The Power of Words: Shouting at children can be as damaging as physical or sexual abuse

child development trauma Oct 25, 2023
Teddy bear sitting against a window in the dark.

Recent research published in The Guardian has highlighted a concerning and thought-provoking revelation: shouting at children can be as damaging as physical or sexual abuse. The study's findings have ignited a vital conversation about the power of words in shaping a child's emotional and psychological development.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from leading universities, reinforces the idea that children are highly susceptible to the emotional environment in which they are raised. While it has long been acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse can have devastating long-term effects on a child's mental health, this research suggests that the way we communicate with our children also plays a pivotal role.

One of the most striking aspects of the study is its exploration of the lasting impact of shouting on a child's psyche. The researchers found that when children are subjected to frequent shouting, they are more likely to develop a range of emotional and behavioural problems, including anxiety, depression, and aggression which can persist well into adulthood.

No parent is perfect, and moments of frustration or anger are what make us human. However, this study serves as a reminder of the profound responsibility that comes with raising children and calls on adults to reflect on their own communication styles and seek ways to improve interactions with their children.

One step towards better communication is taking a moment to pause and reflect before reacting in anger. Building a toolkit of strategies for handling stress and frustration can help parents respond to challenging situations more calmly and effectively.

By becoming more aware of our communication styles and seeking healthier alternatives, we can empower ourselves as parents and caregivers to foster the healthy development of the next generation.

Even though this article doesn't explore the "why", it's a good piece of research. 

Consider. Adults could be two, three, or five times bigger than the child. A giant in their eyes. Terrifying when angry. Capable of killing them. 

Yet that is also the person who is their protector. 

That's why this research is so significant. 

So....before you knee jerk respond to a child with your outdoor voice...pause, breath deep, pause, wriggle your toes (to ground yourself) then work out your response. 

As Bruce Perry tells us: regulate, relate, reason. 

You can read the full article here


Take good care


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