In my experience, raising, caring for and teaching children is absolutely wonderful but it is also incredibly hard work. Whilst children are navigating their understanding of the world, their own ability to communicate, their emotions and even hormones it takes a lot of patience as adults to stay in control of our own emotions and not get cross. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of shouting at kids when they misbehave, don’t listen etc…but is this ever OK? Should you really be shouting at your kids?
Before you roll your eyes expecting a patronising post about how I’ve never raised my voice at my kids, that’s not the case. However, I wish I hadn’t shouted and I don’t believe shouting at them has ever done any good.
There’s only one reason that I believe you should shout at/to your kids and that’s danger, if they are in danger of being hurt or about to hurt someone else. For example, shouting ‘Stop’ when a child hasn’t realised they are about to step backwards into a busy road, or when you see your child’s argument has escalated and they are about to hurt someone. But there’s a big difference between this type of shouting to point out danger or shock them into realising what they are doing….to shouting at a child. The latter I don’t believe is OK.
Shouting at children often doesn’t have the effect you are after.
If a child is finding it difficult to control their emotions, shouting at them isn’t going to calm them down. And in fact, it is probably going to make it ten times worst. Children are often wanting and hoping for a grown-up to show them that they are able to help them with their emotions, that they are present, there and able to weather the storm they are feeling for them.
If instead of anger, you respond with a calm, matter of fact manner (and I know this is VERY hard in the moment) in my experience, it can do wonders to de escalate many children’s emotions and calm them down. Responding with calmness changes the atmosphere, slows everything down. It shows them you care, you can help, they can come to you with their problems and it also gives them the tools to respond with calmness themselves when faced with aggression by others. Whilst just being calm might not work for every situation, shouting won’t either.
What about those children that shouting seems to work on?
For some children, shouting at them to tell them off might look like it works..they do something wrong, you shout at them, they are quiet and may never do it again. But, just because the child isn’t shouting back or visibly upset, doesn’t mean that shouting is ok and hasn’t had a negative effect. They are likely to feel very upset from being shouted at and understandably so. If as adults we were shouted at for doing something wrong at work, we may feel demoralised, embarrassed, upset and even angry. By shouting at them not only are you showing them you aren’t in control of your own emotions, teaching them not to show their own emotions and internalise their feelings, but you are modelling to them that shouting is a valid way of dealing with situations- something that they may copy.
Children might not fully understand why you are shouting at them.
Lastly, one thing I’ve learnt is that many children don’t actually know why you are shouting at them. Either because the reason you are shouting isn’t really because of what they have just done, but because of a build up of lots of little things before that one incident that has caused you to loose your temper. Or because they are so stressed and upset from the confrontation that they can’t think straight. So if this is the case, not only has this upset the child and you but they don’t understanding what they have done that they shouldn’t do again!
Want to help your child to understand their emotions? Have a read of our recommended resources (books and toys) for helping young children to develop emotional understanding here