I've got some bad news for nearly all of us parents. Yelling at your kids can be just as harmful as hitting them. Research shows that "harsh verbal discipline" can put your child at risk for aggressive behavior and depression. They say it's "not uncommon," and you don't need me to tell you what that means: A lot of us are yelling at our kids. It doesn't work. Co-author of the study Dr. Ming-te Wang says, "Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior. On the contrary, it makes it worse." And trying to make up for it with warm and encouraging words later on doesn't make it any better. You actually can't make up for it.
So what counts as harsh verbal discipline? Yelling, cursing, and insults. Sound familiar? Parenting is ... well ... really frustrating sometimes! So I looked around for the best advice I could find on keeping your cool as a parent.
Ask Dr. Sears has five tips for managing our anger issues.
1. Heal your angry past. Before you find yourself yelling at your kids again, think about your own emotional health. Do you have unresolved issues you need to deal with? Were you belittled as a child, too?
2. Keep your perspective. Sears recommends a helpful exercise -- think about the little things your kids do that bother you, but that aren't actually a big deal. Resolve not to freak out over them next time they occur.
3. Make anger your ally. If there's something that makes you angry over and over again, your anger may be telling you something. Try to get at the root of that problem, whatever it is. Make it a project, rather than just reacting to it.
4. Quit beating yourself up. Ah, some compassion from Dr. Sears for us parents!
5. Beware of anger triggers. Pay attention to what gets you yelling. Are there patterns? It could be the time of day, the circumstances (when you're in a rush), or specific topics (always about the homework). Just being aware of your triggers can help you manage them better.
Empowering Parents has more good ideas for keeping your cool.
6. Don't take your kids' behavior personally. It's not all about you, parents! Kids act defiant, misbehave, and flake out for a whole range of reasons, not just to piss you off.
7. Decide what you'll do ahead of time. This is similar to being aware of anger triggers. But they also suggest having a "bail out" plan: Plan how to bail out of conflicts when your buttons are pushed, so that you don’t lose your temper. In other words, prepare for the worst-case scenario so it doesn't take you by surprise.
8. Find ways to calm yourself when you're at the boiling point. It may help to have a mantra (one you really believe in!) that you say to yourself when you find yourself losing it. Or maybe you need to just stop and take some deep breaths -- put yourself in time-out.
How do you feel about yelling at your kids?
Image via John Taylor/Flickr