The Effects of Yelling at Your Child

As a parent I haven’t found a decent explanation of the effects of yelling at my child. There are, of course, studies that illustrate various negative effects yet they seem to miss the point.

How exactly am I impacting my child when I yell?

In short, when you yell, your child’s flight/fight response is activated, commonly called stress, best known for keeping us alive in threatening situations.

Yet, yelling isn’t life threatening. But a child’s brain doesn’t know this and can’t override the stress response because the part of the brain that has this capability (prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed yet.

And if a child spends a significant time in the stress mode they don’t effectively learn how to override it in situations where a flight/fight response is unnecessary.

This may not seem like a negative effect and well, it may not end up as aggression or anxiety/depression (as suggested in studies). But what is the effect of yelling on children before we see a real problem?

Ultimately, the core effect of this is that they use fear to drive their decisions and actions.

On the outside it may not look like traditional fear but on the inside fear becomes the underlying motivator.

Making decisions, like not saying “no” (peer pressure, bullying) to choosing relationship partners, is made from a place of fear.

In its most nuanced form, it could look like this in an older child or teenager, someone makes a comment (it can be a small criticism or a joke on social media) and this “disapproval” from another will ignite a prolonged stress response.

From this state, they could take action (rooted in fear) like responding aggressively towards others or themselves.

If the capability was there to override the initial sting (the stress response) of the comment and arrive at a more calm state, they would be better able to view all options on how to respond and make a decision that serves them and others.

Fear, then, becomes the “go-to” response for their life. This can then lead to other problems, which the studies can more effectively measure, like aggression, anxiety/depression or mental/physical illness.

Fear has become the necessary response in unnecessary situations.

There is no study that will show you exactly the effect of yelling at your child because there are other factors at play as well – other stress factors in their environment. Yelling is just one that gets added to the mix that could decrease the opportunity for your child to learn how to override stress effectively.

Yelling in and of itself doesn’t lead to severe problems. But like anything, if you go to the gym three times a week over years or if you yell three times a week over years, yes there’ll eventually be a visible effect.

One response to “The Effects of Yelling at Your Child”

  1. […] probably disagree by listing the studies that show detrimental effects to children. Studies are not facts. If they were then everyone would have the same outcome from having parents who […]

%d bloggers like this: