"Plum-Picking with Niamh Clune."
Yelling at a child shows that we, the adults, are out of control of our own emotions.
Children need safe boundaries within which they can explore, make mistakes, try and fail, win, lose and learn. Inquisitive children push boundaries, both physical and emotional. This is necessary if a child is to develop its own identity.
If adults are emotionally dysfunctional, they react when personal boundaries are breached. They lash out and blame the little one.
When an adult is out of control, the little one’s world is rocked; his or her sense of security is destroyed. In that moment, a child stands alone, abandoned, unable to cope; its identity is under threat, made wrong. A child’s will is thwarted, twisted and subverted. Innocence is emotionally raped by the adult’s displaced anger. Emotionally abused children are made responsible for the adult’s rage.
Surrounding reactions shape a child’s developing Psyche. When an adult yells, s/he is saying, “You can’t rely on me. You have pushed me too far. You have the power to do that.”
In this scenario, the adult gives a terrible power to a child, a power which is negative and burdens a little person with responsibility and guilt.
A child should grow up responsibly, rather than growing up believing themselves to be responsible for everyone else’s suffering.
By yelling, we are not demonstrating emotional competence. We are not teaching our children through sound example how to relate equally to distress emotions as well as to positive ones. Obviously, it is more pleasurable to experience joy rather than sadness, calm rather than anger. But all emotions are part of the richness of being human. Anger, when managed rightly, is a power of spirit, a force of change, rocket-fuel to make the world a better place, the power to stand up and be counted. How we relate to and interact with anger makes us either special or deviant.
Yelling at a child demonstrates that an adult is willing to humiliate a little person into submission. Yelling screams rejection and sends the message that the child will only be loved if s/he is compliant. This vulgar display of rage sends destructive signals to a child. It tells the child that the adult is insecure. Rages make an adult untrustworthy. The adult suffers from an infantile ego. Personal distress is projected onto the child. This behaviour teaches children to use the same tactics to dominate and bully others.
There is no excuse. Raising the alarm when a child is in danger is necessary. Shouting an alert is necessary. Yelling abuse is unnecessary. It is an act of a dysfunctional adult who controls through disrespect and immaturity. Such a response will engender nothing but disrespect in return and raise dysfunctional or deeply wounded children whose budding egos have been culled and cracked, broken and scattered.
For this child, the healing journey will be a life-time’s pursuit.