“My daughter was 2.5 when my son was born and I had awful postpartum rage after his birth. I’m so scared that I’ve passed the rage onto her from him seeing me struggle. She has such a hard time when she gets frustrated. It happens very quickly and then she just explodes. Screaming, yelling, crying, and throwing things. I feel so guilty and I’m beating myself up because I can’t help but feel like it’s all my fault…”
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. So the big question today is, is yelling an effective parenting strategy?
When I struggled with postpartum anxiety, rage was one of the symptoms that greatly affected my motherhood. I learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t working for me and that it was actually triggering negative behaviours in my kids. 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 any damage done can be healed.
I don’t want you to have to go through what I went through for years so I have decided to write a mini blog post series so I can inform you and offer you tools and strategies to help you be the best mom you can be.
The Series will cover:
There is no shame in yelling. When we know better and have the right tools we can do better. 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 and responds with kindness and compassion.
Is yelling an effective parenting strategy?
The short answer is no. Yelling is not an effective parenting strategy. Now let me first just clarify that when we say yelling at your child we aren’t talking about raising your voice to get their attention and keep them safe such as, “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot!” Instead we are talking about losing your cool and yelling at your child.
The 4 Main Reasons Moms Yell:
- They are just overwhelmed by life stressors and don’t have the energy or patience to respond well.
- She is triggered by one of their child’s personality traits such as strong willed, spirited, or perfectionism.
3. The mom is triggered by her physiological needs such as being tired, hungry, hot, cold, etc.
4. She is just really overwhelmed by all the demands and expectations of motherhood.
When I used to yell often, I noticed that my children were being conditioned to my yelling. They wouldn’t do what I asked until I raised my voice. They learned that I wasn’t truly serious until I started yelling.
One of my daughters started to realize that I was out of control when I was yelling and she would laugh and ignore me which of course made me more mad. And was likely her way of coping with my distress.
I know that you as a mom do not want to yell at your children. You just want them to listen the first time they ask and you want them to respect you as an authority figure. I also know that there are so many better ways to mother our children than to yell.
Let’s explore 4 reasons why yelling is not an effective parenting strategy.
#1. Yelling is a short term solution
Although yelling sometimes seems like it works in the moment, because our kids sometimes listen when we yell, it is only a short term solution. We know deep down that yelling doesn’t feel good for either us or our child and that it isn’t how we want to parent. Like I mentioned above, yelling conditions our children in a couple ways.
1) Our children submit out of fear and not respect and
2) they learn they don’t have to listen until you yell because you aren’t really serious the first few times you say something.
According to Harvard professor Joseph Shrand, “kids are actually going to listen less when you yell at them” (Joseph Shrand, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School).
Instead, we want to condition ourselves to respond with kindness and compassion and for our children to respect us and listen the first time we ask.
#2. Yelling is not good modelling
Mamas, the time we actually raise our children is so short and precious. We don’t want to let those teachable moments pass us by because we may blink and find ourselves with teenagers or young adults in which a foundation has already been laid.
“Yelling makes kids’ behaviour worse – You might think that yelling at your kids can solve a problem in the moment or can prevent them from behaving badly in the future. But research shows that it could actually be creating more issues in the long run. Yelling can actually make your child’s behavior even worse. Which means you have to yell more to try to correct it. And the cycle continues” (Healthline.com).
Our children learn by watching us. Why do you think young children spend so much time playing “house” or ‘mom and baby’? They are rehearsing what they have modeled to them. As your child observes you throughout your day and and with each interaction you have with your child, your child is building new neural connections in their brain. They are creating their understanding of the world, how to get their needs met, and how to live within our social constructs.
When we embrace becoming a wholehearted mom we are aware of the beautiful opportunity we have to raise the next generation and change the world for future generations to come. This means we need to model kindness, love, wisdom, compassion, humility, and empathy.
#3 Yelling causes fear not respect
When we yell at our children they listen because they are fearful.
“Yelling generates fear, not respect, so yelling at your child may actually be a form of bullying (WebMD)
They listen because you are a threatening presence. And they are not listening because they respect you. When a child respects their mom they feel admiration for her and regard her feelings, wishes, and authority as mom. We lose those things when we yell. We harm the attachment we’ve created with our child. I know I don’t want my child to be fearful of me. I want to be able to instead respond with kindness and firm, loving boundaries.
When we yell we are also often shaming our children. Brene Brown describes shame as, “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” The last thing on earth a mom wants her child to feel is flawed and unworthy of love. And unfortunately, when we yell we are often giving off that message. Especially if we are yelling over something as small as spilled milk.
#4 Yelling puts ours kids into yuck
“As soon as you begin to raise your voice, you activate their limbic system” (WebMD). When we yell at our child we send signals to their amygdala that there is danger. The amygdala then triggers the stress response system. The stress response system is the part of our brain and body that causes the fight, flight, freeze response.
This is why your child may yell back, hit, start crying, and run away to their room. These are all signs of the fight, flight, freeze response. We call this experience of our body being flooded with stress hormones yuck. Being in yuck.
When we are in yuck we are not able to access the thinking part of our brain. Therefore people in yuck are not able to respond well. This includes us too, not just our kids.
Bringing it all together…
As you can see, yelling is not an effective parenting strategy. I want you to know that there are better parenting strategies out there for getting our kids to listen without yelling. And there are tools and strategies we as moms can use to keep us in a calm state (out of yuck) so we can respond well. So you might be asking… How do I stop yelling at my child and what do I do if I do yell? Check out the next blog post in our series to learn more!
Action step: when you start to feel frustrated, irritated, and like you might yell, ask yourself: am I being a good role model? Am I respecting my child? And am I in yuck? Then take a deep breath! #inthistogether.
Always here for you,
Sarah Reckman (@thewholehearted.mom)
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