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Yelling at Your Kids Changes Who They Are

By HERWriter Blogger
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kids are changed when parents yell at them Yulia Gapeenko/PhotoSpin

"When you argue in front of your children you change who they are." Dr. Phil McGraw (now of Dr. Phil fame) said this during one of his regularly scheduled appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show years ago.

It is sure to be one of the most quoted one liners that he has ever uttered (and he has many). While he was talking about parents yelling at each other, it can also hold true for parents yelling at their kids, for that too changes who they are.

Expressing anger is a natural human inclination. No one is calm, placid, or happy all the time. But how, when, and where a parent (especially parents of very young kids) releases those angry feelings can have a huge effect on the psyches of their children.

In a Yahoo.com article, the coauthor of When Anger Hurts Your Kids, psychologist Matthew McKay, Ph.D., said that dealing with excessive anger can undermine a child's ability to adapt well to the world around him/her.

McKay, who is also a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, went on to say,"studies have shown that parents who express a lot of anger in front of their kids end up with less empathetic children. These kids are more aggressive and more depressed than peers from calmer families, and they perform worse in school."

The younger the child, the more harmful regular outbursts of anger can be. These outbursts can make the child feel unstable and unsafe. Since a young child's world is so small, an angry eruption can cause a reaction that feel like his/her entire universe is being shaken.

But parents who have yelled at and/or in front of their children are not alone. Most parents will fall victim to this less than perfect behavior at least once or twice while their kids are young.

Experts say that an occasional outburst is not great, but does far less damage than regular anger issues. In fact, some experts say that letting kids see their parent lose their temper can be a good teach tool, if the parent can go back and use it as such.

Add a Comment4 Comments


Susan, I love that last line. Classic.

Marielaina Perrone DDS

October 11, 2012 - 2:26pm
HERWriter Guide

It has been said that "yelling is the new spanking" - with parents opting to raise their voices, rather than their hands.

I disagree with any kind of spanking - we have never spanked any of our children - but I agree that yelling at kids/raising voices - however you want to term it, is a horrible thing. I have been guilty of it myself and hate myself afterwards.

I'm working in it and have made some great improvements  but of course, being human, I still fail now and again.Most of us are doing our best, I think. My husband and I take parenting very seriously and our children are our priority, as well as our own relationship/marriage. But we'll never have it all worked out. As our kids change, so does our parenting.

I was an expert in parenting and perfect at it: then I went and had kids and realized I knew nothing at all! 


October 11, 2012 - 1:48pm

Parents often think yelling at their kids gets their attention, but that is your modus operandi, quite often just the opposite happens. Kids learn to "tune out" yelling as a coping method. Speaking softly means kids may listen more intently to hear what a parent is saying.

October 11, 2012 - 11:06am

It is not always easy to change behaviors after having kids. My husband and I have tried really hard and kind of poke each other when one is gettting angry over whatever it is. We try to keep a calm household but sometimes life takes over. The kids know its a temporary thing (it does not happen often luckily) and we always tell them how much we love them and

Marielaina Perrone DDS
Henderson Dental Implants

October 11, 2012 - 10:08am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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