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What Happens to Your Child When You Scream or Hit

Imagine your husband or wife losing their temper and screaming at you. Now imagine them three times as big as you, towering over you. Imagine that you depend on that person completely for your food, shelter, safety, protection. Imagine they are your primary source of love and self-confidence and information about the world, that you have nowhere else to turn. Now take whatever feelings you have summoned up and magnify them by a factor of 1000. That is something like what happens inside your child when you get angry at him.


Of course, all of us get angry at our children, even, sometimes, enraged. The challenge is to call on our maturity so that we control the expression of that anger, and therefore minimize its negative impact.


Anger is scary enough. Name calling or other verbal abuse, in which the parent speaks disrespectfully to the child, takes a higher personal toll, since the child is dependent on the parent for his very sense of self. And children who suffer physical violence, including spanking, have been proven to exhibit lasting negative effects that reach into every corner of their lives.


If your young child does not seem afraid of your anger, it’s an indication that he or she has seen too much of it and has developed defenses against it -- and against you. The unfortunate result is a child who is less likely to want to behave to please you, and is more open to the influences of the peer group and the larger culture. That means you have some repair work to do. Whether or not they show it -- and the more often we get angry, the more defended they will be, and therefore less likely to show it -- our anger is nothing short of terrifying to young children.

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