We’ve all seen that family in the snack aisle of the grocery store. The children are obviously out of control—grabbing, pulling, screaming, biting. The parent is seeking to maintain a semblance of control, speaking in hushed, over-enunciated whispers, as if, by whispering, the rest of the store won’t notice that there’s a major storm brewing in aisle 6.
But we all know it’s coming.
At some point, the iniquity of the children will be complete, and the parent will begin to yell. He won’t care that we’re all watching or that he hadn’t thought through what he was going to say or that his kids aren’t paying attention. An onlooker might even assume he had no choice. Those rascals forced his hand. He had to yell!
Before we had kids, we might have looked with pity or disdain on this poor man. “I will never yell at my children.” But after having children, at some point, that day comes—the day when it’s all just too much. And we yell.
And that’s a problem. Unfortunately, for many dads, yelling becomes a habit. Perhaps we are tempted to justify it. “If I don’t yell, my children won’t listen to me.” I think we all know, however, that yelling “[provokes] your children to anger” more than it “[brings] them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Here are three reasons why Christian dads should not yell1 at our kids.
1. There is way too much to yell about.
Think about it. If we were to yell about everything “yell-worthy,” we would be yelling all the time. Your five-year old turns up the thermostat to 85 degrees when you’re not looking, nearly cooking your family alive. Your 6th grader forgets to ask you for help with her year-end science project until you are literally saying “good night” the evening before it is due. Not to mention the gallons of spilled milk that have graced your kitchen floor.
Family life is a roller-coaster. But it’s too long of a roller-coaster to yell the whole time. As dads, part of our job is to turn down the heat in our home. When “yell-worthy” moments arise, strive to slow down and speak softly.
2. Your children need to know the value of your words.
Words are important, especially a dad’s words. When you yell, you are demonstrating that it is not the content, but rather the volume of your speech, that requires a response from your children. A child will never express it this way, but he may begin to realize, “I don’t really have to listen to dad—until he’s yelling.”
Your children need to know that when you (their authority) quietly tell them once to put away their toys,2 they need to pay attention and obey. Because of your God-given authority as a dad, your words are too important for you to yell.
3. You speak on behalf of God.
And that brings us to the final, and most important, reason you and I should not yell at our kids. Throughout the Bible, we find that parents are to represent God to our children by the way we speak.3 If you do a quick word search, you’ll find that God doesn’t shout very much. He speaks.4
God doesn’t need to shout because He is all-powerful. He spoke, and the universe came into existence. He also doesn’t become sinfully angry. He is slow to anger and abundant in compassion and love.5
This powerful, loving God wants to speak to your children, and He has chosen you to represent Him! This reality includes not only your words, but also your tone and even your volume.
Only Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit, can transform and consecrate your words to reflect the character of God. So, if you are wondering how in the world you are going to change the way you interact with your children, I would encourage you to stop right now and ask Him for His grace.
The God who chose you to represent Him to your children is ready and eager to help!
Obviously, we are using the word “yell” to refer to angry shouting out of displeasure with our children. There are definitely times Dads should yell—when our children’s safety demands it or when we are celebrating our child’s victory, to name a couple. ↩︎
One quick caveat here: although we want our children’s knee-jerk reaction to our commands to be obedience, it is hard for any of us (adults included) to “turn on a dime.” At this point, I’d like to refer you to something Daniel Tiger’s dad often says to Daniel, “It’s almost time to stop, so find one more thing to do.” He may be an unrealistically nice tiger sometimes, but that really is quite helpful. ↩︎
See Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:7; Psalm 78:6; and Ephesians 6:4. ↩︎
Many of the instances where God does shout are poetic depictions of His victory over evil using war imagery (a “battle shout”). ↩︎
See Exodus 34:6. ↩︎
Growing Fathers Team
John serves as an associate pastor at Burge Terrace Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. John and his wife, Abbie, have four young children.View all posts by John