Apart from facing a risk of suffering from depression, the child is more likely that they exhibit behavioral problems such as vandalism, antisocial and aggressive behavior.
Raising children can be difficult and quite challenging at times. Then again, nurturing a life was never a cakewalk. Given the many responsibilities that come with running a home and maintaining a work-life balance, parents can often lose their cool and adopt a more aggressive approach when it comes to disciplining their children. Especially when children get unruly, experts say that constantly yelling at them can cause a considerable amount of damage. Some of you who have gone through this in your own childhood can probably relate.
A study published in the journal Child Development says that harsh verbal disciplinary actions, when done on a regular basis, can have a very similar impact on your children as physically disciplining them.
Using harsh verbal discipline on the child is more likely to lead them to develop depression. Additionally, it can also be more likely that they exhibit behavioral problems such as vandalism, antisocial and aggressive behavior. The study has considered shouting, cursing, or using insults as part of verbal disciplining.
The study is one of the first to indicate that harsh verbal discipline from parents can be damaging to developing adolescents. While a lot of research done in the past has concluded that a majority are likely to use verbal discipline at some point in their child's adolescence, not much has been done to understand or measure the extent of the impact it has on the adolescent.
The study was led by Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education and of psychology in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The paper was co-authored by Sarah Kenny, a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
“From that, we can infer that these results will last the same way that the effects of physical discipline do because the immediate-to-two-year effects of verbal discipline were about the same as for physical discipline,” Wang said to the University of Pittsburgh's news services. Based on other papers studying the effects of physical discipline, Wang and Kenny anticipate similar long-term results for adolescents subjected to harsh verbal discipline.
It was found that the children who were yelled at on a daily basis were more likely to develop feelings of anxiety and depression. Screaming at your kids only predisposes them to yell at others in the future. Moreover, when they grow up, they'll also end up dealing with the constant apprehension of somebody yelling at them.
Experts also reveal that children should not be raised in constant fear of the parents. Parents are responsible for them and provide them with food, shelter, and love, and a child's implicit fear of his/her parents can adversely affect their sense of security, says Dr. Laura Markham, founder of Aha! Parenting and is the author of The Peaceful Parent Series.
Furthermore, Wang's study also suggested that 'parental warmth', which is the degree of love and emotional support and the affection between the parent and the child, did not decrease the negative effects of verbal discipline. "The sense that parents are yelling at the child 'out of love', or 'for their own good,' does not mitigate the damage inflicted. Neither does the strength of the parent-child bond." says Wang.
The study not only confirmed the effects of verbal discipline to be harmful to the child, but also found that it had a bidirectional effect on the child's behavior. Meaning, the more the child was yelled at when they showed problem behavior, the higher were the chances of them continuing to exhibit the same problem behaviors.
“It’s a vicious circle,” Wang said. “And it’s a tough call for parents because it goes both ways: problem behaviors from children create the desire to give harsh verbal discipline, but that discipline may push adolescents toward those same problem behaviors.”
Another significant point that Dr. Laura Markham mentions is that if parents keep yelling at their children, they are likely to feel that they are always under threat and danger. This constant feeling alters their neural pathways, as their flight, fight or freeze response are repeatedly called for.
“The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation,” Markham says. And as a result, it can get imprinted pretty soon on the children's brain and affect their personality.
One of the solutions to such a challenge is to approach parenting with a calmer and more tolerant attitude. Parents can try explaining the child's mistake by telling them the reasoning and rationale behind why they are being asked to stop that behavior. If parents try to approach their children at a more equal level, they are more likely to get the desired effect on altering their behavior.
This is where one can employ the role of negative and positive reinforcement. You can praise them when they exhibit good behavior. If they show bad behavior, show them the consequences but without being hostile and aggressive.