What to do when you want to yell at your child

What to do when you want to yell at your child
What should you do if you’ve yelled at your child? Where can you get help if it happens regularly?

Even though it’s normal to be angry or tired of repeating everything all the time, yelling at your child is not a good way to get them to listen. In fact, yelling will have a negative impact on your child, especially if it happens frequently.

Why shouldn’t you yell at your child?

Some people think that yelling at their child is harmless as long as they don’t hit or physically harm them. But losing your temper on a regular basis can be as harmful as hitting them, because it can damage their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Shouting, insults, and threats are all considered forms of verbal and psychological violence, and they can have a negative effect on a child’s sense of security when they’re around their parents.

This lack of security is likely to instill them with fears and anxieties that could have direct consequences on other aspects of their life. For example, a child could develop a habit of yelling at their siblings or friends when they’re angry by following their parents’ example.

So you’ve yelled at your child. What should you do?

If you sometimes yell at your child, try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. If the yelling is infrequent, it shouldn’t have a negative impact on your child over the long term.

That said, it’s important to make sure your child knows you still love them and that you didn’t mean to yell at them. You can do so by apologizing. You can also take a moment to hug them or play with them to re-establish your bond.

Explain that you should have expressed your anger or dissatisfaction in another way and that you will try harder not to lose your temper in the future. This will show your child how they can control their own outbursts of anger and react better when they experience negative emotions.

Contrary to what some parents may think, you should apologize to your child after you’ve done or said something you regret. It shows that you recognize you’ve made a mistake and want to make things right so you can both feel better. This way, your child will learn that it’s okay to admit they were wrong and apologize.

What should you do if you feel the urge to yell at your child?

If you feel like you’re about to lose your temper and want to yell, the following strategies can help you regain your composure.

  • First, make sure your child is safe, then leave the room or go outside for a few minutes and take some deep breaths. This will help calm you both down.
  • Tell your child nicely that you’re feeling tired, impatient, etc. Even though they’re still young and aren’t yet familiar with every emotion, they’ll understand what you’re trying to express based on your tone. What’s more, naming your emotions and saying how you feel may also help to ease your mind and calm you down.
  • Ask your partner to take over and intervene if they’re around. Sometimes, a different parent will have more success doing the exact same thing.
  • If possible, call a family member or friend to share your feelings of anger and exasperation. This strategy will make you feel supported when you need it.
  • You can also call a help line, such as LigneParents (1-800-361-5085) or Première ressource, aide aux parents (514-525-2573 or 1-866-329-4223), to speak with a counsellor who will be able to suggest other ways to interact with your child.

For more strategies to help you keep your cool, see our fact sheet Losing control.

When to ask for help

If you’re having a hard time conquering your yelling habit, it’s important to get support and understand why you can’t control your outbursts. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Many community organizations offer support services or activities for parents. Several of them offer workshops led by professionals. During these workshops, you can discuss your family life with other parents. It can be reassuring to know that you’re not the only one who finds parenthood challenging sometimes.

You can also get support from your local CLSC, since these clinics have dedicated resources for children, parents, and families.

Resources to help you deal with discipline problems (links in French):

Things to keep in mind

  • Yelling at your child can have a negative impact on their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • There are strategies you can use to regain your composure and avoid yelling at your child.
  • If you have a tendency to yell at your child, you can get help from several community organizations and your local CLSC.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Solène Bourque, psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2020


Photo: iStock.com/PeopleImages


Sources and references

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