Scolding scalds and steam burns – when you lose your cool, let off steam, scold and yell at your kids, it damages everyone. Here’s a better way. Parents might be not be spanking anymore, but yelling seems to be increasing, and that is not good: yelling doesn’t help, and it has long-lasting negative impacts on our children. There is a recent article in the Wall Street Journal on this – here’s a synopsis and some links you might find useful. Shellenbarger, S. “Damage Control: Talking to Your Children After You Yell.” The Wall Street Journal: January 29, 2014: D1-D2.
- Ouch. “Harsh verbal discipline” (e.g. shouting, insults) will increase teens’ likelihood of behavior problems and depression.
- Where’s the love? Shellenbarger cites a 2012 study: people who’d been yelled at as kids expected to be treated negatively and often selected partners who mistreated them. A 15-year study also showed that kids yelled at when they were 8 years had less satisfying romantic relationships at 23.
- Flood Warning! Parents who see a toddler’s anger or misbehavior as unexpected, overwhelming, and upsetting tend to feel more threatened and frustrated each time the child misbehaves or gets upset (Journal of Family Psychology). This pattern, called “emotional flooding” triggers a downward spiral in the relationship: the parent’s problem-solving ability declines, parent gets angry and yells more, and all this actually contributes to worse behavior from the child.
Prevent your meltdown: Parents can prevent emotional flooding (which leads to those angry yelling episodes). Recognize these key warning signs, and you can stop an impending outburst: rapid or shallow breathing, jaw-clenching, tightness in chest or throat, feeling overwhelmed or negative thoughts about oneself.
In the moment: (according to Julie Barnhill, author of “She’s Gonna Blow”, a book about parental anger)
- Do some deep breathing.
- Count to 10.
- Leave the room.
- Imagine pleasant scenery.
After the fact: If you’ve “lost it” and screamed at your child – apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Amazing how few of us can do that! Take responsibility for what you did, don’t sugarcoat or excuse yourself (that’s often a version of “you made me do it”), and resolve to do better. Here’s a link to Psychology Today articles on a good apology – it will improve your relationship.
For a better future: (according to Jill Savage, author of “No More Perfect Moms”)
- Plan enough spare time to accommodate mishaps
- Avoid personal attacks by beginning sentences with “I” instead of “you” and mention what you expect or like.
- We sometimes have unrealistic expectations of children; let’s view their mistakes as teaching moments and involve them in finding solutions.