How yelling at kids affects their happiness, success

Almost every parent yells at their child eventually, no matter how hard they try to stay calm.

“The best, most well-intentioned parents will lose it from time to time,” Jazmine McCoy, a clinical psychologist based in the Atlanta suburbs, tells CNBC Make It.

When those moments are uncommon, they probably won’t leave lasting damage to your relationship with your child, especially if you apologize for overreacting, says McCoy, a mother of three who is known as “The Mom Psychologist” to her social media followers.

But “if it’s constant and chronic, it can interfere with a child’s connection [to their parent],” she says.

McCoy tackles this subject often, hosting a free, 45-minute virtual workshop on her website about how to discipline your children without resorting to yelling. Keeping a calm head in overwhelming situations can help you develop your kids’ emotional intelligence and confidence, she says — which go a long way toward making them happier and more successful throughout their lives.

Here’s why yelling can be so damaging, how to identify your own triggers and what you should do the next time you catch yourself losing your cool, says McCoy.

The lasting negative effects of yelling

Children who are constantly yelled at by their parents are more likely to develop behavioral problems, low self-esteem and depression, according to a 2013 study published in The Journal of Child Development.

“If this is your ultimate dynamic with your child, and there’s not a lot of other positive interactions, [that] is going to interfere with the connection, which then interferes with their behaviors,” McCoy says. “Because kids who … feel more connected with us and feel more supported by us, well, they’re going to do better. They’re going to be more successful, happier, etc.”

Yelling isn’t even particularly effective at correcting your kids’ negative or disruptive behavior, McCoy says. Instead, she notes, it triggers a stress response in their brain that leads to heightened anxiety — which can stand in the way of their ability to learn and develop, studies show.

“We just need to remember that when we yell, our children are actually not learning. Because they’re stressed, and we don’t learn when we’re stressed,” she says. “So it kind of goes against what our ultimate goal is.”

Why parents yell and how to spot your own triggers

Don’t forget to apologize

Especially in the social media age, you might feel held to an unrealistic standard of perfection — but parenting is hard, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed to the point of screaming at your kids, McCoy says.

If you can’t stop yourself before losing your temper, what happens next becomes incredibly important for maintaining a strong, trusting connection with your child. Apologizing “is incredibly healing and therapeutic” for both of you, McCoy says.

“I think one of the best things a child can hear from their parent is: ‘I’m sorry … I’m working on this and I’m not perfect,'” she adds.

Be clear about what you’re apologizing for, she advises. Let your child know that it’s your responsibility to calm yourself down, not theirs. Ask them how your yelling made them feel: Were they scared or hurt?

By doing that, you’re modeling good behavior for your child — showing them an appropriate way to behave after an outburst. You’re also inviting them to name and share their own emotions, which can help them develop their emotional intelligence.

“You open it up for them to share their emotions,” says McCoy. “And you’re welcoming them into the relationship to share their honesty, which again, goes to raising emotionally intelligent, successful kids.”

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