What should you do if you’ve yelled at your child? Where can you get help if it happens regularly?
It’s normal to sometimes feel angry or annoyed with your child when they just won’t listen. But raising your voice is not a good way to get their attention. Yelling has been shown to negatively impact children, especially when it happens frequently. That said, raising your voice can be necessary in some situations to protect your child from danger.
Consequences of yelling
Some parents believe that yelling without physically hurting their child won’t have any adverse consequences. But losing your temper on a regular basis can be as damaging as hitting, as it can chip away at your child’s self-esteem and confidence. They may start to feel incompetent.
A parent who yells is no longer in control of their emotions. They’re angry and may use insulting or threatening language.
Shouts, insults, and threats are a form of verbal and psychological violence. They can make a child feel unsafe around their parents.
This feeling of insecurity can trigger a host of worries and fears, which can directly impact other aspects of the child’s life, such as their motivation in school, their academic success, and their relationships with others. For example, a child may follow their parents’ example and develop a habit of yelling at their siblings or friends when they’re angry.
In addition, yelling has been shown to increase children’s anxiety. A child may also be less likely to confide in their parents and be less trusting of adults.
What should you do if you feel the urge to yell at your child?
If your child is having a tantrum and you think you might lose your temper, the following strategies can help you regain your composure.
They won’t get your child to listen, but they will help you control your emotions and avoid using methods that can be aggressive and have long-term negative impacts on your child.
- Make sure your little one is safe and then go to another room or step outside for a few minutes. Take slow, deep breaths. This will give you and your child space to calm down.
- Calmly tell your child how you feel (e.g., tired, impatient) in simple words. Even if they’re very young, they’ll understand what you’re saying by your tone and facial expression. The simple act of naming your emotions may also help you feel better and calmer.
- If possible, ask your partner to take over. They may be more successful at de-escalating your child’s tantrum.
- Call a family member or loved one to vent your frustration and anger. They’ll be able to listen and offer support.
- Call a helpline like Première Ressource, aide aux parents (514-525-2573 or 1-866-329-4223). You’ll speak to a counsellor who can suggest positive parenting methods to try with your child.
For more strategies to help you parent calmly, see our fact sheet on losing control.
What should you do if you’ve yelled at your child?
If you sometimes yell at your child, don’t 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. To reassure them and reconnect, apologize and take a moment to hug or play with them.
Explain that you should have found a different way to express your anger or dissatisfaction. Then, promise that you will try hard not to lose your temper in the future. These actions set a positive example for your child. They’ll learn to better control their own anger and emotional reactions.
When to ask for help
If you’re having a hard time keeping your temper in check, it’s important to find support. With some help, you can better understand why you have the urge to yell and find solutions. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
Many community organizations offer support services and activities for parents, like counsellor-led workshops where 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 families.
Things to keep in mind
Yelling at your child can have a negative impact on their sense of security and self-confidence.
If you’ve yelled at your child, apologize and reconnect with them. They need to understand that you still love them.
If you have a tendency to yell at your child, you can get help from several community organizations and your local CLSC.
Scientific review: Sabine Bentata, psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: May 2023
Sources and references
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
Apprendre à éduquer. “8 pistes pour moins crier sur les enfants.” 2015. learnaeduquer.fr
Benoît, Joe-Ann. Le défi de la discipline familiale. Montreal, Les Éditions Québec-Livres, 2014, 256 pp.
Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “Social violence.” 2022. child-encyclopedia.com
Lapaque, Diane. “Crier sur ses enfants : est-ce que c’est grave?” 2022. 123kid.org
Papa Positive. “Comment et pourquoi ne pas crier sur un enfant.” 2017. papapositive.fr
Première Ressource, aide aux parents. 1-866-329-4223 or 514-525-2573. premiereressource.com
Radio-Canada. “Les cris, gifles et fessées peuvent altérer le cerveau des enfants.” 2019. ici.radio-canada.ca
Suffren, Sabrina, et al. “Prefrontal cortex and amygdala anatomy in youth with persistent levels of harsh parenting practices and subclinical anxiety symptoms over time during childhood.” Development Psychopathology, vol. 34, no. 3, 2022, pp. 957–968. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov