I often yell at kids to maintain some direction and discipline, having three small but active kids. Often means whenever the situation gets out of hand with kids risking harming themselves or substantial property.

However, I maintain and clarify them that yelling is simply a means to enforce sound and just rules that make them safe and free within such boundaries.

I have heard somewhere however that yelling can be considered equivalent to abuse. Is this correct or an exaggeration?

  • 2
    If you were paying someone to look after your child, would yelling be okay with you? How about an aunt, uncle or grandparent who are looking after your kids for you? How often do you yell -- everyday, once, twice? If you are worried about the amount, then you should consider how else you can handle it.
    – WRX
    Dec 1, 2016 at 16:23
  • 1
    You state "often" twice in the body of the question. It is not really the same question if you change it to "occasionally". Almost everyone yells occasionally, and though the answer remains pertinent, it does change the nature of the question. This is fine until there are answers. Once answered, changing the question is called "breaking the answers". If you want to inquire about potential harm of occasional yelling, please post a new question. Thanks! Dec 13, 2016 at 19:58

5 Answers 5


How would you feel - honestly - if your employer (or anyone in a position of power over you) yelled at you to enforce their will ( regardless of whether you agree or not)? Would you feel respected, confident, comfortable, safe? Or would you feel resentful, hurt, fearful, etc.?

Children are not immune to yelling and its consequences. If anything, they are more affected by it because they have no one else to turn to for support except each other or the other parent. They have no "out".

You can quit your job. They have no such luxury. You can maybe go to Human Resources. They can't. They also lack the insight and emotional vocabulary to talk to you about how your yelling affects them.

Children are first human beings with the full compliment of emotions, second made by you to love and care for.

You may feel yelling isn't a big deal, but you're the one doing the yelling. Being yelled at is very different, even in a culture known for yelling.

To answer your question directly, yelling is a kind of emotional abuse. It's not the worst kind, but it is abuse.

Someone once said that yelling is a football coach's way of teaching: if they didn't learn it the first time, say it louder! In reality, if they didn't learn it the first time, find a different and better way to teach them. That's your responsibility as a parent.

Yelling happens when someone gets stressed, but it deserves an apology and an explanation that it was wrong and you'll try not to do it again, not an excuse that it's right and just and for their benefit. Because it certainly doesn't feel that way to a child.

I'm limited right now to cellphone, with which I'm not proficient, so can't supply references. But they are out there in spades.

  • 2
    psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mysteries-love/201503/… / google.com/… -- here's some for you. If being yelled at as an adult is 'difficult', just imagine how difficult it is for children who cannot defend themselves.
    – WRX
    Dec 1, 2016 at 17:35
  • 1
    I understand that yelling represents verbal abuse, but we are not talking about the same type of abuse. In addition, the issue here is maintaining safety of three kids who might be very active and might fight physically among themselves. Which other types of disciplinary means can work effectively at interrupting unsafe behaviors? Dec 2, 2016 at 10:47
  • @GiuseppeBiondi-Zoccai - no, any yelling is disrespectful to a child. Sure, if a child is running into the street, yelling is preferable to the child getting hit by a car. If two kids are squabbling, yelling is unnecessary. If you can't figure out a better method of stopping such activity, I suggest 1-2-3 Magic, a system of rewards for self control and time outs for lack of self- control. Absolutely no yelling necessary, and it works. Dec 2, 2016 at 12:21

To go beyond your question, remember this, your kids are learning from you too. Not only will they be this way as parents, but it will be their default way to handle conflict and frustration in their life. Kids do what they see us do. I would strongly suggest you try to learn new ways to express your role as the authority figure (including ways of handling not getting perfect results from kids cause you won't).

To get back to your question, here are some concrete evaluations about how and when yelling or other verbal communication is clearly considered abuse:

1) Name-calling, belittling, swearing, insulting

2) Indirect criticism, such as disparaging your child to your spouse

3) Rejecting or threatening with abandonment

4) Threatening bodily harm

5) Scapegoating or blaming them for family or person problems

6) Using sarcasm or making a mocking remark

7) Berating your spouse

I know this stuff but I still default to yelling sometimes because that is what my mother did and she was good at it. It is SOOO hard to break. However, never be afraid of losing your authority status by apologizing to your children when you do mess up. A sincere apology with an discussion can go a long way to building a strong relationship with your child and I believe help prepare you for an adult relationship in the future.

Good luck and may God bless you as you work through the awesome responsbility of parenting!

  • 2
    +100 for "...never be afraid of losing your authority status by apologizing to your children when you do mess up. A sincere apology with an discussion can go a long way to building a strong relationship with your child and I believe help prepare you for an adult relationship in the future." Dec 2, 2016 at 15:53
  • @AdamHeeg I'm considering giving you a bounty for that.
    – user24977
    Dec 14, 2016 at 2:21

Yes, yelling often at kids is a form of emotional abuse, and is an example of poor parenting that will cause harm.

It's something that (in England) could be referred to child safeguarding boards, so the parent can get access to a parenting course and so that the children can be protected from harm.


Edit: To make this a more reasonable answer I'll try to point out what my big issue is more clearly.

The OP asks, "Is yelling often at kids equivalent to abuse?" The answer depends a lot on three things IMO.

How often is often? Are we talking every hour,couple times a week or once a fortnight?

What are you yelling? Is it "Stop being such stupid little s&*ts," "Get yourself down here, right now," or "Wait don't run down the stairs you'll break a leg."

What abuse are you comparing to? "Beating the child with a belt so he can't sit for a week," "Indoctrinating the child to hate your estranged partner," "Emotionally blackmailing the child to stay so you have company," or "Slapping the kid twice a year when they have a tantrum?"

Yelling at children consistently to enforce authority (in a I'm louder then the three of you screaming so you can hear me) is certainly not great (and you will probably become hoarse sooner then they will), but is probably not very high on the abuse ladder. Some may disagree with me, but I think this is really just bad/unfortunate parenting.

Is it a good idea? Not really. Should you try and find calmer and easier ways to control the kids. Definitely for both their sake and yours (and your neighborhood to be honest, if you shout they will shout, they learn from you).

Yelling obscenities at the kids, belittling them or being nasty to them (telling them they are stupid, threatening to put them in a foster home or whatever people scare kids with these days) is certainly abuse of some form. If it is really pervasive (especially if long term) it can be really bad abuse much worse imo than many types or milder physical abuse.

But in general I think to properly qualify as abuse there must be multiple factors and it must in general be pervasive and longer term. Losing your s*&t so to speak once in 10 years and telling them you will disown them all after a particularly trying day and sending them to bed without supper, should certainly be followed by a heartfelt apology when you regain your calm and an explanation of why sometimes we say things we don't mean but should not be cause to chuck the whole parenting business.

Original: While I essentially agree with the answers given I really take issue with the "abuse" of language and the fact they just go and . I mean I realize language is a stretchy and accommodating thing, but unless you meet some extra criteria classifying pure yelling (understand as raising your voice to get attention or convey the necessity of quick compliance) as abuse or emotional abuse starts diluting the term to near uselessness.

Comparing raising of voice to physical abuse be it caning, spanking, belting or the actual beating of the child (with fists and the like) or to emotional abuse such as emotional blackmail, humiliation, belittling, abuse of partner or similar is just begging for trouble down the road.

Please call bad parenting, bad parenting and not child abuse. Otherwise you end up with 80% of the population being abusers (most of whom don't know it because they don't go to SE to check on their parenting choices) and that helps no one least of all the kids.

  • 3
    This was in answer to a question, though. The questioner labeled it as possible abuse. I'd agree with you that ALL yelling is not abusive, but some definitely is. Also, a parent who always yells has no tool left in an emergency because yelling is normal for them. If I yell, my kid stops and listens because I only yell when she is in danger. In our home, the more quietly I speak, the more she knows that I am not happy with something.
    – WRX
    Dec 5, 2016 at 13:09
  • 3
    But yelling at the child is recognised by child protection social workers as a form of emotional abuse. It's entirely correct to call it abuse, because it is abuse, and it causes harm to the child. nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/… "threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names"
    – user19912
    Dec 5, 2016 at 13:10
  • 3
    @Leopoldo Sparks: Thanks for the reference. Note however, that the key preable is: "The persistent emotional maltreatment..." Avoiding this risks putting the whole debate out of context. Dec 5, 2016 at 14:04
  • @LeopoldoSparks Notice that the line also contains "threatening". So when I say, "if you don't eat your beans you won't get ice cream," that would also qualify under this definition What Giuseppe writes is pertinent I think. I don't understand why we insist so on diluting words. On the one hand you have Jimmy Saville on the other hand you have a guy posting on SE whether he might be shouting at his kids too much. Both are abuse. Awesome, great way of using language to communicate.
    – DRF
    Dec 5, 2016 at 14:04
  • Can you edit this to more directly address the OP's question? Right now I am having a hard time finding anything besides argument with other answers.
    – Acire
    Dec 5, 2016 at 14:26

I do believe that yelling could be a form of abuse - since issues could most likely be resolved if following the guidelines/examples below. Yelling will only be one-sided temporarily, then before you know it, the kids are older and will respond to you through yelling. Then unfortunately, when two parties are yelling at each other, often times some irreversible things may be stated. This could cause resentment, feelings hurt, damaged relationships, etc... I believe there is a better alternative below...

This is a great question to bring up, since I believe many others share the same.

Personally, I don't yell at my kids at all. I don't spank them either.

However, I have the utmost respect from my kids and I'll tell you why in short...

I'm not an expert, but I have raised 4 children over the years.

What I do is a systematic approach to parenting. I've created specific guidelines for the kids over the years and they understand that if they fall outside those set family rules, there's a relative and definite punishment - regardless. There is no 'but what if....' or 'she started it first....', 'i promise i won't do it again...', etc. The rules my wife and I have set are not flexible, we're very firm and consistent on these set rules. There's no question when they are broken...a penalty must be applied immediately, not at a later time or date - since this will distance the poor behavior with the punishment.

For example - a typical scenario... A mom and/or dad is tired from a very long day at work, but takes his 2 children shopping & tells them that they can have an ice cream after shopping is done. However, the 2 children begin fighting with each other and the parent states - "I've told you before and I will not tell you again, if you continue to fight, NO Ice Cream!!" Five minutes later, the kids are again fighting and both begin to cry. The parent then states I've already told you to both stop!! If I hear Just ONE more from you - we're leaving the store NOW!! Is that understood!!!?? Both kids agree.... yet, another fight breaks out, the parent becomes frustrated, buys them ice cream to make them 'happy' and with all that yelling - there's only built up frustration, the parent is questioning their parenting ability, the parent just wants the kids quiet and will deal with things later - the parent is too tired from working a full day and only wants peace and quiet.

The 2nd scenario, the parent doesn't yell at all. There's no need to, because the children realize that if the parent calmly states - "Are you both listening to me very carefully", as a way to gain the childrens attention and calm them down, then the parent looks at them both in the eye and holds there hands. "If you both don't behave yourselves, i will leave the groceries here, nobody will get ice cream and we're going straight home, then you will both do twice as much homework (or other positive punishment) with no TV or electronics for 2 full days." The kids understand that their parent means business and doesn't need to 'yell' in order to get their attention. The kids KNOW they will be disciplined accordingly.

I honestly believe that speaking and treating a child in a firm, yet positive and respectful manner will help them maintain their composure in challenging times as well. This is what they're learning from their parents that they love dearly.

If a child witnesses a parent screaming at them at the top of their lungs, guess whats going to happen when that child is now an 18 year old adult? Most likely they will scream BACK at their parents, because that's what they've come to understand.

There are many parents that flip/flop - However, if you "walk softly and stay consistent in your actions/words", that's most likely all you'll need - if you start early enough and on the same page with your wife/husband and siblings.

very best,


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .