Screaming at Your Misbehaving Teen May Backfire


By Dr. Mercola

Most parents have raised their voices when disciplining their children, but new research suggest that doing so – especially if it involves shouting, cursing or using insults – may be counterproductive and end up making your child more disobedient.

The study, which involved nearly 1,000 13-year-olds and their parents, even found that the effects of harsh verbal punishment may be just as harmful to kids as physical discipline.1

(I disagree with this statement in this article. I am sure he meant to say “abuse” not “physical discipline”. See this for the difference:

These Were Not ‘High-Risk’ Families

The researchers stressed that their findings likely apply to many average American families, where the parents love their children, care about them and want them to avoid problem behaviors. The study’s lead researcher stated:

“There was nothing extreme or broken about these homes. These were non ‘high-risk’ families. We can assume there are a lot of families like this…”

In short, the study found that when parents used harsh verbal discipline it predicted an increase in conduct problems and depressive symptoms in the child between ages 13 and 14. Furthermore, the children were more likely to continue their misbehavior and demonstrated behavioral problems such as vandalism or anti-social and aggressive behavior.

The damaging effects were similar to those seen with physical punishments (Abuse not Physical punishments-Barbara) and they continued even if parents were yelling ‘out of love’ and also showed warmth and emotional support. In other words, the study’s lead author said:2, 3

“Even if you are supportive of your child, if you fly off the handle it’s still bad.

…Our findings offer insight into why some parents feel that no matter how loud they shout, their teenagers do not listen… Indeed, not only does harsh verbal discipline appear to be ineffective at addressing behavior problems in youth, it actually appears to increase such behaviors.”

Criticizing, Insulting and Berating Will Backfire

Experts recommend that parents communicate with their children on an equal level, and explain the reasons for consequences or concerns about their behaviors calmly.

As punishment, you may have more success taking away their video games or car keys than shouting at the top of your lungs, especially if you’re using shaming or berating words.

Ideally, you should be able to firmly set limits and establish open communication with your child without having to resort to yelling insults or name-calling. Of course, if you’ve raised your voice to your child on occasion, there’s no need to feel guilty or worry about the long-term consequences; the study is referring more so to harsh verbal discipline than simply raising your voice.

Rahil Briggs, director of pediatric behavioral health services at Montefiore Medical Center, told WebMD:4

” …it’s important to point out that we’re not just talking about shouting in frustration, which everybody has done. It’s one thing entirely to raise your voice at your child. That happens. But it’s another thing entirely to say to your teen ‘you’re dumb’ or lazy, or issue vulgarities.

The issue is that your parents are supposed to be on your side, on your team. But here we’re talking about verbal intimidation and humiliation, which is in many ways the most damaging to children trying to find their way in life.”

Giving Children an Effective Emotional Outlet Is Important

Children feel stress, too – often intensely. They worry about making friends, succeeding at school or sports, and fitting in with their peers. They may also struggle with the divorce of their parents or feel anxious about war and violence they see on the news.

While a child’s natural state is to be happy, vibrant and curious, it’s estimated that up to 15 percent of children and teens are depressed at any given time,5 and this could certainly be contributing to problem behaviors.

Many of the same worries that make you feel anxious and sad have the same impact on your children, and just as you need emotional outlets and time for relaxation and stress-relief, so, too, does your child.

One important way to do this is by offering unstructured playtime for kids or free time for teens. This is essential for kids to build their imagination, relieve stress and simply be kids.

Yet today, many kids are so over-scheduled that they scarcely have time to eat dinner and do homework, let alone have any free time for play. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics states that free, unstructured play is essential for children to manage stress and become resilient, as well as reach social, emotional and cognitive development milestones.6


Have You Addressed the Basics to Improving Problem Behaviors?

‘Mental disorders’ are loosely defined as “serious changes in the ways children handle their emotions, learn, or behave,” and run the gamut from mood disorders and substance abuse to learning disorders and more serious mental illness. While there are no easy remedies for more problematic issues like autism, a wide variety of mood, learning and behavioral problems in children are related to improper diet, emotional upset or stress, and exposure to environmental toxins.

I have successfully treated many hundreds of children with behavioral and mental challenges and have consistently seen them improve once the underlying toxicities and food changes were addressed, so parents let me assure you that there is hope! To address these underlying factors in your child, without resorting to verbal shouting matches or even drug treatment:

Dramatically reduce or eliminate grains and sugars in your child’s diet — yes, even healthy organic whole grains (especially wheat) can cause problems. Try eliminating them first for 1-2 weeks and see if you notice a radical and amazing improvement in your child’s behavior. Replace soft drinks, fruit juices, and pasteurized milk in your child’s diet with pure water.
Give your child plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil. Also limit their intake of vegetable oils, as they are loaded with damaged omega-6 fats. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime in the sunshine, ideally walking on the earth barefoot.
Avoid giving your child ANY processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Instead, focus their diet on whole, ideally organic, foods to avoid both pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients. Provide your child a way to address his or her emotional stressors.

Read more here……


From the Smiths:

Updated: 30 September 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here


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