A new study from the University of Pittsburgh involving 967 two-parent families and their teens determined that 13 year olds who received harsh verbal discipline were prone to symptoms of depression at age 14. They were also more likely to exhibit aggression, misconduct, vandalism and anger. Yelling and screaming at your kids is just as bad as hitting them, the study found. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” couldn’t be less true. Words yelled in anger can be as harmful as spanking. One need not raise their voices or their hands to their kids to be effective.
Context, context, context. Just like “location, location, location” is the mantra of real-estate value—context is to anger We are all allowed to raise our voices from time to time. It’s a birthright. But, screaming ‘You’re worthless,’ is totally different from screaming, “Put your clothes on!” Here are some more tips on how to reach your children without making things worse than they already are:
- Look directly into your kids eyes and tell them what they need to hear without shouting.
- Never, ever, name call! Don’t attack your child’s self-esteem with statements like “Your stupid.” Or, “I don’t love you anymore” or “I wish I’d never had you.”
- Lower your voice until you are almost whispering. Ronald Regan, a master communicator knew this and was able to draw people closer and closer with this technique.
- Defuse anger with humor. One mom sprayed water on her son instead of yelling at him. He ran away laughing.
- Create a key phrase that lets them know of the severity of the situation. “If I were you I would do what it takes to get out of trouble.”
- Set appropriate consequences.
- Count to three
- Send your kids outside. Calmly walk to the door and open it. tell your children to step outside and get some fresh air for a specific time period.
- Walk away and refuse to listen to arguing.
- Put yourself in a timeout. Go to your bedroom, close the door, lie on the bed with a cool rag over your face. I like to use my eyeshade.
- Negotiate with your children. Dignify them and their intelligence
The suggestions above address emotional abuse as being just as bad as physical abuse. Think of them as ways to discipline your children without abusing your power as a parent. There’s a very fine line.