best in difficult situations. But it’s important to remember that children are in that very same position. And when you find different ways of communicating with your child, it’s easier to remember that you’re both on the same team.

Love and Blessings,

Katherine

P.S. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who understands. The Conscious Parenting Revolution has a network of supportive parents here to offer you solutions, or just a listening ear. Join our private Facebook Group today!

3xTEDx Speaker, Media Contributor, parenting coach and mom of two. Helping families thrive for over 20 years using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.