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Jouflas, MCT

Less is more when it comes to yelling at teenagers

  • Article by: Jeff Strickler
  • Star Tribune
  • September 17, 2013 - 7:51 AM

Parents, do you feel that the more you yell at your teenagers, the less good it does?

You may be right.

After monitoring nearly 1,000 families over two years, a psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh concluded that repeatedly yelling at your kids tends to make things worse — including their behavior.

The findings don’t surprise child psychologist Gretchen Lewis-Snyder, founder of Blossom Child Psychology & Behavioral Health Center in Minnetonka.

“We all lose our temper once in a while,” she said. “But if there’s a pattern of negative interaction between parents and children — and not just teens, all kids — it creates a downward spiral in their relationship.”

Teenagers who are subjected to screaming are apt to respond with anger that can take the form of aggression or misconduct, said Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor who oversaw the study, in an article published in the professional journal Child Development.

The more that a parent dials up the vitriol — adding swearing, insults or name-calling — the more likely it is to backfire, Wang said.

And apologizing later with a hug might not be enough to undo the damage. Parental “warmth did not moderate the associations between mothers’ and fathers’ use of harsh verbal discipline and adolescent conduct problems,” the article says.

What are you supposed to do instead of yelling?

Try dealing with the kids with respect, and focus on educating them rather than humiliating them, the article recommends. □

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