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Consider Not Yelling at Your Child

Updated: Apr 23

BY Steve McGill

I pulled into the local Walmart parking lot. As I approached the store, I heard some yelling. I saw a mother angrily attempting to get her child out of the car seat. "I'm so f-ing sick and tired of you doing that!" she screamed. "Put that f-ing thing down!"

Unwilling to watch more, I turned my head and sped up. Once again, I wondered how a parent, or any adult, could treat a child that way. I thought, Is it that difficult to remind oneself that even though frustration sometimes sets in, the consequences of giving in to the desire to lash out at a child are not worth whatever sense of relief accompanies the screaming? When we yell at our children, we plant a seed of anger in them. That seed may produce quickly, or it may take years . . . sometimes decades to grow, but it will grow, and the result is never good. Conversely, when we deny the desire to scream at our children, we show our love for them through patience.

If you have allowed yourself to scream at your children, you know that, like so many other things in life, the first time is difficult, but eventually, it comes naturally and without effort or forethought. It becomes a habit, much like smoking, excessive drinking, pornography, etc. You wish you wouldn't smoke; you wish you wouldn't drink; you wish you wouldn't look at pornographic material, but you do it anyway. And the longer you do it, the more difficult it is to reverse the cycle. Your child annoys you, and without thinking about it, you scream at them. You don't want to scream at them, but you do it anyway. Reversing this destructive habit requires two things: First, serious consideration of the consequences of our outbursts toward our children, and second, serious consideration of the benefits of stopping.

When we yell at our children, they tend to take it seriously. At first, they feel badly that they must have done something wrong or that they must be stupid. But those reactions morph over time into something more akin to deep self-ridicule and self-hatred. These produce different outcomes in different people based upon a myriad of factors, but suffice it to say, repeatedly being at the end of the verbal whipping stick cannot and will not produce loving human beings. Instead, it makes for angry, depressed, violent, and generally unhappy people. And much like our unwillingness to consider the eventual natural consequences of other bad habits, we tend to tell ourselves that we'll change . . . someday when our children don't annoy us. Someday when we aren't so busy. Someday when . . . you get the picture. But someday comes so often when it's too late.

If we DO choose to make the change, the benefits are priceless. First, by making a serious decision to no longer yell at your children, you set a kind of reversal of negative consequences into motion. Over time, the chances will lessen that your child will fall into self-loathing. And apologizing to your children is a good start. "I'm sorry that I've yelled at you so much. Because it's hurtful and I love you, I will think about my reactions instead of giving in to my first reaction. I will still expect you to obey and respect me, but there is no excuse for screaming and yelling." Then keep your promise. Over time, your natural desire to yell will be quelled because you've developed a new habit of contemplating before reacting. In addition to this reversal of negative consequences, love and trust deepen. Your child will come to love and trust you more, and equally important, they will grow to learn to accept themselves as human beings with intrinsic value.

Show your children that you love them by being patient with them. Speak to them in love, not anger. Either way, they will remember.

Proverbs 15:1

A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Colossians 3:21

Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Ephesians 4:32

And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

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