Why do parents yell at their children? The answer to that question is that emotion is taking the parent’s brain away from rational control.
While there are a few exceptions, most children do not purposely do things wrong. They forget, they are impulsive or they don’t understand the communication. The parents become frustrated for the umpteenth time and start yelling. But, believe it or not, yelling at home can negatively affect the child’s performance in school.
The first way it affects children’s performance in school is that they tend to not listen well to the teachers. Why? At home a parent says something and says it again and again. Finally the parent yells at the child, and the child does what the parents want. I have watched parents and often count how many times a parent says something to a child until there is yelling. It can often be ten times. A teacher usually says things a few times but then moves on and the child who has been waiting for the yelling is left behind in the lesson.
The second way parental yelling can become a problem is that it can be viewed by the child as a personal attack, and can be belittling. This affects the child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Evidence indicates that the lack of these two important traits can make the child have difficulty learning. It is very difficult to change perceptions once they are formed in the child’s brain.
The third way this affects the child at school is the fact that if yelling is common-place at home, the child mimics it at school. This affects the child’s ability to interact in a socially appropriate manner with other children and teachers in school. It affects the child’s ability to make friends at school. Children whose parents don’t yell at home are put off by kids that yell at them in school.
In a recent book, "Brainstorms: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain" by Daniel J. Siegle, the author states that when anger starts, the emotion spikes and it takes ninety seconds for the emotion to begin to get back into control. This is a valuable piece of information for anyone dealing with others, be it child or adult.
If you are the one who is angry or frustrated, you need to turn away and look at your watch for ninety seconds (probably taking deep breaths). If your child is angry, you should do the same thing to give the child time to calm down. It is good to teach this to your child before you have a situation and to practice it yourself.
I remember my mother telling me when she saw my face begin to turn red and my breathing becoming huffy, “Tommy, count to ten before you talk!” Then she always followed with, “Remember, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it!” Of course that would make me madder, but I did what she said. This advice has served me well all my life because she taught me to think before acting impulsively. I learned that I had to wait and think before I responded. This waiting time allows the rational part of my brain to override the emotional part of my brain.
You can gather statistics covering how often you yell at your children. Keep a log for a week of how many times a day you yell and what triggered the behavior of your child. Set a goal to reduce the number of times you yell at your child. The next step is to train yourself to stop before you yell and evaluate what makes you want to yell. Next, you either counsel your child what to do to correct the situation, or if it is a reoccurring behavior, create an appropriate consequence. Families with serious yelling issues should seek family counseling.
Children perform better in school if their parents are not yelling and belittling them at home. Parents need to provide the appropriate discipline that encourages the child’s self-control and provide support that will give the child a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence.
Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin.