Clinica Sierra Vista WIC


by Michael E. Kirk, PhD
Dr. Kirk is a local clinical psychologist, father and grandfather, who specializes in working with families, adolescents, and children.

A mother states, “I completely understand getting frustrated with your child. It gets stressful, because the kids don’t listen until you yell. What person wouldn’t get upset and frustrated?” A mother’s interaction with a child sends a very clear message to the child about how she feels about him. It is known that harsh-speaking mothers who handle their infant or young child roughly will observe increased aggression and defiance as these children enter kindergarten and thereafter. Ongoing conflict between mother and child is known to lead to conduct problems with a child, wherein a child aggressively disregards the rights of others as he does as he wishes. In a recent study, 98% of the parents with 7-year-olds admitted to shouting, yelling, or screaming at their child.

Mothers who become angry and yell at their children certainly put these children at risk for conduct problems later in life. That makes sense when you consider the problem, because this is really the Bullying Syndrome. The parent bullies the child; the child eventually bullies the parents and then others. Since parenting is really about teaching your child how to behave, and since children learn quite well through observation, you get what you give.

When parents do this, they are subjecting their child to emotional abuse. This can be just as harmful as physical abuse, because it results in a child feeling unloved. Yelling and other forms of emotional abuse are a serious predictor of mental illness. Yelling is a useless, ineffective tactic. Parents who use disciplinary tactics such as being overly-demanding, loud, and yell at their children are more likely to have children who exhibit verbal and physical aggression, social withdrawal, and exhibit a distinct lack of positive social behaviors. This leads to a vengeful youngster who has no empathy, and creates a child who does not have a sense of how it feels when others are feeling hurt.

In place of yelling at your child, you can adopt a new strategy. Whispering to you child or asking him a question about what he might do can often lead to improved compliance. Also, problem-solving with him at a later time about what you might have been upset about can allow the child to develop critical thinking skills in being aware of others and how to help them the next time. For example:

Mother: Why do you figure I might have been upset earlier, son?

Son: I don’t know.

Mother:  Remember when we were leaving Grandmother’s?

Son: All the toys on the floor?

Mother: What could you have done to make me feel better?

Son: Uh…put all the toys away before we left?

Mother: Right! You are one smart young man!

By encouraging positive behavior with your child, you will have no need to yell. Speak with your child as you go over to Grandmother’s again and ask him: What was it you said you could do to make me happy when leaving Grandmother’s? He knows and will tell you. As you prepare to leave Grandmother’s, ask him with a smile: What was it you need to do for me? He will immediately remember your positive interactions with him and complete his task. Remember to always use positive speech with your child when telling him what to do. “Walk,” rather than yell, “Stop Running!” Then, follow-up with a quick statement about how happy you are with your son’s behavior. He will feel good about himself and you.

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Tags: Featured Story, Preschool, Toddler, Tweens & Teens

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