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Guest Columnist–Dr. Missy, Feelings Helper

Screaming Parents Often Produce Screaming Kids

Like water to a sponge, children absorb what they see parents do and what they hear parents say. Do you scream? It is a slow buildup or a speedy explosion? Some children react by screaming back or tuning out; while others experience fear and react with passive apprehension.

Screaming sets off a physiological reaction in both parents and children. As the brain releases the stress hormone called cortisol, the body goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Cognitive brain shuts down and emotional brain takes over. The intensity increases as the screaming becomes louder and louder and louder.

Know your buttons and triggers. We all have triggers but just owning your buttons does not mean you do not have to make changes. Are you set off by backtalk, power struggles, a smarty attitude, defiance?

Children are like little lumps of clay and experience the environment through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. As the potter shapes the clay into a statue, a parent shapes the child into an individual. Parents influence how their children think, feels, act, react and behavior is learned by observing others. Children do not learn well when disciplined by a screaming adult.

Parents, if you want calm kids then you need to cultivate calmness. Learning to manage your own emotional actions and reactions is vital. Why do you scream? Perhaps, your parents screamed and their parents screamed and their parents screamed. No matter how overwhelmed, irritated, annoyed, or angry you are, the simple fact is that you are still responsible for your words and behaviors. While it is okay to feel mad, it is not okay to scream at your children.

Take a ‘Parent Pause’ to prevent screaming. Stop and take several deep breaths. Go into the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. Run around the house. Plop an ice cube in your mouth. Take a ‘Parent Timeout’ and set yourself in a chair until you calm down. YOU can break the screaming habit. Take your adult temper tantrum temperature and find ways to chill before you discipline.

Parents or partners who scream at each other are teaching children to scream at siblings or peers. Children learn about relationships from living with their families. Learning how to tame your tongue will improve your relationships. Think about the following questions: Do I allow my feelings to control me? Do I blame my children for my loss of control? Do I believe change is a choice? How will my life be different after I learn to discipline with composure?

Family communication takes effort. Communication is like a pizza, made up of an assortment of ingredients and toppings; listening, understanding, clarifying, thinking, responding, reading facial expressions and body language, interacting with questions, statements, opinions, ideas, seeking information and giving answers, expressing emotion. Since the beginning, humankind has sought ways to communicate and interact. We communicate by way of language; a system composed of words and meanings; a vocabulary of sounds; and nonverbal body expressions. Our voices contain tone and pitch which also convey meaning. Learning to manage emotions is a key piece of interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

Hal Runkel, author of the book, ScreamFree Parenting: Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, states “Kids are going to act out the anxiety that exists within their family system…if you want to feel calm in your family, that calm starts with you.” Read articles about screaming, shouting, and yelling at the website

Take the parent challenge. Can you go a week without screaming at your child? Can you go a day without yelling? Try it and see what happens. Screaming families may benefit by attending family counseling services. Both parents and children can learn to communicate with calmness. Commit to change. Your family is worth it. Until next time, stay calm and parent on!

Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, consultant, educator, and self-syndicated columnist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio. Contact her at



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