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Yelling at your teen may be more harmful than you think

For many parents, yelling at their adolescent child is a normal event. Although most parents who yell at their teen would not dream of physically harming their teen, shouting or cursing or using insult may be detrimental to the long term wellbeing of the adolescence. Researchers found out that adolescents who had experienced harsh verbal discipline suffered from increased levels of depressive symptoms, and were more likely to demonstrate behavioural problems such as vandalism or antisocial and aggressive behaviour. “Parental warmth”—i.e., the degree of love, emotional support, and affection between parents and adolescents—did not lessen the effects of the verbal discipline. The sense that parents are yelling at the child “out of love,” or “for their own good, does not mitigate the damage inflicted. Neither does the strength of the parent-child bond .Even lapsing only occasionally into the use of harsh verbal discipline, can still be harmful.

When parents aggressively yell at their teenagers, the teens feel rejected and that their parents dislike them. When parents act hostilely towards their children, the teens tend to become angrier, more irritable and more belligerent. Rather than feeling nurtured, the teen frequently becomes suspicious of his or her angry parents and feels the need to defend him- or herself. This often leads to bad behavior. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your cool but less yelling means better communication.

So why is it so important to be firm—without raising your voice?

Upping the ante, losing the message: Yelling often fails to get the point across because emotions can overcome the message. They will also likely escalate the situation and their children’s aggression, be it verbal or physical.

Heard it all before: If parents yell all the time, “kids may either shut down or ignore it because it’s nothing new, they feel that if they are wrong all you do is yell at them, it makes them even worse.

Hard on self-esteem: We know that yelling and harsh parenting are associated with lower self-esteem for kids, and can affect their performance in school. Kids who are the object of verbal aggression are at risk for aggressive or disruptive behaviour, when parents yell too much the child may feel the parent doesn’t “love them or even like them” and can only criticize.

Missing out on the positive: When yelling is the chronic mode of communication, both children and parents are missing out on the chance to form positive, affectionate bonds. And for kids predisposed to anxiety and depression, internalizing these negative interactions may be the tipping point.

You feel bad, too: Meanwhile, blowouts can leave parents feeling guilty, frustrated and demoralized. Adults who express anger in negative ways increase their chronic stress, which contributes to health problems.

Addressing inappropriate behaviour calmly enables you to focus on teaching the child what’s problematic about his behavior, and following through with effective consequences.

Modeling behaviour is major:  When parents practice healthy self-regulation, it helps kids learn how to self-regulate themselves.

Kids feel safer: The best style of parenting features “a high degree of nurturing, firm but kind.  As much as children and teens may act like they want control, what really makes them feel safe are calm, consistent, fair authority figures.

If you work on specific strategies that help yourself feel calmer, you can help your children learn to regulate better. Below are tips parents can use:

Identify problem interactions: Pinpoint the recurring problems that frequently set you and your kids off. If getting out the door for school in the morning is a chronic issue, solutions might include laying out their clothes and showering the night before, or everyone waking up a bit earlier. Try to break it down into steps you can tackle calmly.

Create consistency: With younger kids, it helps to create a set routine with simple, one-step directions that could include visual aids, not to mention plenty of labeled praise and rewards.

Consider triggers: Being aware of the context of the behavior allows for calmer responses. If we recognize when a child is cranky because he missed his snack or is overtired, it can be easier to temper our own frayed feelings.

Understanding = patience: It’s also important for parents to know and understand their children’s capabilities, since this can help them become more patient. You can become calmer, she says, when you “accept kids as they are, love them as they are, and recognize that half the problem is how you react.”

Time management: Trying to do too much causes stress. Parents trying to multi-task increases the risk of kids misbehaving. “Just be there with your kids; it’s less likely they’ll throw their breakfast on the floor.

Count to 10: All the parents interviewed for this article had one key piece of advice: Take a break and breathe. It’s important to recognize when you’re about to lose control so you can step away from the situation.

Disengage: Actively ignoring problem behaviours is another strategy that helps stop parents from yelling. If you disengage from the situation until you regain your composure, you won’t be feeding the fire. (This cannot be done when a child is being aggressive or destructive.) Instead, by responding positively to only desire behaviour, parents reinforce what they want vs. what they don’t want. Plus, by allowing kids to practice “slowing their engines down” on their own, without parental prompts, they’re learning how to handle frustration.

 Learn to let go and when to laugh it off: Along with ignoring comes learning to loosen up. “If the snack ends up on the floor. Instead of getting mad at the kids, just say, ‘Oh no, you made a mess, let’s clean it up together.’ Do what you have to do to make it easier on yourself.

Seek support: Long adds that it also helps to have a safety net of friends and relatives for those extremely bad days when you don’t feel you can calm yourself down and need to call in reinforcements. Blogs, support groups, other parents and clinicians can all help by assuring parents they aren’t alone.

Own up to your feelings: Depending on the age and developmental level of the child, parents may, after things have calmed down, model for their kids how to talk about feelings. “You can tell them you’re not feeling respected or you’re feeling ignored. You should make them understand the yelling—it’s not because they’re bad kids; it’s because I lost my temper. ‘I’m sorry I lost my temper—that was kind of rough, and I shouldn’t yell at you. But do you understand why I got little frustrated?’ And then we have a brief conversation about the situation.”


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