Children Not Listening? Yelling is Not the Answer!

March 25, 2014

As a parent and a teacher, the issue of children not listening has been central to my life experience at home and at work. It is not unique nor is it new. It is a challenge that has been facing parents forever, and obviously there is no easy fix because of all the variables. But if there is one thing that I do believe after decades of teaching and parenting--yelling is not the answer.

Having said that, the following is also true: we are not saints, we do not have infinite patience, we are exhausted most of the time, have the best of intentions and we love our children like crazy. 

The rest of this blog will touch on research that supports the " no yelling" philosophy. 


  • When parents yell at their children, this causes their children’s brains to become wired differently. ( Martin Teicher, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.)
  • These changes can lead to adult anxiety, depression and personality disorder. (Teicher)
  • Children who are yelled at are generally afraid of their parents. This creates distrust and a fight-or-flight response in the child.( Dr. Laura Markham, Child Psychologist.)
  • Yelling gets old. Children whose parents yell at them regularly learn to tune out this yelling, and to start looking for support in other people – often, from their peers. This can result in negative influences. (Markham)
  • “If you yell at your child, you’re either growing aggression or growing shame."(Meghan Leahy, mother of three and parenting coach) 
  • Researchers also found that “parental warmth”—i.e., the degree of love, emotional support, and affection between parents and adolescents—did not lessen the effects of the verbal discipline. (Ming-Te Wang, University of Pittsburgh: Sarah Kenny, University of Michigan)
  • "You WILL at some point raise your voice to your kids. Try your very best to NOT be condescending or humiliating to your child when you do this. And, after you cool down, try your best to talk to your child in calmer tones about why you got so mad. It is in fact true that verbal abuse can be as bad as physical abuse."(Steven Schlozman, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School: Staff Child Psychiatrist, Massachusetts General Hospital)
  • "Culture plays a role. Where I grew up just outside Kansas City, parents are blunt and to the point. They raise their voices often as they attempt to get important life lessons imbibed into their kids. And though this is hardly a scientific conclusion, it is clear to me that my buddies whose parents yelled at them in an effort to get them to do the right thing still love and respect their parents very much." (Schlotzman)

Raising your voice isn't always bad. Loudly describing a problem can call attention to it without hurting anyone. Yelling becomes damaging when it is a personal attack, belittling or blaming a child. 

The above research makes some very disturbing statements. As loving parents we are probably shocked and maybe disbelieving. The bottom line is that we all have times when we resort to yelling at our children and we all would like to find alternate behaviours.