Yelling or dialogue? How to talk to children

Children are like soft clay and you can mold them into any shape. If you hold the clay tightly and aggressively it will leave marks on the clay and it may even crack around the edges, but if you shape the clay softly and gently then it stays intact and you can shape it however you want.


Losing patience with children and venting anger and aggression at them especially during mealtimes will not bring any good to the child. Whatever you are trying to teach them will not be passed on and learnt because of the way it is being conducted. 

“Shouting is a way of the adult trying to be heard and understood by the child.” 

Research shows that shouting has the same effect as hitting. Will your loud voice really mean that the child has heard and registered what you want them to? 

“It is your unmanaged behaviour and feelings that are being projected onto the young with adverse effects.”

Many families have conversations over mealtimes. Life is busy and the only time many parents can make to talk to teenagers is over meals, which often turns into some form of yelling or lecturing. 

Imagine trying to swallow your food whilst being yelled at or lectured. The two things just don't go together right? Such confrontation takes away the child’s confidence (any age) and the ability to verbalise. Eating is the most basic yet most important need of the human, it is basic self-care to feed ourselves. If that care is being disrupted and invaded it will leave children feeling vulnerable and not taken care of by the parent. Yelling simply makes children feel insecure and unprotected and is a form of insult and put down. No matter what age your child is – they feel insults. 

Recent research done by National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that yelling makes children aggressive and comes with long-term effects like anxiety, low self-esteem and makes them more susceptible to bullying as their self-respect and understanding of healthy boundaries is absent from early years. 

There are alternate ways to discipline but, first, the adult must be disciplined themselves and be able to speak in a non-impulsive way, only then the child can learn to model the same behaviour. Actions speak louder than words. 

Children with a strong emotional connection to their parents are easier to discipline. When they feel unconditionally loved, they will learn to respond to words and dialogues and also develop receptive personalities. 

Ask your child, how can I help you fix this? 

This is a very powerful question as it naturally tells the child you are willing to help, you are there to support them, you are there to guide them and show them alternative ways of expressing themselves. It also enables the young to become decisive as it allows them to choose how you can help. This gentle question will help the young understand that they are loved unconditionally, which in the long-term will make them emotionally strong, resilient and they will learn to respect and love themselves and others in the same way. It also reinforces a solution-focused attitude to problems and issues rather than focusing on strict meaningless consequences and punishments. 

This goes regardless of age, until a person is a fully-grown adult. 

Children misbehave occasionally, it's natural and a part of growing up. As parents, be firm but calm – it leaves an impression on the young that certain behaviours and choices are not acceptable. We all want to teach our children good things and make them good people but talk to them in a way leaving their dignity intact. When parents lose patience, they often forget that children also need to be respected.

If you are a parent with anger issues or act impulsively, try the three question rule. This can be used by adults and children. It is an easy way for all to stop and think before speaking out about anything which they may later feel they shouldn’t have. 

1. Is it kind/appropriate to say this?

2. How will it make the other person feel if I say it?

3. What is an alternative? (How can you express yourself in a kinder way?)

Remember, shouting and yelling will only scare the young and it's very unlikely that they will be able to understand you. Talk to your children about emotions, if it is a repeated behaviour pattern, ask them what they feel when they behave in a certain way? Is there anything you can do to help them behave differently and make different choices? Try to mutually discover the child’s triggers and help them be aware of it, so that it can be managed. 

Before putting them in ‘time out’ or sending them to their room – help them understand what to think during time out by openly communicating with them. And model the same behaviour yourself - have a break, have time out if you are losing patience, if you do yell, just apologise later – it will only teach children that humans make mistakes and it's ok to own up, apologise and rectify. Time out doesn’t need to be labelled ‘bad’ – think of it as a ‘thinking break’ and not a punishment for the child. If the child feels ‘time out’ is punishment time, that takes away the purpose of it. 

If you feel that your anger and outburst are over minor and insignificant issues or if you cannot control your anger then recognise that the issue might be deeper and if it is affecting your relationship with your children and/or family, you may need professional help. A therapist can help you develop and learn ways of calming yourself and developing techniques to help you express yourself without depending on yelling and aggression. 

Counselling can help you understand deeper routes and reasons behind the anger and techniques to help you connect and communicate to your children effectively so that you can have a healthier family environment and become able to talk to your kids without feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6
Written by Sana Kamran, MBACP Integrative Counsellor
Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6

I am a Counsellor and work with people from all walks of life. My passion is to support people in their journey of healing and recovery, and raise mental health awareness to a wider community. I enjoy writing about various topics including:
Forced Marriages
Healing and recovery
Mental health
Watch this space for more articles

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