Why you should stop shouting to your kids when you tell them off?

‘Baby, pick up your clothes. Sweety, don’t leave your clothes on the floor, take them to your room, please. Pick up your clothes, Johnny’… Your face turns red, your eyes seem to pop out of their sockets, you feel as if you were having a transformation and suddenly you raise your voice to a level you didn’t know you could: I TOLD YOU TO PICK UP YOUR CLOTHES AND YOU’RE GOING TO DO IT RIGHT NOW!

Does that sound familiar? We, all moms, have experienced a similar situation. You repeat an instruction several times and your patience is over. Shouting seems to be the easiest way to reprimand your children, but let’s analyze the situation. Did you get a real change in their attitude? Perhaps, crying, your kid picked up the clothes, but surely next day (or the next hour) your child will leave a mess again.

Stop being a screaming mom

Shouting doesn’t educate, on the contrary, it damages the bond with your child. Have you noticed its face when it sees you blow up? Yelling is a form of verbal violence, it’s the short way and will bring you counterproductive results.

No, you won’t look authoritarian, nor will you get them to “obey” out of fear. Rather, you’ll let them know that you lose control and shows you weak, out of yourself. When we scream, we wake up in kids their natural alarm signal and they get defensive, expecting danger.

The Journal of Child Development published a research that shows that screaming to children produces on them similar results as physical punishment: screaming causes the release of high amounts of cortisol into children’s brain, which produces anxiety, stress and depression, increasing behavior problems.

“When you yell to a child to tell him off, you’re generating a negative impact in its brain. A child does not know what’s the reason you are yelling for, doesn’t get if that’s good or bad and causes in it an anxious and retractive situation”, says the president of the Mexican Council of Neurology (Consejo Mexicano de Neurología), Dr. Edith Alva Moncayo.

At the beginning, they’ll be afraid, and then they’ll feel insecure with their role models: their parents. “If shouting is used as a habitual method, is possible that children could become shy, introverted and, in the future, with a persistent depressive state, adds the specialist.

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Shouting at children causes them to be alert, expecting danger, which generates stress and anxiety. Picture: Pixabay
Shouting at children causes them to be alert, expecting danger, which generates stress and anxiety. Picture: Pixabay

They get used to hear you screaming and end up ignoring you

Children finally get used to shouts and their ability to respond at them, decreases. You’ll have to shout louder. Then, the situation becomes dangerous because the child will want to reach your level and will shout too.

Alejandra Velasco, speaker and author of the book Soy mamá gritona y quiero dejar de serlo, (I’m a yelling mother and I would like to stop it) explains: “There comes a time when the child gets used to the loud tone of its mother’s voice and just doesn’t listen anymore”. Some parents say, ‘My kid likes to be yelled‘ but that’s not true.

Children do not make their parents scream, the fault is not theirs, “yelling parents are adults who don’t know how to control their emotions”. In other words, if the goal of screaming is to create a positive habit, you’re not getting it. If you’re looking for catharsis, take out frustration and show that you’re angry, then you should analyze why you’re screaming. The tip of the iceberg is the scream, that’s just the symptom, but underneath is the whole cause. Why do we scream?

Many times, a mom who shouts for nothing is a frustrated person, a woman who is angry with her husband, who has an unsolved mourning, who feels saturated or always is looking for perfection.

She wants to look good with the boss, cooks extremely elaborate food, embrace many things, but the truth is that everybody needs help from family and partner. “Before you shout again, analyze your environment, reformulate the organization and distribution of the housework, create routines with your children, and give yourself permission to be deliciously imperfect”, says the child-rearing expert.

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What to do to avoid yelling?

Even it seems challenging, there are strategies that do not involve screaming like crazy. The key words are positive parenting, but this method requires planning and discipline from parents.

Talk to your family, set limits and rules. Explain the importance of routines. Establish consequences if transgressing those rules, so when applying the reprimand, they know in advance that it is part of the agreement. “It is important that parents have educational and knowledge tools about positive discipline and positive language. This does not mean that children will do what they want, on the contrary, one of the pillars that parents must handle is to set rules and routines.

If you stablish that at 8 p.m. your kid has to take a shower, start telling your child five minutes before 8 p.m. that bath time is coming, instead of shouting GET IN THE BATH NOW! Play some music, dance together, and make some jokes. In this way your kid will see bath time as a game and will be waiting bath time with joy”, explains Velasco.

If through screaming you are looking for a change of positive habits, you are really wrong. Picture: Pixabay
If through screaming you are looking for a change of positive habits, you are really wrong. Picture: Pixabay

Be conscious that you’re a screaming mom and solve it

The step from being a screaming mom to a mom with positive parenting tools is a process and involves self-knowledge and being aware of the moment we are losing our temper in order to avoid it. Remember that children learn by imitation, so if you learn to control yourself, you will also help your child take that step.

“Parents should try to control themselves and instead of yelling at their children they should try to manage a distraction, so children can integrate properly and understand. If you explain why you are angry and what the kid did wrong, it will understand clearly, but you have to talk in a consistent and calm way”, says Dr. Alva Moncayo.

On the other hand, Alejandra Velasco adds: “Before screaming to your child, breathe, stop for a few seconds and say: ‘I am the adult, it is a child, I have to control myself, not the child to me’. Only fight the battles you must fight, don’t exasperate for everything. Put on a rubber on your hand and every time you feel like screaming, pull it. Maybe a calendar will work for you, to draw a line on it every time you scream. The point is to find something that makes you aware and helps you think before yelling. You’re going to make it!”

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How to make your kid obey?

Getting kids to follow your instructions is also a process, but practice really changes the brain. Dr. Alan Kazdin, psychology professor at Yale University, promotes a method of background, behavior and consequences.


  • Background: You tell the kid with words according to its age, specifically, what you need to be done and what you expect from the kid.
  • Behavior: Defined and molded by parents with their example.
  • Consequence: The approval when a behavior is performed.

If you practice this method, instead of yelling to your child because it didn’t picked up its clothes, for example, in that moment pick up yours and invite the kid to tidy together (without doing the kid’s part). If the child did so, or even if it moved closer the clothes where they should be, tell him/her that he/she did a good job, hug and explain exactly why you’re praising him/her. If it didn’t follow the order, set the consequence established before like, do not watch television, do not use that toy, etc.

Try it, the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with gall”.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version: Here

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