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Can yelling at my child be harmful?

Mama yelling causes harm

“Please help, my rage has taken over. As soon as I am flustered or overwhelmed I start yelling at my child and saying hurtful things. He is taking the brunt of my actions and I feel so guilty. He is sensitive and emotional with confidence issues, so I know I’m doing harm to him. How can I control my rage?”

Yelling Mom Blog Post Series

When I read quotes like this from struggling moms I just want to reach out through the screen and give them a hug. Motherhood is hard. Parenting is hard. It is a long journey of very beautiful moments and moments of pain. 

And, unfortunately for many mothers when we get triggered we yell. It feels like it just happens. Like we aren’t in control. And the moment it comes out we know it didn’t help the situation. We know it’s not what’s best for our kids. And it isn’t how we want to be as mothers. But we just can’t stop. We don’t know where to even begin or how to parent differently. 

When I struggled with postpartum anxiety, rage was one of the symptoms that greatly affected my motherhood. And I am still working on undoing the damage that was done during those years. But, I also know there is hope. That we can make changes and that the damage done can be healed. 

I don’t want other moms to have to go through what I went through for years so I have decided to write a mini blog post series on anger and yelling and tips and tools on how we can take some small steps as moms in the right direction.

The Series on yelling will cover:

The Series will cover 

I truly hope that you find something helpful within this series. We have the privilege of raising the next generation and with that comes the responsibility and opportunity to raise a generation who is skilled at emotion regulation skills and responds with kindness and compassion.

Can Yelling At My Child Be Harmful?

Today’s topic is about harm and the impact of yelling at our children. Now before we dive in I would first like to ask… have you ever been yelled at and thought it was a positive experience? I am guessing the answer is no. The problem is, that yelling never feels good for anyone and actually triggers our stress response system

So to answer the question, can yelling at my child be harmful… the answer is yes. And not just because it makes them sad or cry. Yelling actually affects a child on a deep emotional and physiological level. 

New research suggests that yelling at kids can be just as harmful as hitting them; in the two-year study, effects from harsh physical and verbal discipline were found to be frighteningly similar. A child who is yelled at is more likely to exhibit problem behavior, thereby eliciting more yelling. It’s a sad cycle” (Webmd Parenting). 

can yelling cause your child harm?

Here are the top 4 reasons why yelling at your child may be harmful:

#1. Yelling changes the way a child’s brain develops

Did you know that yelling actually changes the way our children’s brains develop?  Human’s brains tend to process negative information and events more quickly and thoroughly than positive ones as a survival mechanism. This means that when a young brain is exposed to yelling it goes into a stress state which can be harmful for a young child if it happens often and is not met with quick resolution, and connection. 

According to a study that compared brain MRI scans of people who had a history of parental verbal abuse in childhood with scans of those who did not have a history of abuse. They found a noticeable physical difference in the parts of the brain responsible for processing sounds and language.

#2. Yelling triggers the stress response system

Did you know that yelling generates fear, not respect? A child is submitting out of fear and stress not out of respect for your authority. As I mentioned above, yelling puts a child’s brain and body into a stress state because it triggers the stress response system

The activation of this stress response system causes the body to be flooded with stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Unfortunately, these stress hormones can start to become harmful to children’s little bodies when flooded over and over again. Research tells us that experiencing stress as a child can have long-term impacts on physical health. 

A different study published in the Journal of Child Development showed that children who grew up in homes that consistently yelled were more likely to have anxiety, depression, stress and other emotional issues–similar to the effects of children who are spanked frequently. 

I don’t know about you but all this research makes me feel like I have big parenting shoes to fill. It also sometimes makes me anxious thinking, “I hope I don’t screw it up”. I want you to know that there is also a ton of research on 1) how to not yell and 2) how to help their little brains if yelling does happen, using connection, how to repair the relationship, and prevent lasting damage.

#3. Yelling hurts a child’s self-esteem

If you’ve ever been yelled at I’m pretty sure you are well aware that it doesn’t feel good. In fact it makes you feel very small and sometimes degraded, belittled, or shamed. Kids feel that too! Yelling can make kids feel alienated, devalued, and distant as you often cut off connection when you yell. And I can’t even express how important attachment and connection is to a child’s growth and development. Yelling also scares children and makes them feel insecure

Because our children don’t feel respected or heard when we yell they quickly learn that aggression (physically and verbally) is how you are heard. And we start to see similar behaviours emerge from our children. 

Let’s talk about shame for a minute. According to Brene Brown she defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. Ouch! You wanna know what… that is exactly the message we are sending when we yell at our children, whether it is intended or not.

#4. Yelling can become abusive & have long term effects

I want to clarify that there is a difference between yelling and verbal abuse. Both have the potential to cause significant harm to your child both emotionally and physically. However, the risk of harm is way higher for verbal (emotional) abuse.

Yelling causes the most harm when it is accompanied by hurtful words”.

Emotional abuse is when you aren’t just yelling at your kid to clean their room or stop hitting their sibling but you are instead being mean such as belittling, insulting, and degrading your child. I know deep down that no parent ever intends to act that way. And there are so many paths that may lead a parent down that road. Just know I am here for you and there is help and services available!  

In addition to children feeling hurt, scared, or sad when their parents yell at them, verbal abuse has the ability to cause deeper psychological issues that carry into adulthood (Healthline).

There’s more to this…

I know that it sounds like a lot of negative information. I’m not trying to be a ‘Debbie Downer’. But as motivation for change, I do want you to know how harmful yelling at our children can be. And don’t worry, the information doesn’t stop there.

Over the next couple of weeks we are going to learn lots of tools and resources for how you can manage your anger and parent without yelling, most of the time. (let’s be honest, no one’s perfect) I could have put this all into one super long blog post. However I know that I’m talking to really busy mom’s, so I decided to make it a series of bite-size chunks. This way it’s easier for you to consume and take action.

Action step: start to become more aware of your yelling. Remind yourself when you want to yell that it is actually harmful to your child. #inthistogether.

Always here for you


Sarah Reckman (

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