"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.