Don’t scream! Children can’t hear you when you yell

By Sandy McDaniel

In my private Parent Coaching sessions of late, almost every parent has expressed their concern about screaming at their children too much. A parent screams at a child out of frustration and fear.

The frustration idea is obvious; the fear concept is less obvious. Afraid that the child has more power in that moment than the parent does, the parent instinctively moves to “powering over the child.” Ironically, the fact that the parent yells at the child tells the child that the parent has less power than him or her.

Fear cuts off one’s ability to think and reason. Measuring children’s knowledge off a test is therefore absurd. Have you ever had the experience of being with someone at a gathering, waved enthusiastically at someone across the room who walks towards you, and found you cannot think of that person’s name? The closer that person comes, the further away that necessary piece of information becomes. Fear cuts off your ability to think and reason.

You run into a room where your darling little energetic children are duking it out. Both children are crying and screaming, so you scream louder, “What are you two DOING?” Chances are very good that you (fed up with a wild day of their antics) will go on a verbal roll, dumping all the frustrations you have gathered for several days. “You two have been fighting all day. I’m sick of it! I can’t get anything done, you’re scaring the baby, BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!”

The minute the parent ejected a sudden loud noise into the room, both children disappeared into “bogland.” I don’t remember where bogland is, and the fact that they are now vapor locked is evidenced by the silly grin on each of their faces and their glassy eyes. I first discovered that children do this when I taught elementary school. Thirty-eight students (a stupid number for a teacher to manage) were getting out of control, so I (not knowing what I know now) would yell, “Okay, I’ve had enough!” Thirty-eight little fourth graders would be sitting there in bogland.

Because of a child’s reaction to a sudden loud noise (never mind the sound of an angry parent), THAT CHILD CANNOT HEAR ANYTHING THE ADULT IS SAYING. When you scream and yell at children, they do not hear you!

Then, because neither child answered the screamed question, the parent gravitates to attack status: “I asked you what you were doing; are you going to answer me?” The more the parent bulldozes the child to answer the question that the child is now unable to answer, the more likely the child is to make one of two choices: (1) Tell a big fat lie, (2) Do something idiotic like push the lamp over or knock something off the table. The child will get in trouble for whichever negative choice is made, and has been redeemed from answering the unanswerable question.

Want a more loving, peaceful home? Stop screaming and yelling at children. For assistance with that, see Parenting is an incredibly difficult job. Get help where you can, and don’t give up.

You can do it!

For more than 60 years, Sandy McDaniel has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. She may be reached at To read her parenting blog, go to

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