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Why are we always yelling?

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) – According to studies in the workplace and at home, we are a nation of yellers.

That’s not because we are all at the game cheering our favorite team, only to wake up hoarse. We apparently are yelling in anger, in frustration, distressed as a way of communicating – and venting.

A few years ago, researchers asked a thousand families about yelling and found that 88 percent of parents admitted yelling, screaming or shouting at their children during the year. In families with 7-year-old kids, that number climbed to nearly 100 percent.

Yelling. Shouting. Screaming. Railing. Wailing. Howling.

Regardless of what we call it, raising our voices is exhausting. Especially if it becomes our reaction to stressors. Not only does it take a physical and emotional toll on the yeller, it affects those on the receiving end of this high-decibel stress.

Children’s brains are so sensitive to yelling that a child who is yelled at regularly, say, at bedtime or before school (or at school) can become “immune” and start to “tune it out,” says psychologist and researcher Myrna B. Shure, author of Raising a Thinking Child.

In her research, she found a troubling correlation between kindergartners whose parents disciplined through yelling and demands and the children’s expression of aggression.

Why we yell

Relationships can be enormously resilient. But chronic yelling can create a kind of relational erosion, fraying the fabric of trust and security between us.

Because none of us sets out to intentionally squander our interpersonal and internal resources, we would do well to get curious about why we yell or retreat from yellers time and again.

John Armando, a licensed clinical social worker in practice in Cherry Hill, N.J., said the answer lies in acceptance, not of the yelling, but of our shared imperfections as human beings – and the beliefs that tend to drive our behaviors.

“That belief, that things should be the way we want them to be, tends to trigger that primitive behavior in us,” Armando said.

“I think yelling would be an example. I’ll increase my volume as a way of trying to solve this problem,” he said. “But people get intimidated and push back. So what you get is more of the problem.

“ ... (Yelling) almost never works, yet we continue to try it,” Armando said. “And we continue to escalate.”

There are some key triggers that tend to drive our yelling: stress, impatience, needing to be heard and feeling anxious.

Parent and teen brains

Teenagers are not, in fact, rebellious, but reactive.

Their brains will sense anger and fear more readily than adults. A teen might yell, sensing a threat to his emotional well-being.

Or a teen might experience an adult’s yelling as intensely alarming and have a brain send “Mayday!” signals to bolt or debate or zone out.

Calm down

Armando said the best way to deal with relationship stress is to “defuse it, to get some distance from it and to accept that our minds produce lots of negative thoughts and distressing emotions.

“It’s normal, and when we can notice those thoughts and feelings, and allow them to be there without struggling against them, we can live a life based on what our value system is,” he said.

Armando said it’s not about vowing to never yell again because taking a vow of yellibacy, so to speak, is not realistic or effective.

2012 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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