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…
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!