Boiling Point

Have you ever wondered what your words sound like to your child?

“I am sorry,” The little girl said to her mom. “I can’t believe you did this again!” The mother screamed angrily. “You know those markers will not come off no matter how hard we scrub.” The child looked down at her feet. “I should make you scrub the walls instead of eating dinner! Wait until your father sees this! He told you what he would do if you did this again. You never seem to listen. Go to your room and don’t come out until your father comes home!”

Yelling can help in the short term but rarely in the long term. Parents who yell and shout at their children are teaching communication skills that can last a lifetime.  These patterns often lead to long term problems with relationships and the ability to handle future negative emotions and failure.  It many ways the anger, reactivity and demeaning comments that yelling represent teach your child behaviors you do not intend to teach and prevent the development of a healthy resiliency built on openness and optimism rather than shutting down and hopelessness.

Parents who are aware of the negative effects of physical or corporal punishment (spanking) are now resorting to yelling, screaming or shouting. More than 75% of all parents report yelling at their child at least once a month. Raising your voice in moderation to attract the attention of your child is reasonable if it is not associated with anger or threatening tones, words or intent.

The ability to recognize and respond to one’s own emotions is called emotional competency. It is one of the fundamental developmental skills a child needs to acquire during early childhood. The ability to respond to anger in a controlled way supports relationship building and problem solving.

Parents who take a child’s behavior personally are more prone to frustration and becoming overwhelmed to a point where yelling and screaming occur. Yelling not only disrupts a teaching moment but it also causes a downward spiral in the relationship you have with your child and fuels emotional reactions that prevent and hinder problem solving for both you and your child.

Be on the lookout for signs of a blow-up. Avoid situations where time constraints place added pressure on you or your child. This is when yelling is most likely to occur. Another cause is taking your child’s comments or behaviors personally. This often causes a parent to become overwhelmed, upset and even threatened by their child’s behavior. The end result is yelling and often a personal attack on the child where the child is belittled or blamed for the feelings the parent is experiencing.

Try some relaxation strategies and take a step back if you are reaching your boiling point. If issues of safety are not present then wait to respond or an emotional reaction called emotional flooding will take place. In this situation increasingly loud and negative verbal outbursts are exchanged between you and your child or teen as shouts and even insults elicit progressive negative thoughts, words and eventually can elicit negative actions.

Always express your feelings in a non-threatening and non-judgmental fashion and respect and recognize rather than trying to change your child’s feelings. Your child is the master of his or her own emotions and you do not have the right or ability to change them. Remember to seek calm approaches that foster mutual growth and problem solving and help prevent negative behaviors from occurring again.