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Parents learn to deal with family conflict | Effective discipline, Anger management, Preserving self-image
Dealing with Conflict

Yelling Is As Hurtful as Hitting

at the University of Pittsburgh found that yelling at a teen can have the same negative effects (higher risks of depression, aggression) as physical discipline.

Parents who yell at their adolescent children for misbehaving can cause some of the same problems as hitting them would, including increased risk of depression and aggressive behavior, according to a new study.

A good, warm relationship with Mom and Dad does not protect teens from the negative effects of parents' yelling, cursing or lobbing insults, such as calling teens "lazy" or "stupid," the study found. 

While spanking has become taboo in many U.S. communities, yelling doesn't have nearly the same social stigma.   Indeed, parents sometimes think yelling will make their charges listen and behave; but, the study found the opposite to be true.

"Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior.  On the contrary, it makes it worse."   (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.)  

Parents can effectively discipline kids by taking away privileges, such as screen time or the car keys; but, make sure you do it without attaching a ton of critical, punitive, insulting kinds of language to it.”  You feel a lot more responsible for your behavior when you're being corrected by someone you respect and admire.  Anything you do to berate or shame a kid erodes that power you have."   (Dr. Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the study.) 

The study followed 976 two-parent families, with children assessed at ages 13 and 14. Researchers asked kids various survey questions to appraise their behavior problems, depression symptoms and the warmth of the relationship with their parents.  Parents completed surveys to gauge their use of harsh verbal discipline.

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.

The increases were similar if parents used harsh verbal discipline or physical approaches such as pushing or spanking. The degree of warmth of the parent-child relationship outside of any altercations did not alter the negative effects of the harsh verbal discipline. Kids' behavior problems also led parents to increase their use of harsh verbal discipline tactics, fueling an escalating cycle, the study found.

As to why yelling can prove so toxic for young teens, "Adolescence is a very sensitive period when [kids] are trying to develop their self-identities," Dr. Wang said.  "When you yell, it hurts their self image. It makes them feel they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless."    (Conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, the study was published September 4, 2013 on the journal Child Development's website.  Andrea Petersen reported on the News Hub.  A version of this article appeared September 5, 2013, on page A2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Study Says Yelling Is As Hurtful as Hitting.)  

What Parents Can Do
  • Teach your family how to resolve conflict.  Teach them to negotiate, compromise, be patient, and collaborate.
  • Teach your children to manage anger.  Teach them there is always a reason for anger.  Encourage them to learn to deflect their own or someone else’s offense and anger with humor.  
  • Discipline your children when necessary, but never raise your hand in anger.  Do not be harsh and unkind with your hands.  Hands need to symbolize love, not hate and anger.  After disciplining, reassure your children of your love for them, so they do not think of you as their enemy.  No child should fear their parents.  Things done by love have lasting effect, over discipline by fear.  
  • Attitude makes a big difference in struggles, problems and set-backs.  Tell your children they have 2 minutes to complain, and get it out of their system; then, they need to make something happen and deal with the issues.  Teach children to be proactive in life by using their resourcefulness and initiative.  Teach them to take responsibility for their life by analyzing their circumstance and reaching a solution.  Don’t be a victim of your circumstances—make your own circumstances.  
  • Apologize to your children and admit your own mistakes, asking them to forgive you—thereby, teaching them how to forgive also.  Teach them that even you have to make corrections and work through problems.  Parents are not perfect, and it is OK for your children to know that.  If children feel loved, they will overlook the failings of their parents and accept family values.  
  • Mothers and fathers must be united in parenting decisions.  Parents should discuss disagreements away from their children, until they reach a consensus and are united as one in decisions.  
“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  (Mark 3:25)
  • Keep your voice soft and calm while raising your children.  Don’t scream or yell in the home, and your children won’t either.
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

The "Secret Code" to disciplining your children in public.
9 animal symbols, each a code word, are used for some kind of behavior modification.  Get your child's attention by making eye contact, say the name of the animal, and they know exactly what it means and how to change their behavior.  Examples: 
"Whales" - Refer to humpback whales who communicate openly within their families, or pods, and who never yell and never interrupt.
"Crabs" - If you put a live crab in a bucket, he will just climb up and escape.  But, if you put two crabs in, the second one will reach up and pull down the one trying to climb out.  Their instinct is to pull each other down. 
"The Book of Nurturing," Linda and Richard Eyre, St. Martin's Press, 2004.  To read more, and download the line drawings of the animals and the stories that go with each animal, go to http://www.valuesparenting.com/nurturing/index.php