From the department of the hopefully obvious: a study that tracked teenagers over time has found that yelling at younger teens makes things worse as they get older.
If you have teenaged kids, the urge to shout at them can be pretty strong at times. A study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, published in the journal Child Development, suggests that you’re better off biting your tongue.
Father scolds son from Shutterstock
The researchers looked at the kind of yelling they call “harsh verbal discipline”, which is anything that tries to get teens to change their behaviour by yelling, using insults and humiliation. Essentially, if it causes teens emotional pain or discomfort – calling them dumb or lazy, for example – it’s harsh verbal discipline.
But when you yell at your kids, especially in their early teens, it can cause more problems than it solves. Kids who received harsh verbal discipline suffered more depressive symptoms between ages 13 and 14 and they were more likely to misbehave at school, lie to their parents, steal or fight. Not only that, but it makes kids more likely to feel angry, irritable and belligerant, according to the researchers.
The effects went both ways: kids who had conduct problems at a younger age got yelled at more by their parents as they got older.
The researchers were quick to point out that even in homes where there’s lots of parental warmth, the effects showed just as strongly. It’s not true, in other words, that if you’re otherwise loving and supportive, your kids will understand that you’re yelling at them because you love them. They’ll just feel the sting of the hurt and humiliation.
“Harsh verbal discipline appears to be detrimental in all circumstances,” concluded the lead researcher, Min-te Wang.
Wang suggests that parents who want to modify their teenage children’s behavior would do better discussing concerns about the consequences of the behaviour with their teenagers.
Lifehacker’s previous articles about how to talk to kids are also useful here: empathise with your teens and get them to analyse their own behaviour.