Every parent reaches a boiling point where they end up yelling and saying things they wish they didn't say to their child. It's human, and it happens. But now a new study suggests that yelling can be just as psychologically damaging as physical abuse.
"It feels impossible on many days," said mother of two Colleen Sibayan of Los Angeles.
Sibayan said small things can turn into big battles.
"Getting out the door is one of the hardest things. I just need you to brush your teeth and then we're gonna do something fun," she said.
So does Sibayan sometimes yell at her 3-year-old?
"I mean, yeah." she said.
"I've yet to ever meet a parent, myself included I'm a parent, who has never raised her voice and has never yelled. And has never said, 'Oh, my gosh, what did I just say?'" said licensed marriage and family therapist Maricela Hurtado. She said yelling happens because people often parent from a place of fear.
"We yell because we really want to drive the message home to our child that this behavior or this thing that they're doing is not aligned with how we're going to attempt to keep them safe," Hurtado said.
But a new study in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect suggests that shouting at, denigrating or verbally threatening children can be just as damaging to their development as sexual or physical abuse.
"Any form of trauma impacts our educational abilities and social emotional abilities. It impacts our health. When a child is being yelled at, their brain activates and it says we're in danger. And when that child is stuck in that space, the child can't learn," Hurtado said.
Psychologists say the behavior we model in front of our kids now is the same behavior they'll model in front of their kids, because we all know when we get angry, we turn into our parents.
"So we are repeating patterns," she said.
To break the cycle, Hurtado said tune in with your body. Ask yourself, "Are you already agitated?"
"So that when my child shows up in their developmentally appropriate behaviors, I'm so quick to react versus respond," Hurtado said.
Her advice? Take a breath.
"There is no way the brain can continue to escalate when you are introducing breath," Hurtado said.
In heated moments, Sibayan takes a deep breath. Her daughter has learned to do the same.
"Just the fact that she takes deep breaths when she is angry. Can you imagine like as a grownup, what she'll do with her future children?" Sibayan said.
Sibayan said talking it out takes patience, but it works.
"I'm firm. I don't spank, I don't yell, but I'm firm," she said.