What Happens When You Yell at Child Who Prays

I am not known for raising my voice in frustration – at least not by my coworkers and friends.  Apparently, it’s a different story with my family.

The other day, I asked my four-year-old daughter, Daniela, to bless our food, and she prayed, “Thank You God for this food.  I pray that my sister would change, and that my daddy would stop yelling.”

It hurt to hear my daughter say that, so after she finished praying, I asked her if I yell, and she said yes.

“How does that make you feel?” I asked.

“It makes me feel sad,” she said.

“Well, please pray that I’ll stop yelling, and I promise to work on it,” I said.

Daniela did, in fact, start regularly praying that I would stop yelling.  And the next week, she got a chance to see how resistant I was to her prayers being answered.

I was in the car with Daniela and her two-year-old sister, Renee, who likes to taunt Daniela and tends to be very resistant to parental authority.  Renee was doing something to bother Daniela, and she wouldn’t stop.

“Stop Renee,” I said.

She kept doing it, and Daniela started freaking out.

“Renee, I told you to stop,” I said.

Renee kept ignoring me.

Renee, I told you to stop it!” I yelled, at which point Renee ceased annoying her sister.  And then I heard Daniela’s little voice from the back seat say, “But Daddy – I prayed that you would stop yelling.”

A wave of guilt hit me, and I quietly said, “Well, keep on praying.”

Daniela immediately prayed, “Father God, please help my daddy stop yelling.  When he does that, it makes me feel sad.  Please God, help him.  I don’t want him to yell anymore.”

So I’m driving along, listening to this prayer – my heart is in my throat, and I’m wondering: Do I yell that much?  What does yelling sound like to a little girl?  How do my little girls see me?

As I began doing some soul-searching, it occurred to me that – yes, I do raise the volume of my voice sometimes.  But a lot of what probably sounds like yelling to a child is my tone, which can be demanding and hard, and is rooted in grown-up frustration.  So regardless of whether there’s a high volume coming out of my vocal cords, my girls are hearing the high volume coming out of my heart.

I began to get discouraged with myself and feeling like a failure, but then the other day, Daniela came up and told me she was still praying that I would stop yelling.  “And Daddy,” she said, “You’re gonna stop yelling, and then God’s gonna put fire in your heart.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah!” she said, “He’s gonna put fire in your heart!”

I think I felt God begin to answer Daniela’s prayers this morning.  I was rushing to get ready for work, and little Renee was running in and out of my bedroom, when it occurred to me that I needed to show her how much I loved her – that I wasn’t always annoyed with her.

“Come here, Renee,” I said, and then I got down, placed my hands on the sides of her soft, two-year-old face, and kissed both of her cheeks.  I stood back up, she walked out of the room, and then she stuck her head back in and said something.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Thank you for those kisses,” she said, very seriously.

I felt my heart breathe a sigh of relief and thought, So that’s what it feels like for my heart to be on fire.

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  1. Wow, I just caught up reading all the blog posts I had missed. I know people read them but seldom respond. Thank you for your transparency in these behind the scenes moments. They equip me!


    1. Thanks so much for the regular feedback and encouragement, Amy. Have a great day.


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