Today’s Parenting Tip: Resist The Urge To Yell At Your Kids

Today’s Parenting Tip: Resist The Urge To Yell At Your Kids

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.


  • You can’t smack your kids, and now you can’t yell at your tweens/teenagers. What the heck are parents supposed to do? Oh, have a friendly little discussion on behaviour and consequences? Yeah, like that’ll work. It’s not like tweens and teenagers are stubborn little shitheads who think they know more than their parents. >_>

    • Yep… The people who write this shit obviously are experts with shit loads of experience bringing up kids… Oh wait… No, if they were they’d know that the shouting is for your benefit, so that when what ever the little shit did wrong bites ’em in the bum, you can say I told you, but you didn’t listen. Know who’s the idiot…? :0

    • There’s a difference between “can’t” and “science suggests it has poor outcomes”.

      • I’ve yet to read the full report (and I probably won’t), but I think a distinction needs to be made between yelling at one’s teenagers to do their chores and yelling insults at them and humiliating them. Naturally insulting and humiliating them while yelling at them will have a negative impact, but I seriously doubt yelling at them about chores, etc, will screw them up. I think it’s more a matter of what was said rather than how it was said. If the kid’s own parents are putting him/her down, then naturally they’ll take it to heart and will start to act up because they’ll think their own mum and dad don’t care about them. Of course, I have little to no proof to support this, other than personal experience. As with most people, I was yelled at when I was that age, but I think I’m a well adjusted individual because none of that yelling was personal insults (just a stressed out single mum dealing with a b*tch of a teenage daughter V_V ).

  • Parents used to verbally abuse and hit my sisters and I growing up. But now they miss out on seeing their grandchildren. I won’t repeat their mistakes with my children. There are better ways to deal with things than giving into your own anger and frustration.

  • By the time a child is 6, 85% of their personality is already developed. If you haven’t given them the love and attention they need by the time they’re teenagers (when you’re off the parenting boat and onto supporting them in their decisions and offering guidance when asked) you’ve only got yourself to blame if they’re being little brats to you

  • What a load of baby talk! Look at the whimps we produce now…..ladettes instead of ladies gangsters instead of real men!!…is this scientific or some jobsworth research? Sounds to me kids are being deprived of tough love while I’m not encouraging some hard boot camp methods, parents should be allowed to instill discipline and yell if they don’t hear it first time but refrain from ‘kossing’ or verbally putting them down.

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