Yelling at kids has gotten a bad rap in the parenting world recently – and with good reason.
There are plenty of articles (like this one from Kidlutions) telling us why we shouldn’t yell at our kids. There are harmful effects for the present and the future when we routinely yell at our children.
There are also plenty of articles (like this one from Amanda at Dirt & Boogers) about how to stop yelling at your kids. I’ve seen a lot of articles like this, giving tips, finding your triggers, exploring alternate means of communicating. There is a TON of information out there about why yelling at kids is bad, and how to stop.
This is great! I totally agree that yelling at kids does not make for a good family atmosphere, and it’s definitely not the more effective method of communication between any two human beings.
That being said, I have another reason why you shouldn’t yell at your kids. I would also like to propose that there is an appropriate time and place to yell. And the two go hand in hand.
Growing up, my parents didn’t yell at me. I hardly ever remember them even raising their voices in the slightest. They didn’t have to, because they had taught me to be obedient. I listened to them, out of love and a desire to obey, and also because I knew that there would be consequences if I didn’t.
But there was one circumstance under which they would yell at me.
When I was in danger.
(bear with me, I’m about to use some psychology terms)
You see, the human body reacts to loud sounds with a startle response. This is the beginning of the fight-or-flight response brought on by your sympathetic nervous system recognizing a potential threat.
When we yell at a child, their body automatically prepares to face danger. What happens if we yell at our child regularly? For the first while, they experience chronic stress. The sympathetic nervous system elevates heart rate, slows down digestion, and floods the brain with hormones that stimulate and energize the body. When this continues going on for longer than the body needs, it can lead to heart problems, digestive problems, sleep disruption, and issues with memory and learning.
But eventually, they become desensitized to the your yelling. This means that yelling at your child no longer elicits an immediate response. If you’re a chronic yeller, I’m sure you’ve seen this in your home.
So, all of that scientific jargon to say:
You should only yell at your kids if they are in danger.
Sometimes, you need them to stop – immediately. When your child is running into the road to fetch a ball, YELL. If you’re changing a diaper and you see Little Bobby about to bite Little Suzie, YELL. If you see your child putting their hand towards a hot stove burner and you aren’t close enough to snatch it away, YELL.
Yelling warns the child of danger, and evokes an immediate reaction.
If you yell at them regularly, they won’t know the difference between a routine lecture and an imminent threat.
When you save your yelling for times when there is a real hazard, your children will learn to trust that. They won’t ignore it.