Why Yelling at Your Kids Can Still Be Harmful

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There’s been a lot of discussion about the dangers of spanking children over the past few years, but there have been few warnings about the dangers of yelling. The latest research, however, reveals that yelling at children can be just as harmful as spanking.

Research on Yelling

A study published in Child Development reports that yelling and harsh verbal discipline has serious consequences on kids. Researchers found that yelling increases behavior problems and depressive symptoms in adolescents.

When parents yell, they often do so because they’ve lost their temper. As a result, they’re more likely to make insulting comments or call their child names. This can take a serious toll on a child’s self-image.

The two-year study concluded that the effects of frequent harsh verbal discipline were comparable to the negative effects of corporal punishment.

As children reach the teen years—an age where they’re beginning to develop an identity separate from their parents—they may be particularly vulnerable to harsh discipline. The study found that children in this age group who were subjected to harsh verbal discipline were more likely to exhibit aggressive and violent behavior.

Despite the consequences of yelling, almost every parent yells sometimes. A study published in 2003 in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that 90% of parents said they’d yelled, shouted, or screamed at their kids in the previous year. Of the families with children over the age of 7, nearly 100 percent of participants acknowledged yelling at their kids.

Why Yelling Doesn’t Work

Not only is yelling harmful to kids, but it also isn’t an effective discipline strategy. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to think twice before raising your voice:

  • Yelling makes behavior problems worse. Yelling creates a perpetuating cycle – the more parents yell, the worse kids behave, which in turn leads to more yelling. To break this cycle, it’s important to commit to using alternative discipline practices that don’t involve yelling.
  • Kids become desensitized to the volume. The first time you yell at a child, it’s likely to grab his attention. But, the more you yell, the less effective if it is. When kids reside in homes where there is frequent yelling, they get used to it.
  • Yelling increases a parent’s frustration. If you’re already feeling frustrated by your child’s behavior, yelling will only increase your arousal level. Raising your voice can quickly turn slight irritation into outright anger. It also increases the likelihood that you’ll say insulting remarks or use overly harsh criticism.
  • Kids learn that yelling is a good approach to conflict. When you yell, you’re role modeling how to deal with anger and conflict. Your child will imitate those behaviors when he’s dealing with his peers and siblings.
  • Yelling doesn’t involve teaching. Yelling at a child to, “Stop doing that,” doesn’t show him what to do instead. Kids need to learn skills to help them regulate their emotions and manage their behavior so they don’t repeat the same mistakes.
  • Losing control means losing respect. It’s hard for kids to instill a lot of trust and respect in someone who calls them names or yells at them. Sometimes kids think, “If you can’t control yourself, how are you going to control me?” As a result, they’re less likely to want to please you and they’re less likely to value your opinion.
  • Yelling doesn’t work. Ultimately, yelling doesn’t work. If it did, parents wouldn’t have to do it so much. However, most parents find that they are yelling more often, instead of less. Other consequences, such as taking away privileges, can be much more effective in managing a child’s behavior.

Most parents don’t want to yell at their kids, however, they do so out of frustration. When kids don’t listen or when they’re breaking the rules, you need a plan for how you’re going to discipline without yelling.

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