Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Does Yelling at Your Teen Work?

mom teenWe’ve all done it. Many of us grew up with it. But should we?

Your teen walks in 30 minutes past curfew. You’ve been worried sick and have worked yourself up. The minute she comes through the door, you yell, “Where were you? It’s 30 minutes past curfew and we thought something terrible happened to you. You are in trouble now!”

The above example isn’t harsh , but is could be depending on the tone. And that is what you want to be careful to avoid–harsh, verbal discipline that involves yelling, screaming, insulting or name calling. Had the parent added, “You are an idiot” or something along that line, that would have been worse.


Why is this a big deal? Haven’t parents been yelling at kids for years? Yes, but yelling at anyone isn’t terribly effective as a discipline method. Now and then, yelling isn’t a problem, but when it becomes your discipline method, it is. Even when yelling is done “in love” to help the teen, it backfires.

Harsh verbal discipline can cause depression and will increase the risk of the teen misbehaving. So the very thing you are yelling and screaming about  could increase! Harsh verbal discipline does not work as an effective discipline tool.

A study published in the journal, Child development, found that over a two year period of study, parents who used harsh, verbal discipline had teens who were more depressed by age 14. They also showed problems like vandalism, misconduct , anger and aggression. Exposing kids to ongoing harsh discipline can fuel relationship difficulties and rebellion.  And physical discipline of teens is really problematic. It tears at the respect you need to develop for each other.


The better option?

Educate, don’t humiliate with constructive consequences. For example, curfew violation could require a grounding for a few weeks. Late homework could equal the removal of a tech device for a short period until the homework is in on-time again. The idea is to teach responsible behavior, not scream at the problems.

So stay on them, but also praise often. You have to build up the positives in the relationship in times of non conflict. When you do encounter a problem, use “I” statements, explain your concerns, problem-solve and negotiate and set consequences. Think about keeping the relationship positive so you can work on problems together, not humiliate the person. This is good advice for any relationship!



Source: “Longitudinal Links Between Fathers’ and Mothers’ Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents’ Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms” Child Development is scheduled to appear in the March/April 2014 print issue of the journal

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