Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Yelling at a Child Changes Who They Are

At five and a half, Aaron has long passed the question of to pee standing up or sitting down. He’s been intent to balance on two legs while aiming with his third for an eternity, and quite frankly I’m overly tired of cleaning up pee. We have four bathrooms in this house and at least once a week my husband and I become janitors for a day, scrubbing and disinfecting everything from walls to carpets. I had NO idea, absolutely zero awareness that little boys turn your house into a urinal.

Aaron is a chatter box. He loves to talk and talk and talk and talk, even when he’s in the bathroom. Although I don’t have a penis, I imagine aiming one is a lot like driving a car. You need to keep your eyes on the road or inevitably your steering wheel will follow your gaze. I’m constantly telling Aaron, “No talking while you’re peeing.” It doesn’t matter. We’ve tried all the tricks … Cheerios as targets, requiring he help clean up his own mess, praising, explaining, talking, threatening…none of it works. Multiple times a day, we know we’re going to spend time cleaning on our hands and knees.

Friday morning Aaron was in the bathroom and while I was waiting outside the door, he was trying to talk to me. Repeating my mommy mantra, no talking while you’re peeing, I peeked in and saw his head was turned away from the toilet. His eyes were certainly not on the road and he apparently had no awareness that his steering wheel was turned left on what should have been a straight away. Urine was streaming down the back of the porcelain goal. Frustrated, I started to yell, which of course scared him. He lost all control and before I could blink there was now a geyser-type eruption covering two walls, the toilet, the floor and the roll of paper. My response made an even bigger mess than what otherwise would have been.

I’m not immune to flares of temper, that’s for sure. It’s unusual for me to yell at my child but it happens and when it does I see an immediate change in his behavior. He gets quiet, clingy, and his eyes stop shinning. I suppose I could find value in the fact that when I yell he normally responds with an immediate capitulation and tows the line to meet whatever request I’m dolling out, but I don’t find any long term value in his compliance. Although I’m guilty, I don’t think yelling and screaming at our children is acceptable. As a parent, I should strive to walk with a higher sense of self control.

When I yell at Aaron and his eyes immediately lose their luminosity, he becomes hyper aware of my mood and his surroundings. All of a sudden he takes on this over-the-top need to please. He’ll offer to perform all sorts of random acts of helpfulness, he’ll seek me for extra hugs and affirmations, and he’ll tell me a hundred times in a 20 minute time span that he loves me. I feel horrible with the adoration because I know it’s not the natural state of affairs; it’s him reacting to a hurt I’ve inflicted and although the bruise isn’t visible to the naked eye, it’s certainly visible to this mommy’s heart.

I wonder how many invisible bruises it takes before the change that takes place inside a child’s mind each time he or she is the subject of a screaming parent becomes more than a 20 minute capitulation and instead lasts a lifetime. I don’t want to find out.

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6 comments to Yelling at a Child Changes Who They Are

  • donna


  • Jan

    My ex yelled at the kids all the time; I do not unless I feel it is absolutely necessary. He never could understand why they minded me when I spoke firmly in a voice louder than usual and ignored him pretty much all the time.

    The Young One does the same thing – he tries to make up to me, is helpful and loving – when he knows I’m upset with him, and I don’t even have to yell. He and Aaron are just sensitive boys.
    Jan´s last blog ..It’s A No-Brainer My ComLuv Profile

  • Okay as for the peeing … EVERYONE sits down, EVERYONE!

    As for yelling, I hear you! I do not usually yell but have my moments! And usually end up feeling really bad … as I should!!!
    Amy @ Six Flower Mom´s last blog ..Wordful/Wordless Wednesday – Red and Spiky! My ComLuv Profile

  • My mother didn’t yell too often, but when she did she was a different person, bitter and insulting: “You’re so immature, that’s stupid, you can’t do that, you don’t know what you’re doing.” I grew up thinking I couldn’t do anything.

    I’ve rarely yelled at my sons. The few times I have, I felt terrible afterwards but I hope I was able to direct my anger at the incidents and not the person: “Stop biting my chin!” is the earliest one I remember. “Why did you flunk?” was the most recent. At least I’m specific.

    Speaking of pee — my younger son would wave his penis back and forth like a lawn sprinkler. He has outgrown that. Sort of. I do find pee marks on the back of the toilet seat, like a basketball backboard. I must calmly speak to him about that! At 13, he can clean his own toilet.
    Smalltown Mom´s last blog ..Whacked Weekend My ComLuv Profile

  • kristy

    I am a mom to a 15 month old and haven’t gotten mad enought to yell but i’m sure that the time will come were frustrations will mount and I will feel the boiling point come. I hope that I never do yell at her but I think the most important lesson that we can teach is to comunicate and to say you are sorry when you do something wrong. Yes Aaron was wrong for peeing all over the room but you for yelling and I think an apolagy helps kids learn how to do the same. It also teaches sivility. Good story, I can’t imagine the feeling you must get when the light in his eyes goes dim. He is a wonderful boy and you a wonderful mom. Good job for holding yourself to a higher standard and to recognize the difference. Too often parents don’t say they are sorry or recognize the difference.

  • jordan

    ok listen im a 14 year old kid my stepdad is verbally abusive and now i have mental problems today he yelled at me because i didnt clean 1 thing and i can understand yelling but not for no apparent reason and honestly yelling at kids doesnt teach them a lesson, it makes them hate you and then they might just end up running away. kids that get yelled at to much might end up with terrible mind conditions or lack of self esteem. Its not a good thing to yell because they could even end up as druggies like my friend and well now he got expelled from school and is in jail for possesion of drugs.

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