Stop Yelling Daddy! (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I shared my thoughts & feelings (including guilt) about yelling at my children. Yelling has always seemed like an inferior way to handle a situation with my boys, unless they are in immediate danger.

Now, author Mark Brady, Ph.D., reveals that yelling at our kids goes way beyond parental guilt and hurt feelings. In his book, A Father’s Book of Listening: Essential Practices for Truly Loving Our Children, he explains that yelling can cause long-term emotional damage, and it can negatively affect brain development.

“If you’re a parent who attempts to control, reprimand, discipline or get your kids’ attention by screaming at them, psychologist Sarah Radcliff suggests this is a negative parenting pattern that you don’t want to continue. Whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not, research shows that screaming parents cause their children considerable harm.

A study in a 2001 Journal of American Psychiatry agrees: emotional abuse was more predictive of mental illness than either physical or sexual abuse!”

This came as a shock to me. But this next part is just plain scary…

“Screaming at children significantly impairs their brain development. Dr. Allan Shore, at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, explains that a number of times, all through development, children’s brains undergo massive pruning — as much as 50% of the brain’s 200 billion neurons. And which brain structures ultimately receive the bulk of that pruning has great impact on development.

If you scream at your children, you repeatedly activate structures in the limbic system like the amygdala and the hippocampus — structures that regulate “flight or fight” reactions. Repeated activation tells the brain that the environment is not safe, thus a maximum amount of interconnecting neurons in these areas must remain intact.

Because pruning has to happen, neurons will be pruned from structures like the frontal cortex where higher-order functions tend to be regulated. Thus, screaming at your kids works to impair their intellectual and emotional development…”

This information has helped me be more mindful about yelling at my boys. It seems the stakes are much higher than I thought. It is difficult though. Realistically, I know that sometimes I’m going to raise my voice. Like most parents I’m exhausted, overworked and stressed in other words, I’m out of balance.

But for my kids’ sake, I need to keep my cool when I’m feeling bombarded by whining, tantrums, harping, freaking out, destructive behavior and other nasty things that healthy 2 & 4-year olds have a tendency to do. I’m not saying to let the kids rule the home. I’m just suggesting that there are other ways to deal with them. Ways that don’t involve long-term damage.

And remember, you are not alone…

Related posts:
How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 1

How to Retrain the Reactive Brain, Part 2

An Interview with Mark Brady: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Equal Rights for Kids. Part 2: Don’t Hit!

Family Blogs

13 Replies to “Stop Yelling Daddy! (Part 2)”

  1. This information does make me take pause… there have been times in the past where I have had to walk away so that I would not yell. It is good to know and imoprtant to point out the dangers to yelling, as I have found that oonce started it is sometimes hard to stop and get back on a level keel until you walk away.

  2. I have started doing that, too. If I feel unable to chill out, I let everybody know I’m taking a minute to calm down. Then I leave the room.

    The power to remove ourselves from ANY volatile situation is one that may save us a lot of heartache.


  3. Thank you for backing this up with research. It helps make the point that effective parenting is essential, and calm parenting is worth the effort. Remember, it’s not about having the last word; it’s about having the lasting word.

  4. easy to say… hard to do. For me, any way. But it makes sense, and the research backs it up. I hope it’s not too late for me to reign in my vocal chords.

  5. Reading this article made me really stop and think about what I do from time to time. I know that I want to STOP YELLING because I don’t want to damage to the most precious blessing that I have ever received. Thank you for writing and posting this article, because I know it will change the way I deal with my kids AS OF THIS MOMENT ON!!!! I love my little boy way too much.

  6. I have twins that are not 2 years yet and I have trouble not yelling when it gets frustrating.. is the damage already done.?. I am really trying to control this.. I need advice… I cry And feel like the worst parent when i do this.. I believe it stems from my past childhood..

    1. @ Duke: Things are not as hopeless as they may seem. It can be incredibly hard to retrain our brain. I have found that how we were treated as children has a great impact on our ability to control ourselves when we’re frustrated. If you were yelled at or hit as a kid, this may be a big contributor as to why you have such trouble avoiding yelling.

      What I’ve found is that worrying about how much damage I may have done only makes me feel bad about myself. It won’t change the fact that I’ve yelled. We have a choice regarding how we act tomorrow. We have a choice whether or not we apologize to our kids if we yell, and whether or not we explain that our behavior was not the best choice.

      How many times do you find yourself yelling at the kids each week? Are there times when you’re able to avoid yelling? If so, what are you doing that’s allowing you to alter your behavior?

      Hang in there.


  7. Hey, can I just say, CHAMPION EFFORT to actually processing so thoughtfully and sharing these things, when (God knows) it is SO HARD in the midst of the stressful life (you so accurately describe and we are all living versions of).
    This time of life, when we have small kids, are building a career, might not have two full incomes to keep things afloat … man they are HARD. And time is so precious. So, I appreciate that you squeeze some time out of everything else for your ponderings
    C (in Australia)

  8. ps can you make my name just Caroline? (autofill put the surname in) and obviously not post this comment!

  9. I never realized the amount of damage I have been doing, I must change my ways before it is too late thank you for this vital information

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