There have been many debates regarding the correct ways to discipline a child, with the ‘great spanking debate’ front and center. At the end of the day, we only want what’s best for our children, but is there a correct way to navigate this minefield?
If there is one guarantee about parenting, it is that you are going to find yourself frustrated and overwhelmed at least once during this journey. After all, it’s not like that little troublemaker entered into your life with an instruction manual in hand! Instead, parents are forced to learn the hard way – by trial and error, experiencing the ups and downs, highs and lows of parenting first hand. You’ll only try to reason with a moody toddler once before you realize it’s an act in futility.
While it would be amazing if parenting was nothing more than playtime and bedtimes stories, any parent could tell you that it involves a lot more responsibility than that. You wear so many hats, including the nurse, taxi driver, cook, teacher, maid and, of course, enforcer. When your children fail to follow the laws of the home, it is up to you to teach them the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes this is accomplished easily with a little comment or a short conversation, but what about when that doesn’t work?
Experts are now warning that not only does yelling at your child not help to instill better behavior, but it may also actually be harming them in the long run. A 2014 study published in the ‘Journal of Child Development’ made a surprising discovery. Analyzing data from a total of 976 families and the children, the researchers compared the effectiveness of varying levels of discipline. They found that yelling actually resulted in a similar impact on the development of children to that of physical punishment, including feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, over an extended period of time, this type of discipline may lead to lower self-esteem, as children begin to internalize the way that they are made to feel.
Sure, one could argue that yelling does have its purpose. If a parent is focused solely on their own feelings and emotions at the time, it can be seen as productive. However, as a parent, it is your responsibility to see beyond yourself to the impact your actions can have on your child.
“If the goal of the parent is catharsis, I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am, well, yelling is probably perfect,” explained Dr. Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale. “If the goal here is to change something in the child or develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way to do that.”
Experts recommend learning to recognize your triggers, being aware of the things that will push you to the point of yelling. If you feel yourself reaching this stage, take a step back, take a deep breath and seek other options to take control of the situation. For example, rather than losing your patience and yelling at your child, you may instead choose to place them on a time-out or take away some of their luxury items like game systems or internet access. No one said parenting is easy, but it’s certainly worth it!