Kids can be totally infuriating. But a new study shows that verbally flying off the handle at your kids may be just as emotionally harmful as physical discipline – and doesn’t necessarily correct bad behavior.
The study followed 976 two-parent families. Parents were asked question to gauge their use of harsh verbal discipline. Kids were asked questions to gauge the level of warmth in the relationships with their parents and were also questioned about depression symptoms.
When their children were 13, about 45% of participating mothers and 42% of fathers said they had used harsh verbal discipline with their child during the past year. Those kids whose parents used higher levels of harsh verbal discipline when their children were 13 experienced larger increases in behavior problems the next year, including fighting with peers, trouble in school and lying to parents, as well as symptoms of depression.
Using physical discipline is widely accepted as taboo. For that reason, many people generally agree that using physical discipline isn’t the best option. But being verbally abusive isn’t either – and this could a little more of a grey area for a lot of parents.
I think everyone raises their voice from time to time. I also think you can be stern without yelling or saying emotionally hurtful things. This study shows that harsh discipline doesn’t necessarily make kids act better – and it certainly doesn’t make them feel better. If I feel guilty after I’ve raised my voice to my child – I know I’ve done something wrong. I don’t really raise my voice to anyone – because I don’t feel like that is a civilized, adult way to behave. Why would I model that kind of behavior to my kids?
“Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior,” said Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor in the departments of education and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and a co-author of the study. “On the contrary, it makes it worse.”
I’m not saying I’m perfect and I haven’t raised my voice to my children – I’m just saying that maybe I should stop justifying it: “Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who wasn’t involved in the study, said parents can effectively discipline kids by taking away privileges, such as screen time or the car keys.” If there are other options to explore, why resort to treating your kids in a way that you don’t treat anyone else around you?
USA Today quotes Neil Bernstein, author of How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do if You Can’t: “Extremes of parenting don’t work. The put-down parent is no more effective than the laissez-faire parent who is totally chill and sets no limits on their children’s behavior.”