Hi Rabbi Ross. My question is regarding screaming. More often than not, I find myself raising my voice when dealing with the kids, and I’ve noticed that my husband does the same. MY parents screamed at me all the time, and as many issues I think I’ve had, the fact remains that I’m just an average Jewish mother. My husband feels we should try cutting back on the yelling, but yelling works. Otherwise they don’t listen. What do you think?
Yelling is certainly popular. It also seems to work well, otherwise, as you pointed out so eloquently, parents wouldn’t keep doing it. Here are the questions we need to ask.
The same holds true when people are in a noisy situation. The loudest voice is the one that’s heard. In a classroom setting, a good Rebbe or teacher will talk quietly and as a result the class will quiet down to hear what’s being spoken. When dealing with children in an uncontrolled environment, even in your own home, the loudest voice prevails.
So, yes. Parents yell. Nonetheless, I would like to make a distinction between a few different types of yelling.
The second type of yelling isn’t so helpful. It might help you release some stress, but it does more harm than good. Your kids know you’re angry, and you’re basically telling them “When a person gets angry, it’s ok to yell at others.” Sure, they’ll probably listen to you. You might even get the respect you are looking for. It’s just that there is a high price to pay.
To be fair, kids are resilient. If you get really upset and yell at them occasionally, they’ll get over it. You can even apologize for your behavior. “When I yelled at you before I was very upset about a few things. I shouldn’t have screamed at you. I’m really sorry.” It can be a great learning experience.
The last type of yelling is inexcusable. Losing control is never OK, and the negative character traits your children will pick up can last for a very long time. How would you feel if your boss went crazy on you because he was upset about something else? Even if the yelling is justified, it’s completely wrong. Think for a second how it would feel if you were being screamed at by an adult, and possibly with others watching. It’s humiliating and so hurtful.
They are children. Whatever they did, losing control is not an option. What will the result be if this happens? For starters, you might start noticing seriously negative behaviors in your children. They might only respond when you yell at them. They might begin to yell back at you. They might even start disregarding what you say. It only goes downhill from there.
The result can very well be having children that are completely estranged. They can’t or won’t have a relationship with their parents that constantly yelled and screamed at them. Their self-esteem will be in the dumps, and they have a much higher chance of slipping a lot further.
What can you do? First of all, when you’re upset at your kids, it’s ok to act stern. Lowering your voice works most of the time, but if you feel the situation calls for a raised voice, by all means, use an outside voice. Screaming isn’t ok.
If you’re that upset that you feel you might lose control, take a timeout. There’s no shame in taking a timeout, and you can actually turn it into a wonderful teaching moment. “I’m so upset right now that I am not going to speak because I don’t like to talk when I’m upset!” This will teach your children that even when they’re really upset, they still must act like Bnai Torah.
There is one last thing that I would like to mention. Many parents have written in, telling me that they frequently lose control. If you feel as a parent you are losing control more than once a month, you might benefit from therapy. There are some amazing techniques that you can learn to help calm yourself, and it’s a very worthy investment.
Have a calm and wonderful Shabbos,
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.