Any parent of a teenager can probably think of numerous times that their child has made them angry, scared, and/or upset. There’s no doubt about it: parenting is not for wimps. But the way you react to those negative feelings could have a bigger impact on your child than you realized.
According to a new study, yelling or swearing at your teen can cause him or her to develop physical and mental health problems, including depression. The study showed that thirteen year-olds who were the recipients of consistently harsh verbal discipline from their parents were more likely to have depression symptoms at age fourteen.
Child psychologists caution against using yelling and harsh language as your go-to disciplinary method, stating that it can cause teens to shut down, stop communicating, have lower self esteem, and feel depressed. They suggest using other techniques like positive reinforcement for good behavior, problem solving and negotiation, and setting appropriate consequences for bad behavior — consequences that are proportional to the problem, are easily enforceable, and offer the possibility for your teen to earn his or her way out of punishment with good behavior.
That’s not to say that it’s never okay to yell — we’re all human, and it can work as a way to make an impression about something seriously upsetting like drunk driving or staying out until 3 a.m. But it’s important to focus on how those transgressions make you feel scared and worried as a parent, not use them as a chance to make your teens feel awful about themselves. And repeated yelling with harsh language can wear your teen down, make him feel disrespected, and possibly make her act out more to defy you.
If you’re tempted to yell at your teen, stop, take a minute to think about why you want to yell and what you’re feeling, and then try explaining those feelings to your teen. This can give you time to cool down and think of some appropriate consequences, rather than just having a big fight.