In Summary

TOO STRICT? You may think you are disciplining but PHIONAH NASSANGA finds out that screaming at children does more harm than good.

When I woke up and peeped through the window, I heard something irritating. My immediate neighbour was shouting at her child.
“You are stupid just like…,’’ the mother of two, yelled at her 10-year-old daughter.
Many children are shouted at for not doing house chores, talking back at elders, engaging in fights, name it. One wonders, does raising your voice or using abusive language solve any situation?

Dr Paul Mitawana, a psychiatrist at Butabika Hospital, says hollering insults at children especially at an early age may have permanent effects on their behaviour and reaction towards different situations.
“There is what we call mother-child attachment, a stage where children feel free with their parents helping them gain confidence before anyone else. Repeated screaming and shouting will bring about fear,” Dr Mitawana explains, adding that even when they do what they know is right they will always keep in doubt.

Using offensive language towards children according to Dr Mitawana, will emotionally torture them and such a child will grow distant. Their learning and ability to absorb information will eventually shut down while others will become indifferent no matter what is being told to them. This results in broken relationships with the parents.
He advises parents to use a calm tone and say positive statements to children because this helps them to react positively on realising they are in wrong. This leaves room for change the next time.

“Yelling at them once in a while may be unavoidable because at times they get to your nerves but be cautious of what you say and how you say it matters. Their brains will take everything seriously,’’ he warns.
Ida Rwego, a mother of three, says it is fine to rebuke or even spank a child but it should not be for destruction but for correction at that moment a crime is done, not days after.

“I do not agree with parents who insult, demean and yell at their children. Children make mistakes but I think we need to be patient with them and teach them in a manner that is befitting,” Rwego says.
“Much as they are young, they need the respect and good moral transfer from their parents if the parents themselves are well-behaved,’’ she explains.

Seeking ill-advice
If a parent is harsh, the child too will be yelling most of the time, calling them all sorts of names, the child will seek counsel from the wrong people who might mislead them.
However, she says a peaceful well-worded parent brings up a good-mouthed child though there are children who pick bad morals from elsewhere. In this case, a parent counters it in a loving manner, and the child gets to know their mistake and why such a habit or language is not good for them.

Yelling equals low self esteem
Anne Karemera, a mother of five, says because of the abusive way of dealing with children, many lose their confidence and self esteem. “They fail to express themselves in public and they cannot speak their minds or give opinions thinking they are wrong, and friends will make fun of them. Defending themselves or those around them becomes hard,” says Karemera.
Such children are easily oppressed and taken advantage of. On the reverse, they can become the oppressors because of what they have gone through. They practice what they learned- harshness and yelling every time.

Psychological torture
Catherine Natukunda, a family counsellor at JOY medical centre Ndeeba, says what you prophesy to your children is who they become. When you shout at them saying they are stupid, that is who they will believe they are. As a parent you have to prove their worth.
For example, when a parent tells their child that they are stupid or embarrassing because they performed poorly in class and say, “You are just like so and so...,’’ hearing such words from the people they love most and expect support from will torment them not only psychologically but emotionally.” This makes them feel like that is how society addresses them.

However, being mindful of how you communicate with your child, helps you filter what you say. You are held responsible for teaching the important skills of life to your children.
Even when you find yourself shouting at them, the use of abusive language is not right for any child young or teenager.
“Much as you are angry at them, let your statements remain positive without insults as there are lots of opportunities to bring the best out of your child,” she advises.

Results in to confusion
Natukuda says, it is not just the loud voice that has an impact on the child but the words said to the child. As long term exposure to such words can result in to fear, stress, anxiety, restlessness, developmental delays, behavioural problems, academic problems, social difficulties and emotional issues for children.
“Teenagers will start wondering if their parents really love them, and seek for comfort among their peers or worse turn to the use of drugs and alcohol,” she explains.