Yelling At Tiny Children Is Futile Business, And Here’s Why

“Leave that alone! Or I swear I’ll…”

This kind of sentence, in combination with an angry parent’s face, is supposed to be the norm when it comes to raising children – according to many who have gotten through it far more times than I did.

However, if experience is the only thing that truly matters when it comes to raising children, why am I even writing about parenting as a first-time mom? Shouldn’t we simply listen to the people who have the most children?

Not to blow my own horn in any way, but I really don’t think so. There are some fantastic moms and dads out there with more children that would fit at our dining table, and I’ve got nothing but utter respect for them. There are also the ones who raised their little army in a way that doesn’t benefit them, or the kids. That’s why I think that first-time mom’s fresh perspective matters when it comes to this kind of topic – since we usually still have some of it left.

As someone who was raised in a family where yelling (and much more) was the norm, used as a standard method for raising even a quiet, introvert child like I used to be, I know first-hand why it’s completely useless to yell at children. Even when they’re tiny and don’t listen to voice of reason.

No, wait. Especially when they’re tiny and don’t listen to voice of reason.

Here’s what years of being yelled at as a child (and months of trying not to yell at my own toddler!) has taught me.

It’s not respect. It’s fear.

Small children don’t have a concept of respect. They do sense the presence of authority figures, but they don’t quite grasp what it means to them. Therefore, yelling at a small child doesn’t really help with asserting dominance – it creates fear in a child’s heart, exactly where it doesn’t belong.

I know most of us probably wants to say something along the lines of: “I was yelled at all the time, and today, I actually have respect for my parents and I know boundaries. I turned out great.” Do understand that this is not always the case. It didn’t help me feel that way towards my family, and I know there are many people who feel the same way.

Respect doesn’t come from raising our voices. It comes from patience to do the right thing, being firm, and showing a good example even when you’re sick of it.

Sometimes, it’s just funny.

Some children just don’t understand the “danger” behind yelling. Some will just laugh in your face really hard, unaware it means trouble. My son is the same way, and I don’t think it’s because we haven’t taught him well. I know he is being raised in an environment he feels safe and protected in. Therefore, yelling doesn’t do much, since it’s a foreign concept to his 15-month-old being.

Getting this kind of response to yelling can lead to two dangerous things:

  1. Parent becoming extremely aggravated, taking it as an insult, and applying greater (physical) force to deal with the child
  2. Parent giving up on parenting whatsoever, believing it’s futile and coming to the false conclusion that nothing can be done to fix the problem

In order to completely avoid feeling and acting this way as a parent, the best way is to find another discipline model.

It’s damaging.

I’m not the kind of person who believes that kids should never be disciplined in any way. I also don’t believe they should be allowed to do everything they want. None of those are valuable lessons for your kids.

In the early years of a child’s life, there’s a fragile bond that needs to be strengthened enough to survive teen and early adulthood years. If the relationship isn’t based on trust and acceptance, but rather on fear and anger, there’s less potential for a great foundation parents should be building from the moment a child is born.

It’s a bad example.

Kids who get yelled at a lot will not yell back at their parents in order to discipline them.

However, they will be loud, aggravated, and will throw more tantrums.

They will yell at other children, possibly smaller than them, in order to regain feeling of power and control.

They will often yell (and hit) animals, seeing them as less valuable in every possible way.

Children learn from their parents, every minute, every day. By creating an environment full of stress, negative emotions, and fear, there’s nothing good to be learned. This model of behavior will show its ugly side in your kid’s character sooner or later, and this is something you can affect today – by not feeding it with examples.

It doesn’t say why.

If you’re just going around the house yelling “stop it, don’t touch it, get over here” like a broken record, you’re not providing any teachable moments or lessons. You’re just giving out commands that kids don’t understand.

Even if they are too young to grasp the meaning of your complex words about why something is forbidden, it’s best to start practicing now. If you wait until your little one is 3 or 4, explanations will come as a bit of a shock and will not be regarded as something important – simply because they’re new. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the fragile relationship between kids and new things (unless they’ve got wheels, make strange robotic noises, or come with a joystick).

It makes you feel terrible.

Just admit it to yourself. I bet you’ve never come out of this kind of situation happy, energized, and filled with positive feelings (at least I hope not!). A miserable parent means a miserable child, too. That’s an exhausting way to spend your day, don’t you think?

Okay, I understand I probably shouldn’t be yelling all that much, but I feel like I have no choice! What Am I supposed to do?

If you’re at the point of wondering this, you’ve already gone a long way towards a better version of yourself as a parent. You’ve taken the steps to understand your own behavior and shown the desire to act wiser, which is a fantastic start.

What is there to do when it comes to replacing yelling?

  1. Remain calm. This is absolutely easier said than done, but just try your very best not to scare your child. It leads to unnecessary stress for both of you.
  2. Distract. If your child is doing something forbidden, it’s a call for action – a positive one. Drop what you’re doing, at least for a few minutes, and engage with them in active playtime. More often than not, it’s a cry for attention. Demonstrate that you care and enjoy spending time with them, and maybe, just maybe, those little fingers will stay away from drawers full of work stuff. At least for a while.
  3. Go outside, if you can. Sometimes, kids get into one trouble after another due to unspent energy. Put on your shoes and go into the backyard, or for a walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes, fresh air will reset both of you.
  4. Offer water. It’s funny how water has a distracting, yet positive impact on kids. They remain calm while drinking, and most of the time, it gets them out of the destructive mood they’d been in.
  5. Explain. Even if your kid is too young to understand most explanations, practice elaborating. It will make your life easier in the years to come.
  6. Teach breathing techniques. Toddlers are never too young for this. They love copying – so try to show them some breathing exercises that will get them to relax and stop getting into trouble.
  7. Have a fruit snack. It’s healthy, refreshing, and it’s a great activity. Involve kids into arranging cut fruit pieces on a plate, or putting the fruit into the blender to make a smoothie. It’ll make them forget about that vase they were trying to knock down a while ago.
  8. Play great music. Noise is extremely distracting – if you’ve got an awesome playlist on your hands, grab your little one, turn up the volume and dance. It’ll help you both release some negative energy.
  9. Nap time. Sometimes, when kids are tired, they go from one forbidden thing to another (my son does this a lot – it’s one of his nap time cues). If you notice this behavior, followed by crying and throwing toys around, instead of yelling, maybe they simply need some shut eye. (And you probably need it, too!)
  10. Love. Although this is very difficult to do when you’re angry and desperate for kids to stop demolishing the house, try to get it our of your head for a bit. Hug your child. Give lots of kisses, hold them, stroke their hair. It’s soothing for both of you. Sometimes, all kids need is to know they’re loved and accepted. Be the parent who overflows with affection, rather than frustration.


Not mentioning one situation where yelling is necessary would mean this post is incomplete.

Yelling is supposed to represent danger. Therefore, if your child is about to get hurt or hurt someone else in any way, yelling will most likely cause them to freeze (if they’re not used to it – therefore, don’t get them used to it).

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a method I haven’t mentioned? Write in the comments, I can’t wait to learn even more about this and improve my own techniques!

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