I'm not the parent and I don't have any kids, so this is just based on what I observe.

There's this mother who, when her daughter (about 3 years old) starts crying and making a fuss, she'll lose her patience and try to "out scream" or "out annoy" her. In other words, she starts crying and screaming, and the mother will tell the child, "I can scream louder!!!!!!!!! AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and give those sort of responses, basically over-yelling, etc., as if it's some sort of dominating display attempt to teach the kid (e.g., "I'm the parent and I can scream louder and I'm in control!!!!!!").

From what I notice, the child will keep crying and having a tantrum, and eventually the mother will completely neglect/ignore her by scaring her and yelling at her to stay in her room and will tell the daughter that she'll refuse to listen to her or get her anything unless she "shuts up" and stops crying. My assumption is the child stops crying when she's physically exhausted from it; not because she learned anything from the method. In short, the behavior doesn't change and it's not something I like being around.

What happens next is the daughter keeps screaming, crying, etc., and as the duration increases, the mother will occasionally enter the room and continue screaming very loudly and angrily at her, near to the point where it's heard houses away.

My question is, is this damaging/unproductive in raising a kid? Is trying to "defeat" your children harmful by trying to illustrate to them that you're, say, louder, can yell louder, can be more annoying, can pull harder (in, say, a tantrum when the child is yanking stuff) or even throw stuff after the kids do it to try and "teach them" it's wrong by doing the same thing to a greater extent.

For another example, a child has a tantrum and starts breaking stuff, and the parent gets explosively angry and starts screaming and breaking stuff in a more vicious manner.

What are the consequences of this, and how would this affect kids? More importantly, is this bad 100%?

  • 2
    This mother needs help. (Of course, the child needs help, too, but helping the mother to find ways to deal with it being upset will solve that problem, too.)
    – sbi
    Oct 4, 2014 at 1:34

2 Answers 2


I know a lot of parents who sort of "out-ridiculous" their kid to remind them what a tantrum looks like to others and how unlikely it is to result in getting what they want. In those cases, the parent isn't trying to assert dominance, and I personally don't think it's particularly harmful, but you know if that's what the parent is doing because it usually works in pretty short order to stop the tantrum, and the child usually ends up laughing.

In the cases where a parent is doing it to assert dominance, they're usually doing it for the same reason the child does: they feel powerless and out of control. Raising children is difficult and stressful. Kids make the same mistakes over and over, in ways that adults would only do with malicious intent, and it can take a lot of willpower to never take it personally. It doesn't make it right, but parents are human, and it's rare to find a parent who doesn't yell occasionally. You can probably recall a few occasions when your parents yelled at you.

When it becomes problematic is when it happens regularly. Kids learn by example, and they need an example of how best to control their own feelings. It can result in the child's will being broken, and feeling like she can't do anything right. Also, from a pragmatic perspective if you take the emotion out of it, it's not a very effective way of getting a child to behave, and once the child is big enough not to be afraid of you, it stops working at all.

In other words, it benefits both parent and child to find a calm, sustainable way of maintaining discipline, but sometimes it takes a while for the parent to figure it out, and it often changes as a child matures, or a younger sibling might respond differently.

If you are well-acquainted with that mother, you can help her by offering to babysit so she can have a break, and by helping to calm down the child. Often this is easier for someone fresh than it is for a sleep-deprived parent who's been dealing with it all day and is at the end of her rope. Don't try to give her advice unless she asks.

There are other abusive cases where a parent is asserting dominance through screaming and is not feeling powerless or out of control. Those manifest somewhat differently than you describe, as more of a deliberate anger that is usually much more one-sided. For those you want to encourage a spouse to seek professional help, or alert the authorities.

  • 4
    +1 for not using this an excuse to tear down what sounds like a frustrated, at wits end mother of one of the toughest, most infuriating creatures on earth-the 3YO human child. And for the mention of the "out-ridiculous"-ing method, which is a great diffuser.
    – Jax
    Oct 2, 2014 at 21:11
  • 1
    +1 This a wonderful answer. I out-ridiculous my baby nephew all the time! If he cries for no reason, so do I. Usually he gets confused and stops.
    – Bobo
    Oct 4, 2014 at 0:00

My question is, is this damaging/unproductive in raising a kid?

"Damaging" and "Unproductive" are subjective. We need to think in terms of conditioning.

If the mother wants to condition the child into thinking that "she-who-shouts-loudest-gets-their-way", then this mother is succeeding. This child will continue to believe this is normal conflict resolution until she encounters some other form of conditioning: for example, she tries the shouting match with some friends/siblings and they don't respond the way she's expecting.

Reality Check

This mom is frustrated. The annoying noise, lack of sleep, and defiant attitude of the little girl is more or less causing the mom to throw a tantrum. They are both trying to lose control to gain control--like another person said, they are trying to "out-ridiculous" each other. The bigger, stronger, louder mom may win for now, but the little girl will eventually gain some louder pipes and the mom's strategy will backfire. It'd be best for the mom to do some serious, daily training with the girl to condition her that throwing a tantrum is not how you process feelings. Some role playing during a calm time during the day would help, like this: "Little Susy--when you're feeling sad or angry, are you supposed to do this [mom starts acting crazy] or this [mom acts calmly]. You're supposed to do the second thing! That's right! Now you try..." And they got to do this over and over, every day until it's ingrained.

And when the girl does eventually flip out, the mom has to be ready to dole out the calm, loving, yet strict consequences that shows the little girl that screaming and throwing a tantrum has a negative result (time out, spanking, etc...). Then more training :)

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