Most parents have to admit it: there was so much going on before the child was born. There was so much that you didn’t want or absolutely wanted to do … And then the next generation is born and many good intentions suddenly disappear (luckily there are other good things that you didn’t even know you needed before). This is how many mums and dads feel when it comes to “screaming”.
Very few want to scream at their child. But sometimes just so much falls on parents: stress in the job, the partner forgot to clean the dishwasher, the best friend is angry because we don’t have time for her, the buddies wonder why you can’t come bouldering anymore, the neighbor is goofy and the milk is acidic – you know what we mean – and then the last safety catches us and we shout at our child. We immediately feel sorry for this slip of verbal violence.
How Yelling Affects Your Child
Your child rolls on the floor screaming because there is soup for dinner and you stand stressed out from work with the spoon in your hand in the kitchen and become a screaming kite. Stress and anger went through with you – after all, you are only human! But you realize yourself: It was just too loud. Your child looks at you in shock and you immediately know that you have taken a step too far.
Many parents are familiar with this or a similar situation. And most of the time it is not only once that they become loud out of despair or helplessness and thereby injure their child. US psychologists from the University of Pittburgh have done a large study examines what happens to children when their parents shout at them. The dying summary: shouting is basically as bad as hitting. Children who are regularly screamed, insulted or belittled by their parents are more prone to depression than other children and have various problems at school.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Ming-Te Wang, who led the study. “And it is a call to parents because it goes in both directions: problem behavior among children creates a desire to practice hard verbal discipline, but this discipline can cause adolescents to adopt the same problematic behaviors.
A study published in the journal “Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy” also certifies that emotional abuse, such as screaming and insulting, can cause damage similar to physical abuse.
Screaming hurts children inside. It hurts their self-confidence and makes them feel small and worthless. The trust that should prevail between parents and children is broken. Children’s brains are still in the midst of development, making them particularly vulnerable to all forms of violence.
There is increasing evidence that verbal attacks are also changing the way the brain connects. For their development, children need parents who show appreciation and trust for them, not parents who keep them small through cries and verbal attacks. If yelling is exemplified as a form of communication, they adopt this behavior.
A study by the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School in the United States has studied the brains of people who had experienced verbal attacks from their parents in childhood and compared them to the brains of people without such a background. The researchers found significant physical differences in the parts of the brain that are responsible for processing sounds and speech.
How You Should Behave After Yelling At Your Child
So what to do now when you screamed at your child? Screaming is verbal violence, so you shouldn’t just ignore the situation and pretend you haven’t shouted at your child. Just as your child has to vouch for his mistakes, you, as the adult, must recognize your wrongdoing and act accordingly. So, we have tips on how you can best deal with such a situation.
1- Deep Breathe
When we are angry, our body switches to survival mode, the adrenaline level rises, the blood pressure rises, the breath becomes faster, the whole body tenses and we can no longer think clearly except “escape or attack”. If you notice that you are entering this stress zone, it is important to first recognize: Oh dear, I am angry/stressed and can no longer think clearly. Next, you should breathe, Breathe in and out deeply and collect your thoughts. Do nothing or say anything until you take at least four deep breaths and feel like you’ve calmed down a bit.
2- Avoid Triggers
You may have calmed down a bit, but so shortly after a stress attack, a small trigger is enough to start the stress system again. Then you easily fall back into old behavior patterns and start yelling at your child again. So don’t get involved in another discussion at all, but go straight to point three.
3- Take Responsibility
It doesn’t matter what your child did or who started it. You are the adult. You have to teach your child to take responsibility for their own wrongdoing – by doing this yourself. Apologize to your child: “I’m sorry I just yelled at you like that. I didn’t want to be so loud that my anger overwhelmed me.” Focus on your own behavior and don’t try to blame the child (“You really shouldn’t have done this” or “You were too loud”).
4- Explain your Feelings to Your Child.
It may be difficult for some of us, but it is important to be able to speak about your own feelings. Especially with children, after all, they should learn from mom and dad that they can speak openly about what they feel and think. So explain to your child that you were angry and why you were angry. There is still no room for accusations here. Help your child understand that not only what he did made you cry, but also your own emotions and feelings.
5- Please Try Again
Give you and your child the chance to start again. Say, “Okay, I’m going to try that again without screaming” or “I was so angry before that I didn’t really listen to you, would we like to start over?” When you get angry again, consciously take a break and try again later.
6- Make Up For it
If you have used verbal violence out of anger, such as saying hurtful things or imposing severe punishments, your child may feel insecure. Now it is your job to rebuild the relationship with your offspring. You often lose your nerve as a parent because you have lost touch with your child. So look for points of contact and consciously spend time with your child by listening to them and listening to what they say.
7- Find The Trigger
Do not try to sweep what happened under the carpet, but – when you have calmed down – take your time to think about the situation. What exactly makes you angry? Most of the time we are not stressed because of our children, but because of life situations surrounding us. A defiant child is only the last drop that overflows the barrel, but not actually the reason for our high-stress level.
8- Get Help
Do you get angry more often and find it difficult to put your anger down? If you feel that you are no longer able to cope with your anger or the underlying stress, it might be appropriate to seek help from outside. Because that’s exactly what makes good parents: They do everything for the good of their child.