Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s abuse and what’s not abuse. Parents yelling at each other or yelling at the kids is common and in some families normal. Does yelling automatically constitute abuse? No, it’s not an automatic because people yell for a variety of reasons.
You can yell to get someone’s attention, or because you’re frustrated at a circumstance and you’re releasing the energy caused by the frustration, or you may get loud from time to time without realizing it.
When yelling is used to intimidate, discipline, or put someone down, then yes, yelling is abusive. If you’re yelling for your child to stop running so they don’t run into traffic while trick or treating, no, that is not abuse.
I yell from time to time for a couple of reasons:
- To grab Grace’s attention and
- Because I’m frustrated with something that she was supposed to do and didn’t do.
For example, the other day I asked Grace to make sure all the laundry was in the laundry room and she said it was. I asked if she checked and she assured me it was all in the laundry room. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the bathroom and found her dirty clothes. I yelled; first and middle name. She came running in the bathroom and all I had to do was point at the pile and say,
“All the dirty clothes are in the laundry room? Take care of it.”
She hurriedly picked up her clothes and brought them to the laundry room but, the washer was too far into the cycle to add more clothes. She looked at me with big eyes of someone who messed up and I asked her, “What’s the lesson?”
“To double check”.
“You got it.”
I sighed and shook my head as I walked out of the laundry room and she laughed stating, “It’s a good thing you love me.” Which I replied, “It’s a good thing you have more clothes to wear.”
We then hugged and everything was fine.
I needed to break through to her and make her heart jump. When you’re asked if you’ve done something then make sure it is done. This isn’t just for laundry but for all facets of life. If your boss asks you if you’ve done something and you say yes, and then later it is found out that you didn’t, well, you lied. You become untrustworthy and your ability to do your job is questioned. At nine-years-old, she has some leeway but not much. What she does now, creates the foundation for the rest of her life.
what yelling can manifest into in adulthood
In an equal household, if a parent can yell for a child to come to dinner then the child can yell for the parent to come to dinner. It’s mutual and normal within the family unit. If only the parent can yell because they’re the adult, then it’s a power over household. Using your positional power as a parent to take away the liberty and freedom of your child is coercive control. Coercive control is a form of abuse.
If I don’t want Grace to yell to call me for dinner then I better not yell to her for dinner. If I’m going to teach her that the respectful way to call someone for dinner is to go to that person and let them know, then I need to show her that same behavior.
You may think my example is extreme because yelling to call someone to dinner happens throughout millions of homes throughout the world. However, this is how you learn to accept and normalize controlling and abusive behaviors throughout your life.
The key is that the behavior is mutual; meaning parent or child can do it. It only becomes controlling when the child cannot yell because they’re a child.
You may think what’s the big deal? Or, that yelling really isn’t emotional abuse. It is a big deal and it is emotional abuse because the child is learning that their needs and wants come second. Voicing their feelings doesn’t change the other person’s behavior; they’re left to change their perspective to make themselves feel better, and they begin or keep believing that their feelings are unimportant. Either way, they are less than the parent due to their position within the family.
What happens when the child grows up and has a boss who yells at them from across the office, do you think they’ll speak up?
Do you think they’ll tell their boss that yelling at them to come makes them feel:
- Singled out?
Or will they have a drink after work and bitch about their boss to their family, friends, and coworkers?
What happens when their spouse or significant other yells at them?
And here is where it becomes deadly. When you tell the other person how their actions make you feel and ask them to stop. The person apologizes and agrees to stop the behavior. But, only stops for a short period of time. When it’s brought up again, you’re told that they act that way because that’s who they are and it has nothing to do with you and that you should just get over it. Friends and family say that you have to suck it up because that’s how some people are. Again, you are made to feel less than the other person. Your feelings come second to the person initiating the behavior. However, this is a normal and accepted feeling because this is how you grew up and what is supported by your friends and family.
Your feelings get pushed down and become unrecognizable. You just know that you feel empty inside and that something is inherently wrong but, you don’t know why.
Self-help and leadership books say that you are the only person who can change how you feel. Someone who is emotionally abused takes that advice and begins changing more of themselves to be more of what the abuser wants, to change how the abuser treats them. Change your action and the reaction will change, is a true statement. However, an abuser, someone in a position of power, will use this concept to manipulate you.
Depending on your self-esteem and self-confidence, you may create ways to resist being controlled. But, by constantly having to resist being controlled, you wear down. Where you would normally resist being controlled, you begin to allow things to slide. For example, you let the new person you’re dating pick the restaurants you two eat at because you’re exhausted from fighting off your boss all day. While you’re thinking it’s nice to go out without thinking about it, you slowly and unknowingly start to lose your choice in where you go. Never having a say in where you’re going to eat becomes normal and when you do say something, it becomes an insult to the place that was chosen because it was picked, “especially for you”.
Can you see how one area can bleed into another? Controlling and abusive people in any part of your life makes you susceptible to being controlled and abused in all areas of your life.
If you want to talk more about this, you can Contact Me or call the Crisis & Resource Helpline at (800) 231-1127. I volunteer on the helpline and we’re trained to help you identify your feelings, remind you of your strengths, and help you make a plan to move forward. The difference between working with me directly versus the Crisis Line is that I hold you accountable to your plan and we review your progress. On the Crisis Line, I tell you to have a good night and to call back anytime.
You may be wondering if Grace is allowed to yell at me. No, she cannot. She can yell to grab my attention or to make a point. But, she cannot yell at me. Yelling at me results in loss of privileges and a lack of engagement. I do not engage when she lashes out at me. I send her to her room until she can talk to me with the dignity and respect she wants for herself. Then I wait until she is ready to talk through her feelings. Sometimes it takes her 10 minutes to calm down and other times an hour. How long she loses her privileges depends on her and what she thinks is fair. Sometimes she says, two weeks and I have to ask, “Does that seem fair”? She says no, but other kids in her class lose privileges for two weeks at a time. I remind her I’m not like most parents.
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