“There should be no yelling in the home unless there is a fire.”
~ David O. McKay
Have you ever experienced yelling? Have you ever had anyone request to yell at you? Have you ever requested to yell at someone else? Why is it acceptable or permissible to yell at someone? Why is it acceptable for parents, children, teachers, coaches, conductors or instructors to engage in such a hostile act? Why do we consider yelling to be less demeaning or violating, than other forms of corporal punishment (e.g. spanking, switching, flogging, or caning)? Do we consider the perceivable and tangible act of spanking, switching, flogging or caning to be of greater violation? Or do we consider yelling to have less damming effect?
Many parents and professionals agree that corporal punishment has an egregious effect on those who endure it’s wrath. Moreover, yelling is a more acceptable form of punishment. No one comes into this world having a full repertoire, or perfect set, of parenting skills. A person’s range of skills and abilities will increase with time and lessons on parenting. As parents, we all have an ability to grow and spread our wings. Every parent is capable of learning new and improved ways of parenting. There are no absolutes when parenting a child, but there are absolutes when considering the various methods of discipline.
Yelling has an ability of conditioning those who are receiving or engaging in the act. It is the nature of yelling that makes it reflective of other forms of corporal punishment. The intent of corporal punishment is to deliberately and severely correct, chastise, rebuke or reprimand another. The complexity of yelling is its dichotomy of objectives. Yelling can be used as a source of rebuke and chastisement; it can be used as a source of expressing excitement, eagerness, and exuberance; and/or it can be used to draw attention to a threat, risk, and/or communicate an emergency. Let’s clarify, the yelling being addressed in this article has to do with the corrective form of discipline, punishment, or retribution.
While yelling has a positive element, yelling for the intention of discipline, chastising or mere punishment is a completely unacceptable act.
Have you ever been rebuked or punished for something you have done wrong? Did the person use yelling as a source for correcting your behavior? If so, how did you feel? Did the yelling uplift your spirit, or cause you to feel dejected, humiliated and broken? Yelling is the belittling of the soul and the very essence of the person. Yelling is seldom a singular event. People who choose to yell, frequently and repetitively use yelling as a form of conditioning another person. The conditioning is being used in order to develop obedience or compliance of another. Yelling in the corrective form is always unnecessary, excessive, and tiresome.
As a clinician, I have no reservations in saying, that yelling decays the human spirit. It breaks the essence of the person receiving the vice, and it is unbecoming of the person enacting or engaging in the tantrum. Yes, in most cases, yelling is a tantrum being propelled from one person and being received by another. Yelling is one of the most reprehensible act of abuse.
Have you ever heard the following nursery rhyme? “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
While sticks and stones may break your bones, they are repairable and mendable. As a clinician, I have seldom met a client/patient who focuses on the broken bone or the act of the physical punishment. Rather, a majority of those that I serve, focus on their personal attention and reflection on the words being used, and the intonation (the rise and fall of voice, the pitch) of those words. If I speak with a calm voice, I will most certainly be more attractive and inviting, but, if I speak with a critical and demeaning voice, I am certainly and unequivocally acting in a more repelling way.
Please understand that not all yelling is impermissible, but yelling to belittle, to disparage, to minimize or to correct as a negative source is unacceptable. As a clinician, I have no reservation in saying that yelling is one of the most egregious forms of rage. Rage occurs when we are uncontrollable, unmanageable, and an acting aggressively. We choose to use rage, when we have no other known alternatives.
Thus, it is without doubt that yelling is another form of corporal punishment. Yelling is abusive. As humans, we are all prone to failure, but do not allow your failure or moment of weakness, to be your excuse to employ yelling. If you make a mistake, unconditionally forgive yourself, and ask others to forgive you as well. Asking for forgiveness does not only empower you, but empowers others to be aware that they too can ask for forgiveness.
THE STYLES OF YELLING
There are several different styles or rationales behind yelling. Yelling may occur out of delight, surprise, pain, or excitement. What is it to yell? A yell is a loud or abrasive screech, cry, warning, threat or an expression of desire. The desire may be well intended, or it maybe full of malice, bitterness or rage. Yelling is not always a bad thing, but determining good from bad is somewhat an objective feet.
- Yelling as a Warning: may be offered as an advance notice of the possibility or probability of something occurring. We may choose to use a yell as an indicator of an impending danger, problem, and the possibility of an unpleasant situation. An example of such yelling might be: “Timmy, watch out for that car!”
- Yelling as a Scream or Plea for Help: if we are screaming or yelling for help; we may be making it easier to be found, serve as an aide to avoid an accident or a critical incident; or we maybe requiring assistance to avoid a dire event or situation. An example of such yelling might be: “Help me, I have fallen and I can’t get up!”
- Yelling as an act of Intimidation, Threat, or Violence: we have all personally or vicariously experienced yelling in an egregious way. Yelling a curse or threat at someone can prove emotionally damaging and is a form of abuse. “If you do that again, I won’t be your friend.”
- Yelling as a Punishment or Correction: yelling for discipline often occurs when parents are at his or her wits end. Parent’s often choose yelling as a resource for discipline, because it is what they know and have personally experienced. Furthermore, yelling often become a necessity for parents or couples when they feel overwhelmed, exacerbated, and when they have perceivably lost control.
Yelling rarely shows little concerns for the feelings and welfare of others. It’s harsh and abrasive and sometimes calibrated to cause harm. When yelling is not used for constructive purposes (i.e. warning someone of an impeding threat or requesting urgent assistance), it is an emotional and psychological form of abuse.
For arguments sake, what is abuse? New Oxford American Dictionary, abuse is to “treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, esp. regularly or repeatedly… use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm… (and/or to) speak in an insulting and offensive way to or about (someone).” According to New Oxford American Dictionary, yelling is another form of abuse, but sadly, I recently engaged in a conversation with a group of professionals who insisted that “yelling is an acceptable act.”
RESEARCH ON YELLING
Researchers have shown that yelling does not deescalate a hostile environment. In fact, yelling only perpetuates an undesirable situation. If we yell, we are forcing others to choose between fighting or fleeing the environment; either way, we are using negative communications and causing potential problems. According to a recent study on yelling, any form of harsh verbal communications can prove just as damaging as physical punishment. (Wang and Kenny, 2013) As parents, we are not taught of the negative consequences of discipline, especially discipline that is harsh, critical or forcible. “Parental harsh verbal discipline can have a dramatic impact on the behavioral and emotional development of adolescents.” (Wang and Kenny, 2013, p. 3)
“While parental warmth creates trust and reciprocity between parent and child (Amato, 1990), harsh verbal discipline may compromise those bonds and thus contribute to coercive processes that reinforce the child’s use of problem behaviors.” (Wang and Kenny, 2013, p. 25) Yelling does not eliminate the problem, rather it closes the door allowing for it to once again be reopened.
For children, there is an innate desire to please a parent. “Children fundamentally feel responsible for a parent’s anger towards them.” (Lewis, 2013, Online). While parents feel compelled to discipline, they all too often, carry the consequences of the discipline.
Parents seldom consider the longterm ramifications of negative discipline. When a parent yells, a child feels threatened, unsafe, worried, and afraid of his or her caregiver. Children, even older children, have a difficult time differentiating between constructive and destructive yelling. Even adults, who are frequently yelled at, will become skittish and uncertain of his or her personal safety. Yelling can have a profound physical and psychological effect. “Longterm exposure to shouting can result in fear, stress, anxiety, insomnia, developmental delays, behavioral problems, academic problems, social difficulties, emotional issues, and thwarted coping skills…” (Lewis, 2013, Online)
THE BENEFITS OF AVOIDING YELLING
If we avoid the use of yelling, we are showing respect, dignity, and honor. “We know that yelling and harsh parenting are associated with lower self-esteem for kids.” (Arky, 2013, Online) Avoiding yelling is not an indicator that we are weak and powerless, rather it is showing that we are capable of being in control. According to New Oxford American Dictionary, control is “the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.” When we are yelling, we are out of control, unmanageable, and unpredictable. When we have self-control, we are empowered to manage, direct, and lead others.
Distinguishing between yelling and a raised voice can prove challenging as well. Yelling is characteristically devised of harsh and punitive communications. A raised voice is a firm, but supportive voice. As parents, it is important to know that we can be firm, but that we do not have to engage in the act of yelling. Yelling is demeaning, hostile, and threatening. Raising your voice is condescending, whereas a firm voice can be reassuring, but directive in style.
When children or our partners are acting out, try the following:
- PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING – be certain to engage and ready to listen, giving great attention to the conversation.
- BE EMPATHETIC – try understanding the other person’s feelings, emotions, and desires.
- SPEAK CALMLY AND SOFTLY– speak with confidence, but with the absences of nervousness, agitation, or over excitement. Try to speak with a quiet, soothing, and nurturing voice.
- BE SUPPORTIVE, avoid judgmental statements – provide encouraging statements and emotional help when needed.
- BE EXPLICIT – be certain to state your desires clearly and in detail. Leave no room for confusion or doubt.
- BE AWARE OF YOUR LIMITS – if you are finding the environment particularly challenging, remove yourself from the situation. Calm yourself, by using breathing techniques, prayer, or meditation.
- BE VULNERABLE– allow your children and your partner the privilege of knowing, that also make mistakes and that you are vulnerable. Making mistakes leads you down a pathway of growth and maturation.
- ALWAYS REASSURE – children and adults often act out when feeling insecure. Be certain to reassure the worth and value of the other person; even when they are acting out. Focus on trying to remove any doubts, fears, or insecurities the other person maybe experiencing.
- EMPOWER – when we empower others, we are giving them authority or power to make choices, offer feedback, and capable of communicating.
Parents should not beat themselves up for making mistakes, but should find new ways of managing anger and frustrations. “Making the changes that you want takes time and commitment, but you can do it. Just remember that no one is perfect. You will have occasional lapses. Be kind to yourself… Minor missteps on the road to your goals are normal and okay. Resolve to recover and get back on track.” (APA, 2014, Online) As parents, we should intentionally set obtainable goals. Setting goals will help us to focus on the positive, productive, and on employing new methods of parenting.
The modern parent is bombarded with information. Information derived not only from family and friends, but the various forms of he media. The information can prove overwhelming and disingenuous. Parents should consider the authority. If you are parent or teacher trying to reach a higher standard of correction, consider meeting with a clinician to discuss your personal desires for growth and maturation.
As parents, it is always prudent to use language that is uplifting, encouraging, and supportive. Even when you are correcting a child, be certain to offer supportive and reassuring statements. Be certain to create a healthy level of expectation. Children should be expected to pick up their toys or complete an assignment. Encouraging your child begins by the words with which we choose to communicate: “You are welcome to join your friends outside, once you have completed your homework.” Be attentive to the words with you choose to communicate.
Parents and teachers need to reassure the goodness within every child. When we purposefully focus our attention on the good of the child, we reengaging our minds on the positive aspects of that child. Furthermore, it reminds the child that they are safe, secure, worthy, capable, valued, and loved. Always be certain to offer the gift of unconditional love and reassurance. It will enrich both of your lives.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.
American Psychological Association, APA (2014) Making lifestyle changes that last. Author. Retrieved January 4, 2014 from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx
Arky, B. (2013) Stop yelling. Child Mind Institute Retrieved January 10, 2014, from http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2012-3-13-stop-yelling
Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live, Bloomington, IN: IUniverse
Wang, M.T. & Kenny, S. (2014) Longitudinal links between fathers’ and mothers’ harsh verbal discipline and adolescents’ conduct problems and depressive symptoms. Child Development Retrieved on January 19, 2014 from http://cbsphilly.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/wang-2012-385.pdf
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA